Running boards facilitate smooth entry and exit from a vehicle, especially one with high ground clearance. They are common in trucks and SUVs.
From a physical point of view, running boards may look the same, and you may assume they are interchangeable. But are running boards universal? Keep on reading to find out.
Are Running Boards Universal?
Not really. Running boards are designed to fit certain makes and models of cars. Therefore, you can’t generalize that all running boards are universal. If you take a running board fitted on an F150, it may not be a perfect fit on a Jeep Wrangler or a Toyota Highlander.
Therefore, running boards are not universal. If you are in the market looking for a running board, make sure to specify the make and year of manufacture of your vehicle. By providing these figures, you can find a running board that fits your car perfectly.
What are Universal Running Boards?
If you have come across the phrase ‘universal running boards’ during research, the above information may confuse you even further. But worry not, this article aims to clear everything for you.
Universal running boards are a type of running boards that come in different sizes and can fit most cars. They are long enough to occupy the space from one wheel well to the other. Also, they are of adequate width and allow you to board or alight from your car easily.
The difference between universal and custom running boards is that the latter is designed to fit a certain car, and the former is more of a label assigned to running boards designed to fit a wide range of cars.
You should consider universal running boards if you cannot find a custom option for your car. Also, universal running boards may have fitting issues, and you may have to modify them so that they can fit. This isn’t a problem you would have to worry about when dealing with custom running boards.
Be as it may, universal running boards are available in different materials. You can get durable boards made of aluminum or stainless steel. Aesthetic-wise, universal running boards feature different designs. You can choose from a wide range of finishes.
Are All Running Boards the Same Size?
One of the reasons that running boards can’t be termed universal is that they are of different sizes. This applies to both the length and width. If only there were a standard length and height of running boards, then it would be safe to refer to them as universal.
Even running boards labeled as universal are sold in different lengths and widths. Therefore, the bottom line is that running boards are not the same size.
Do Running Boards Fit Any Truck?
Because running boards are not universal, one running board can’t fit all trucks. If you want a running board for your truck, you must look for one designed for your car’s make and model.
Otherwise, if you choose any running board to install on your truck, you will have no option but to modify it so that it can fit.
Are Running Boards Interchangeable?
Unfortunately, running boards are not interchangeable. The only interchangeable running boards are if you source them from a car similar to yours in terms of make, model, and year of manufacture.
For instance, if you own a 2020 Chevy Silverado, you can borrow running boards from another 2020 Chevy Silverado. But if you get the ones from a 2018 Toyota Hilux, you may run into fitting issues.
If you have running boards from a different car model, the only way to make them fit is through modification. This is often more tiresome and time-consuming.
How to Choose the Right Running Board?
Now that you know running boards are not universal, here is a quick guide on choosing the best side steps for your car.
1. Choose the Type
There are two main types of running boards; retractable and traditional. Retractable running boards feature a mechanism where the boards come out when the door is open and retract back when it’s closed.
They are convenient and ideal for those who don’t like driving around with running boards protruding on the side. Traditional running boards are the ones permanently mounted on the sides.
2. Choose the Size
Once you have settled on the type, what follows is the size. As mentioned earlier, running boards are available in different sizes and shapes.
Regarding size, running boards are divided into two; wheel-to-wheel and cab-length running boards. Cab-length is the size of the cab of your truck. And wheel to wheel stretch from one end of the wheel to the other.
Other than length, running boards also differ in terms of width. Choose a width comfortable enough for your feet to step on when entering or exiting the truck.
3. Choose a Suitable Finish
The last thing that you have to consider is the finish. These days, running boards are available in a wide range of finishes from chrome, painted, powder coated to polished. You can go for a color that resembles your truck or SUV or one that complements it.
Do You Have to Drill Holes for Universal Running Boards?
You will find factory-drilled holes on the car’s chassis for some SUVs and trucks. As long as you get the right running board for that vehicle, all you have to do is locate the holes and install the side steps.
However, if there are no factory holes. You can drill new holes in the body of the running board. Ensure you keenly identify the strategic area where the holes should be drilled.
If you have bought a universal running board, the location of the holes may not be in line with the holes on the running board. So, you will have to drill new holes. This can be avoided by buying custom running boards made explicitly for your car.
Are Universal Running Boards Big Enough to Fit from Wheel to Wheel?
Most universal running boards will indicate their size on the description or packaging. Therefore, finding one that can fit from one wheel to another should be easy.
Failure to consider size when buying universal running boards may result in side steps that are either too short or too long. Such a running board will be ineffective and won’t look good.
Universal Running Boards vs. Custom Running Boards
These two are the main categories of running boards. You either go for those labeled as universal. Or, you can find a custom running board made specifically for your car.
Most universal running boards are often affordable and come in handy when you can’t find a custom side step for your car.
However, custom running boards are a much better fit and look better since they are designed for that car. Also, with a custom running board, you never have to worry about compatibility issues.
Even though universal running boards are widely available, the best option is a custom side step designed to fit your car.
Custom running boards have more benefits than universal ones. Therefore, it is worth spending your time looking for a running board compatible with your vehicle.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Universal Running Board
The most important thing to consider when buying a universal running board is size. First, you need to know the length between your wheel wells. From there, you can shop for a universal running board that falls under that size bracket.
If you buy a longer running board, it will not fit. If you buy a shorter one, it will look hideous, and there is a big chance it may be ineffective.