Will Running Boards Cause Rust Over Time?

Running boards serve an important purpose in the automotive world: they can make getting into big trucks and off-road vehicles much easier, protect against road debris, and can enhance the look of your vehicle. However, some people may be reluctant to install running boards on their vehicles for fear of rust. But will running boards really cause rust over time? 

Most aftermarket running boards won’t cause rust, especially if they don’t require drilling to install. However, ones that require minor drilling may cause rust over time, but this can be mitigated with a rust coating or non-corrosive paint. 

This article will discuss whether running boards cause rust and what types of running boards don’t cause rust. I’ll also discuss how to prevent your vehicle from rusting after installing aftermarket running boards. Let’s get started.

aftermarket running boards won't cause rust

Types of Running Boards That May Cause Rust

While installing an aftermarket running board on your vehicle doesn’t usually increase the risk of rust, there are some instances in which you should be careful. Running boards may cause rust if they require a lot of drilling to install or if you live near the coast. 

While modern running boards come with clamp-on designs that require little to no drilling, older designs need more drilling to install. These older running boards are most susceptible to rusting since they expose the car’s metal in the area around the holes.

Since these holes are usually quite small, you shouldn’t have to worry about the running boards causing rust. However, the area around the drilled holes may still rust slowly over time and weaken your vehicle’s body. 

If you live near the coast or drive in such areas frequently, you’ll have to take special care to cover these holes with an anti-corrosive material to protect your car from the salty water. 

Types of Running Boards That Don’t Rust

While older running boards were made from corrosive metals, most running boards available in the market nowadays are made from corrosion-resistant materials. Many also require little to no drilling to install, reducing the risk of rust. 

Running boards made from plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel are less likely to rust, provided you maintain them properly. 

Let’s look at these rust-free aftermarket running boards in more detail. 

Aluminum Running Boards 

Most aftermarket running boards available for modern vehicles are made from aluminum, and for good reason. Aluminum is lightweight, sturdy, and rust-resistant and can be installed without affecting your vehicle’s aerodynamics or fuel efficiency. 

If you’re looking for the best aluminum running boards, try the APS Aluminum Drop Steps Running Boards (available on Amazon.com). They’re made for Toyota Tacomas, but APS offers running boards for all vehicles on their website and Amazon stores. 

These APS running boards are sturdy and can support up to 500 lbs (227 kg). They’re also lightweight and won’t affect your vehicle’s fuel economy as much as other running boards. 

Best of all, they don’t require drilling to install, so you don’t have to worry about rust! You can easily install these boards with a DIY toolkit using efficient mounting hardware. 

Stainless Steel Running Boards 

When choosing rust-free, sturdy running boards, you also have the option of getting stainless steel ones. Stainless steel is slightly heavier than aluminum, but it can hold more weight and is extremely robust, making it ideal for off-road vehicles. 

The APS Premium 5in iBoard Stainless Steel Running Boards (available on Amazon.com) are the premium choice for many people. They’re strong, can handle up to 500 lbs, and provide a decent 5-inch (13 cm) ground coverage. 

The polished finish of these running boards gives your vehicle an attractive look and helps enhance its aesthetics. While these running boards require you to drill holes for bolts, they’re easy to install and come with mounting brackets that minimize the risk of rust exposure. 

Plastic Running Boards 

Plastic running boards are also a rust-resistant option, and you can get some heavy-duty options as well. Most are easy to install, and plastic boards are much cheaper than aluminum or stainless steel ones. However, they can’t handle as much weight as steel and may not be suitable for all vehicles. 

If you’re looking for an affordable running board, the GM Accessories 22913033 Long Plastic Running Board Step Pad (available on Amazon.com) is an excellent choice. It weighs less than 1 lb (0.5 kg) and can fit on most vehicles.

If you’re looking for a flexible option or can’t find an aluminum or steel running board that fits your vehicle, this board is ideal. 

How To Prevent a Running Board From Causing Rust

If you’ve installed a running board made from a rust-free material, you don’t have to worry about the board itself getting rusted. However, when you drill into the vehicle’s body to install the running board, rust may form on the vehicle around the drilling holes. 

Here are some tips to protect the area around the running board from rust: 

Paint the Exposed Area

If you have to drill into the car’s body when installing a running board, make sure you paint the exposed area to prevent rust. Use an anti-corrosive paint designed for aluminum since most vehicles are made from aluminum alloys. 

Check out my guide to find out what kind of paint you need for each type of running board. [Here’s What Kind of Paint You Need for Running Boards]

Apply a Rust Coating 

A rust coating made from stainless steel alloys is a great option for preventing rust from forming around the running board. You don’t have to apply it to a large area since only the area around the holes, made for fitting the board, is exposed. 

Polish the Running Board Regularly 

Even if your running board is made from aluminum or stainless steel, it may still rust over time, especially if you live in a coastal area (a combination of high humidity and salinity can often speed up rusting). Polish the running board regularly and use car wax or polishing oil to keep water off the running board. 

Colchani bolivia old rusty truck in colchani village at the edge of salar de uyuni

Final Thoughts 

Running boards are useful for most off-road vehicles and can improve your car’s aesthetics. However, they may cause rust over time if you drill into the vehicle’s body when installing them.  

To prevent this, install a rust-free running board that doesn’t need drilling to install. If you have to drill, cover the exposed area with a rust coating or protective paint.