“No more pulling door panels or hunting down the correct color-coded wires, Wi-Fi modules communicate with a wireless controller to lower and raise the running boards.”


Wireless technology is everywhere these days, and it’s been infiltrating the automotive industry for some time. On both the OEM and aftermarket side, wire-free accessories have been wholeheartedly embraced. Staying ahead of the curve, Bestop hopped on the wireless bandwagon in 2013 by introducing its Wi-Fi activated PowerBoard NX running boards. Instead of pulling the door panels, hunting down the correct colorcoded wires to tap into and then reinstalling everything, Wi-Fi modules communicate with a wireless controller to lower and lift the running boards. The plug-and-play system makes pulling the kick panels and measuring wire diameters a thing of the past— and in the process, it vastly reduces installation time.


While Bestop’s PowerBoard NX running boards carry a premium price tag over the standard units the company offers, the wireless design of the NX steps makes their added cost more than worth it. According to the folks at Bestop, the ability to get around having to hardwire the running boards saves time during installation. On some vehicles, we think it will save at least two hours.


Die-cast aluminum linkages are what provide the downward and outward movement of the running board, thereby creating a stair step. The linkages included with Bestop’s PowerBoard NX’s allow the running boards to drop down six inches, along with providing two inches of outward movement, when deployed. There are two, rear-mounted idler linkages and two front-mounted motor linkages included in the kit.


The mounting points for the factory running boards (in the body) were repurposed when installing the PowerBoard NX linkages. The rear passenger mounting point can be seen here, with approximately ½ inch of the threads on the supplied M8-1.25 x 30 hex bolts (and M8 washers) showing.


After being fitted with its mounting insert (which was torqued to 12 ft-lb), the passenger side idler linkage was ready to be installed on the body. Thanks to slots for the mounting bolts being cut into the linkage mounting plate, the idler linkage simply slides over the previously half-threaded in hex bolts. From there, the bolts were tightened to the required 16 ft-lb spec.


The bracket insert sits in an access hole located in the body support member, and with its longer end pointed toward the center of the truck. Because the motor linkage brackets are slotted to accommodate the bracket insert’s mounting bolt, the insert was fitted with an M8-1.25 x 30 hex bolt and large washer prior to positioning the linkage bracket in place.


Each motor linkage—the front-mounted units that accommodate the motors responsible for deploying the running boards—is secured to the bottom of the truck’s body via a bracket insert (shown) and bracket. The bracket insert facilitates the use of the front support brackets, which provide additional reinforcement.


The lower portion of the front support brakets are secured to the motor linkages with 5mm Allen bolts. The same 5mm Allen wrench socket would be used to tighten the running boards to the linkages.


With a helping hand, the running boards can be set in place on the mounting feet of the linkages. The running boards themselves measure 6.25 inches wide and feature a non-slip surface that’s been powdercoated (rather than painted) for utmost durability and a sleek cosmetic appearance.


Said to be of OEM quality, the motors supplied with the Bestop PowerBoard NX system are completely sealed in order to hold up to any type of weather or environmental conditions. They slide onto the drive shaft and mounting bosses of the motor linkages, and are secured using the supplied M6-1.0 x 35mm socket cap screws (three per side).


Per Bestop’s instructions, the 5mm Allen bolts that fasten the running boards to the linkages weren’t fully tightened at this point. The company prefers you cycle the steps several times before fully cinching them down, mainly to ensure no binding issues exist.


A wiring harness pre-wrapped with wire loom provides both additional wire protection and a nice, clean, finished look once installed. Prior to routing the wire harness, its fuse was pulled to avoid any potential electrical shock during its installation.


For a power and ground source, the red lead was connected to the driver side positive battery terminal, while the black lead was attached to the body ground. In this photo, you can see that the wire harness has already been routed down along both sides of the truck, and anchored in place via the supplied zip ties.


In conjunction with the supplied Wi-Fi sensors, receiver, and controller, the motors on the linkages indirectly take their cues from this blue module (i.e. the controller). It utilizes programmed logic to operate the running boards independently of one another. After being plugged into the wiring harness, it was zip tied in place at the rear of the driver-side fender, near the firewall.


Before installing the lights, the mounting surface of each linkage was thoroughly cleaned to optimize the effectiveness of the adhesive. Once in place, the plug with the orange and black wire inside the supplied wiring harness was connected to each light. From there, the loose wires were zip tied up and out of the way.


Completing the wireless puzzle are the sensors and magnets. Once the magnet passes by the sensor, it sends a signal to the receiver. The receiver then tells the controller to lower the running board. The sensors are effectively “off” when a magnet is positioned next to the sensor. Once the magnet is roughly three inches away from the sensor, it triggers the PowerBoards to deploy. The sensors mount to the truck’s door jams thanks to being equipped with an adhesive liner on the back side. As far as sensor installation goes, it’s up to personal preference exactly where you choose to mount them.


Once the wiring harness had been connected to the controller, motors, LED lights, and receiver (i.e. transmitter), the receiver was mounted along the passenger-side frame rail. We positioned it just above the oxygen sensor module at the top of the frame (in front of the second cab mount), via two of the supplied 11-inch zip ties.


To secure each sensor’s magnet to its respective door jam, a magnet holder is put to use. The magnet holders also benefit from an adhesive liner being present on the back side. Unlike the sensors, installing the magnet holders is simplified by the fact that the magnet obviously doesn’t need to be held in place.


Prior to affixing the sensors and magnets to their eventual positions, we found the ideal positioning for each sensor and magnet, and then simulated the lowering and retracting actions of the PowerBoards. Then the sensor was outlined via washable marker (arrow) and permanently installed. The same mounting method was employed for the magnet and magnet holders.


Once installed, it’s hard to even know the sensors and magnets are even there. Here you can see the passenger-side front magnet (right arrow) mounted on the door and its corresponding sensor installed on the door jam (left arrow).


After cycling the PowerBoards several times, every fastener was tightened (or checked for the appropriate tightness) and the four-hour install came to an end. We found that deployment of the boards is immediate yet smooth, and that retraction is slightly delayed. However, the three-second delay is directly engineered into the PowerBoards so that another door can be opened (once a different one is shut) without cycling the motor an additional time. This built-in feature should lead to a very lengthy service life for the motors.


As expected, when not in use, the PowerBoards tuck tightly along the bottom of the truck’s body. Not only do the PowerBoards improve the truck’s physical appearance (especially when compared to a set of stationary running boards), but additional ground clearance is obtained as well.

In possession of a four-door ’12 Ram 2500 that was in need of a more cosmetically-appealing method of cab-entry, we decided to give the Bestop PowerBoard NX running boards a try. Just four hours after opening the box, the steps were on the truck and they were functioning flawlessly (not bad for never having installed a set of Bestops before). Beyond all the wireless advantages, Bestop’s PowerBoard NX steps are each rated for 600 pounds, come with heavy-duty linkages, OEM-grade motors, LED lighting, and quality hardware. Throughout the install, we took note of all the things we like about the PowerBoard NX units. Read on to see why these running boards belong on every truck.DW


• Each step holds up to 600 pounds
• Wireless activation components reduce installation time considerably
• No more removing door panels, kick panels, or peeling back interior carpet
• No more locating and then splicing into the factory wiring
• OEM quality sealed motors for utmost longevity
• Built-in anti-pinch safety feature (senses pressure and keeps board from retracting on your hand and/or feet)
• 100,000-mile/three-year limited warranty