How To Paint Chrome Running Boards? (Explained)

The funny thing about Chrome is that you either hate or love it. There’s no in-between. If you have a car with chrome side steps and want to ‘unbling’ it, below is an in-depth guide on how to do it.

how to paint chrome running boards
“GMC Sierra 2500 running boards” by Truck Hardware, Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What Will I Need to Paint Chrome Running Boards?

Quality spray paint

Orbital sander and sandpaper, preferably 220-grit

Clear coat

Some soap and water to clean the running boards


Automotive body filler (in case of rust spots)

A Quick Guide on Painting Chrome Running Boards

Painting chrome running boards isn’t difficult. As long as you have the time and interest to learn, this is a project that you should get done in a couple of hours.

The first step in painting chrome running boards is gathering the above materials. From there, you can follow this guide.

1. Remove the chrome running boards from your car. This is usually the most complicated part, more so if you weren’t the one that installed them in the first place.

If you installed the running boards, getting them off should be pretty straightforward.

If these boards came with an installation manual, you can look at them and see how to uninstall them. Most running boards feature a simple installation/uninstallation mechanism which one can decipher by examining the design.

2. After removing the sidesteps, you will need to choose a working area. Your garage is a great place to perform such a task. Wash them thoroughly because side steps are often stepped on. They are bound to be dirty. Let them dry before doing anything else.

3. Chrome is a smooth surface, making it hard for paint to hold on to. If you paint directly over a chrome surface, it won’t stick, and if it does, it will peel after a while. The third step entails removing the chrome finish from the surface of the running boards.

This is where the orbital sander will come in handy. You can use sandpaper, but that will take days for you to remove the chrome. An orbital sander gets the job done pretty fast. You can always borrow from a neighbor or friend if you don’t have one.

Sandblasting is also an excellent method of removing a chrome finish from the running boards. Ask around about where you can get sandblasting services. To ensure the surface of the running boards can adhere better to paint, you may want to engage in some light sanding.

4. Once you are done removing the chrome finish, clean the running boards once more. This will help remove any traces of chrome that may have been left on the surface. Let it dry before you can start painting.

5. Grab your primer of choice and spray two coats. The reason we recommend two coats of primer is to ensure the metal is fully covered.

While still in the process of applying primer, there is one thing you need not forget, and that is checking for rust. Even with chrome on the surface, running boards are vulnerable to rust because of their location on the bottom side of the car.

Before applying primer, you should check whether there are rust holes. If there are, you can apply some automotive body filler. You can use fiberglass Bondo which is much stronger and more durable. Give the primer some time to dry.

6. Spray three coats of paint. When it comes to painting running boards, you don’t have to be very accurate because the finish isn’t a priority at the moment.

With running boards, you will need to paint them over and over again because they experience a lot of traffic that accelerates wear.

However, three coats of paint should look decent and hold up for a considerably long period. Make sure that you give each coat around ten minutes to dry. Avoid painting in cold weather since that will take the running boards longer to dry.

7. Finish up with a clear coat. A layer of clear coat plays a crucial role in enhancing the aesthetics of the running boards. It also protects the paint. Spray some before you wrap up your painting project.

8. Finally, give the paint on the running boards enough time to cure. Installing them when the paint is wet can scratch or interfere with the finish. Give it at least two days before putting them back on and using them.

What Color Should I Paint Chrome Running Boards?

Most running boards are often painted black, gray, and white. However, the choice is solely yours on which color you should paint the running boards.

If you have a red truck, you can paint them red, and so on. As long as the color you go with complements your vehicle, everything should look great.

How Often Should I Paint Chrome Running Boards?

If you have decided to do away with chrome completely, then prepare to paint the running boards after every three to four years. You should know that running boards are stepped on all the time.

Some shoes have rough soles, which create friction as people get on and off the cars. You will realize that paint tends to wear out on the high-friction areas of the running board.

You may paint the running boards more frequently than other parts of the car.

It’s a simple project, and when you do it for the first time, you will realize how easy it is for you to ensure your running boards look fantastic. You can embrace the habit of repainting running boards after every two years.

Should I Take My Chrome Running Boards for Professional Paint Job?

It’s your car and your rules. But, considering how easy painting chrome running boards is, you should do it yourself. Most car owners that want to paint chrome running boards are afraid of the chrome removal process.

Initially, this may seem complicated. But once you scrape the chrome with an orbital polisher, it should come off in minutes.

The other reason why you may want to take your car to a professional is that you don’t know how to remove the running boards.

With some bit of research, especially if you know the brand of those sidesteps, you can get them off with a set of tools.

Is Powder Coating Chrome Running Boards Better than Painting?

If you can consider another option, powder coating would be an excellent alternative to painting chrome running boards.

You don’t even have to sand the running boards with a powder coat. It’s applied directly through electrostatic and dries through heating.

A powder coat takes much less time and offers an even covering. Powder coating is more durable, and since running boards experience a lot of traffic, a powder coat should last longer than a paint job.

These days, powder coating is relatively affordable. You can pay from $50 to $200 for a quality powder coat on the running boards. Plus, you can pick a color that matches or blends with your truck.

Plasti Dip is Another Excellent Alternative

Other than powder coating or painting chrome running boards, there is another quicker and easier way of covering your sidesteps: Plasti Dip. This rubber coating comes with plenty of advantages.

Not only does it take less time to apply as compared to painting, but it can also be easily peeled off when you want to make the chrome visible once more.

Plasti dip is perfect if you want to see what the running boards would look like if they didn’t have chrome.

This rubber coating has an impressive finish, and it’s pretty durable. It will serve you for about two to three years, equivalent to the duration a paint job would last.

Should I Paint Chrome Running Boards When They Are Still Installed?

That would be wrong. First, you won’t have a lot of space to work with. Secondly, it will be hard for you to cover the running boards with paint fully.

The best thing to do is remove the running boards, paint, and put them back on when you are done.

Will the Paint Withstand Mud and Snow?

Have you ever come across passengers that use running boards to remove snow and mud from their shoes before getting in? Even though this helps keep the car clean, it can take a huge toll on the paint job.

If you use quality paint and spray it on correctly, it should take a beating before showing signs of wear. This is why we are telling you that you will need to repaint after every two to three years.

A painted running board can only withstand exposure to mud and snow for a while.

With time, it will start to peel and wear out. That’s when you should repaint it. If you live in an area that experiences lots of snow or rain, we would advise you to powder coat or plasti dip.

Powder coat is much more resistant to mud and snow. Plasti dip is affordable and easy to apply and remove. Whenever it wears out, you can peel and respray it. It’s not as hectic as painting chrome running boards.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment