Some tips and ad­vice on steps for your truck or SUV

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - DRIVING.CA - BRIAN TURNER

With the ever-grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of SUVs and light trucks over sedans and hatches for per­sonal trans­port, many driv­ers (and their pas­sen­gers) are dis­cov­er­ing one of the ma­jor short­com­ings of these seg­ments of phys­i­cally larger ve­hi­cles; step-in or en­try height. Even if you’re of av­er­age height and con­di­tion, get­ting into al­most any four-wheel-drive pickup is dif­fi­cult with­out some type of as­sis­tance. And well-placed grab han­dles only work if you have a free hand. As a re­lated note, if you’re not a fan of pay­ing for steer­ing col­umn re­pairs, never use the steer­ing wheel to sup­port your weight when get­ting in a high-en­try ve­hi­cle.

Side-steps or run­ning boards are the ob­vi­ous an­swer for those of us who are ver­ti­cally chal­lenged when it comes to stress-free en­try and exit for a high-rid­ing ve­hi­cle. They come in a wide va­ri­ety of shapes, sizes, ma­te­ri­als, and, of course, prices. There are some draw­backs to dif­fer­ent styles.

Stir­rup steps

These are the least ex­pen­sive of the bunch and are best de­scribed as a sin­gle U-shaped foot hold. They mount to the body at only two points and there­fore won’t sup­port as much weight as a full side­step. These steps have two other ma­jor draw­backs. First, your foot must be placed di­rectly on the step at a ninety de­gree an­gle for a se­cure foot­ing due to the nar­row width. Se­condly, for al­most all types of these steps, they are im­pos­si­ble to see from the in­side of the truck when step­ping out. For a reg­u­lar user, this might not be a deal breaker as you can quickly be­come ac­cus­tomed to their lo­ca­tion, but for in­fre­quent pas­sen­gers this can present a real risk.

Molded run­ning boards ver­sus tubu­lar side steps

Run­ning boards re­fer to those steps which fit tight to the body of the ve­hi­cle and tubu­lar steps are those which sit out leav­ing a gap. The big­gest neg­a­tive with molded boards is they tend to col­lect ice, slush, and snow and this can lead to pre­ma­ture body panel rust­ing. This is why tubu­lar steps tend to reign in the side step mar­ket.

Step ma­te­rial should be a ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion when shop­ping

These units live in the worse en­vi­ron­ment for cor­ro­sion and there­fore stick­ing with stain­less steel or alu­minum over plain or chromed steel is a good idea. Also look for kits that re­quire no drilling and in­stead use ex­ist­ing holes in the ve­hi­cle’s frame or frame-rails. And uni­ver­sal kits that aren’t specif­i­cally made for your par­tic­u­lar ride should be left on the shelf.

Fi­nally, ask about the avail­abil­ity of re­place­ment parts for your po­ten­tial side-step kit. Even­tu­ally some­thing will break, get dam­aged in a col­li­sion, or come loose. Hav­ing to buy a brand new kit just to re­place a $5 end-cap or other mi­nor part is no value at all.


Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado with side­steps.

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