Though there’s debate as to where the first utility truck appeared, utes have become ingrained in Aussie culture and our way of life. They’re the vehicle making their way in almost every garage around the country. Similarly, SUVs and full-on 4WDS are battering the sales of other car types. Drivers want more space, a higher driving position, cars that can handle harsh Aussie roads, and the functionality that bigger, beefier vehicles provide. They also won’t hesitate in spending big when it comes to vehicle protection.  

Besides regular maintenance, you’ll need to spend some cash upfront to get the best out of your car. Almost every ute and 4WD has some sort of front protection, whether it’s bull or nudge bars, but the rest of the vehicle is most often overlooked. Here you have a ton of options, so things like doors, side panels and the underbody stay intact. In this respect, quality aftermarket side steps offer owners versatility and functionality. They shield the car from road debris and side-impact, and give drivers and passengers easier access when getting in or out.  

What are Side Steps?  

Side steps are the platforms fitted to either side of the vehicle and span the length of the doors. They provide a stepping area so passengers can get in and out of taller vehicles easily. Besides this, they offer many benefits, the largest being that they enhance side protection with the bars protruding out further than the overall width of the vehicle.  

car side steps
source: goldsun.co.in

Build and Materials 

Side steps are made of high-grade powder coated stainless steel or sturdy aluminium in varying thickness depending on the vehicle and brand. The supplied mounting brackets are made of the same durable materials. Thicker variants are well-suited to cars with higher ground clearance. As for length, aftermarket side steps should extend the entire length of the doors. You’ll find tapered and straight edge side steps, and this is more a matter of preference. Widths average around 10 centimetres, but you’ll also find wider side steps, up to 18 centimetres.  

The stepping area differs with different designs. This is usually positioned directly below each door, or along the whole bar. The latter are commonly referred to as running boards, but the purpose is similar. Stepping areas are often covered with textured rubber or plastic inserts to provide for better grip when entering and leaving the vehicle.  

Used for Side Protection 

Side steps are installed for convenience and looks, but also as protective gear. They are wider than the rest of the car and this helps in many driving conditions. For instance, in car parks, doors and side panels won’t sustain any dents or scratches from careless drivers slamming open their doors. They’ll be no nasty damage to paintwork. In addition, when driving on gravel or unsealed roads, side steps keep spraying debris, rocks and dirt from reaching the doors or damaging any part of the side panels. Many drivers often combine side steps with side brush bars for the best side protection when driving off-road. Branches, stones and any sharp objects won’t pose any risks.  

car side steps
source: pegasus4x4.com

Used for Easier Entry and Exit 

Side steps are installed so that passengers and drivers can enter and exit vehicles easier. SUVs, utes and 4WD have higher ground clearance than other cars, and this can be a problem for children, elderly people and anyone a bit shorter. The steps lay lower and provide adequate space for bigger or smaller feet. Also, on exiting the vehicle, you won’t need to jump out, but can use the stepping platform to exit safely.  

This is convenient in that you won’t be scraping those expensive leather or Alcantara seats you optioned with your car. Side supports in seats are higher, and getting in or out of the vehicle can be a challenge. This is virtually eliminated with side steps. Many people choose side steps because they provide a cleaning surface before getting in the car. You can wipe any mud or dirt off the steps and won’t be ruining the carpet afterwards. Some aftermarket side steps have a perforated design that lets mud and water seep through, so they don’t collect on the surface. These are easier to clean than solid platforms.  

Side Steps, Running Boards, Nerf Bars – What’s the difference?  

Side steps and running boards are used interchangeably, though there are slight but significant differences. Side steps are generally narrower, and mounted lower. Running boards are wider and have a flush fit against the car. The steps in side steps are separated from the rest of the platform, whereas in running boards they cover the larger part of the board. Slightly different are nerf bars, which are often narrower tubes and are usually longer and set lower than either side steps or running boards. For off-road use, you can also find rocker bars that help 4WDs over big rocks and boulders, and ensure that there’s no damage to the underbody and chassis.  

Buying and Installation 

car side steps
source: robsmagic.com

Aftermarket side steps are sold for most SUVs, 4WDs and utes. Look for side steps that fit your car. Steel variants are generally more expensive, but are regarded as more durable. Go for the design that best suits your vehicle. As for installation, side steps are easily and quickly bolted on the chassis in multiple points with solid brackets to ensure a tight fit. The benefit of not having to drill is obvious, and you can easily remove them just as quickly.