Stepping Off: Retracting Running Boards

Bestop’s PowerBoard Retracting Running Boards

One of the drawbacks of having a lifted truck is the inconvenience of having to hoist yourself up into the cab every morning. Add to that small children, a short wife or a decrepit mother-in-law with no upper-body strength, and you’ll spend more time than you’d like setting up and taking down a stepstool. (Nothing’s more emasculating than having your buddies catch you unfolding a stepstool next to your truck.)

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This is where Bestop comes in. They manufacture a host of products for the street and trail markets, one of which is their PowerBoard line of power-operated running boards that automatically retract and extend whenever the doors are open.

The kit includes everything needed for installation: steps, motors, LED light kit, wiring harness and hardware. The powder-coated steps are 6.25 inches wide, made from extruded aluminum, and covered with a weatherproof non-slip texture. And while they may look delicate, each step is designed to handle 600 lbs. of weight (so go ahead, order that cheeseburger with extra bacon).

The kits come with everything needed for installation. Optional equipment shown here includes the dropdown extensions for very tall trucks. We don’t need them here, as our installation truck has only a 6-inch lift.

1 Installation starts by slipping eight mounting clips (four on each side) onto the factory running board locations on the frame rails. A small bolt is put in place and finger-tightened.

2 On the frame rail under the driver’s door is a factory wire harness cover, attached by two large tree clips. The thickness of the factory cover interferes with the motion of the PowerBoards linkage arm, so it will be replaced by a part in the kit.

3 There are two different linkage arms: two with a cog and connection point for the motor and two without. The two without attach at the front of the truck in two locations, under the small hex bolts from step one, and with the addition of two more small bolts that go through the rocker panel. Again, the bolts are left finger-tight.

4 The motor-driven linkage arms are attached at the rear-most location. On larger trucks, the length of the supplied wiring harness dictates that the motor-driven linkage arm on the passenger side be mounted at the front of the truck. Be sure to lay out the wiring harness first to check its length.

5 The supplied brake cable bracket extension mounts to the driver’s side frame rail, with the brake cable removed from the factory bracket and attached to the extension. This keeps the brake cable out of the step’s path when it retracts.

6 The step is mounted to the linkage. The aluminum T-nut slides back and forth in a groove on the step, so it can be aligned with the linkage arms.

7 The bolts that mount the step to the linkage will not be tightened down until the end of the project. Once the steps are attached, check to see that the steps move up and down freely by hand. If the step binds in any way, the position of the boards should be adjusted. Improper adjustment will cause the steps to squeak and may prevent them from retracting evenly or completely.

8 The motor assembly slides on to the driveshaft and mouting points on the linkage and fastened with three socket cap screws, which are torqued to 6 ft-lb.

9 Battery lead attachment is simple: red to positive, black to negative. Before attaching the leads, however, be sure to remove the fuse from the wiring harness in order to prevent damage to the electrical systems of both the PowerSteps and the truck.

10 The controller should be mounted near the battery and secured with the supplied cable ties. When connecting the controller wiring harness, make sure the locking tabs are fully engaged.

11 There are plenty of places along the frame to secure the wiring harness, and Bestop
includes plenty of cable ties for this purpose. There’s a group of four “trigger wires” that will need to be routed into the cab through any of the rubber grommets in the body shell.

12 Each motor unit has four wires. The yellow and blue wires activate the motors, while the red and black wires power the courtesy lights attached to each linkage arm.

13 Removing the step plates from the front and rear door openings provides access to the wiring harness. Use a coat hanger to pull the trigger wires underneath the B-pillar covers to the rear passenger area.

14 There are four trigger wires from the PowerBoards kit that must be spliced into the truck’s existing wiring harness to alert the controller that a door has been opened. Each wire’s color corresponds with similarly colored wire from the truck, and they can be attached using the supplied Posi-Taps connectors. Note that there are three blue wires in the truck’s harness. Use the one that doesn’t look like the other two.

15 The LED lights are attached to each linkage arm. Our one complaint about this system is that the light housings have a concave backing, so they can only be placed on the linkage arm. We’d like to have the option of tucking them up under the body.

16 The black and red wires connect to the light connector and can be secured out of the way with cable ties.

Installation is surprisingly easy. There are no special tools needed and nearly nothing needs modification in order to properly install them, making this a great do-it-yourself project. Even so, we took our Ford pickup to Fuller Truck Accessories in Riverside, California, a shop that has been installing and modifying truck components since 1976, and watched as Jose, Brian and Chris made light work of the installation.

Once everything is connected properly, reinstall the main fuse and then cycle the boards up and down several times by opening the doors. Make sure each door operates the boards properly. We noticed that if two or more doors are open at once, both boards will remain down until all of the doors are closed. Once you feel that the boards are extending and retracting properly, tighten down all of the bolts and screws. DW

SOURCES
Bestop, Inc.
800-845-3567
www.Bestop.com

Fuller Truck
Accessories
800-957-4355
www.FullerTruck.com