Nerf bars serve two primary functions; they enhance the look of your rig and they provide an extra stepping surface for entry and exit. If you've set out to buy a set of nerf bars for either reason, you may have also considered running boards as an alternative solution. Nerf bars and running boards do serve similar purposes, and this can make for a confusing shopping experience.
Nerf bars, running boards and side steps
Nerf bars were initially developed to protect race vehicles from small collisions incurred during competition. The metal tubing placed just below the lower edge of the vehicle's body created an effective buffer against minor competitor impacts. Since then, off-roaders began using nerf bars for trucks to minimize undercarriage damage caused by flying rocks. Some street drivers even install nerf bars to prevent door dings.
Over time, nerf bar designs evolved to include side steps, a feature traditionally associated with running boards. Running boards are installed in the same general position as nerf bars, but they offer a larger and flatter stepping surface.
Balancing looks and safety
Truck owners who prefer nerf bars over running boards usually cite the sleeker look of the nerf bar. Most nerf bars are made of round or oval tubing. If the nerf bar has steps at all, they're usually small metal loops placed just below each of the doors.
Most running boards, on the other hand, create a wide stepping surface that runs the length of the truck. Compare the two products side by side and you will agree that the nerf bar design emphasizes looks, while the running board design emphasizes safety. Given these options, you should decide early on what you want your nerf bars to do. The most common choices are:
I like the way nerf bars look.
In this case, shop for ultra low-profile nerf bars that fit your application.
I want nerf bars to protect my undercarriage.
If your objective is strictly protection, you have a range of options. Larger nerf bars will stand out more than a sleeker style, but they'll also protect your truck more effectively.
My truck needs side steps, but I don't like running boards.
You can balance looks and safety with an oval nerf bar that has larger step pads.
I need the biggest and most stable steps available for my truck.
If your primary concern is safe entry and exit, nerf bars may not give you what you need. Consider running boards for this purpose.
4 Wheel Parts has a large selection of nerf bars, side steps, and running boards. If you've settled on how you want your nerf bars to function, then you're ready to start shopping.
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