Choosing the Right Nerf Bar for your Truck or SUV

Choosing the Right Nerf Bar for your Truck or SUV

Nerf bars were an idea that began over fifty years ago in the racing world as a way to protect vehicles from the inevitable small collisions of drivers bumping or “nerfing” each other to make a successful pass. Since that time, these simple, foam-padded 3 inch tubular bars have expanded to become one of the most popular truck accessories on the market, coming in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes – from round or oval wheel bars to the more covert side or hitch steps in chrome, black powdercoat and stainless steel that will compliment the trim on any vehicle.

Unlike the old racers that used them just to defend their vehicle when making a pass or from oncoming drivers, today’s Nerf Bars are also used to provide a safe stepping area into your truck or SUV, as well as add a dimension of sporty style to its appearance. Additionally, Nerf Bars also add an extra layer of protection to the lower body of your vehicle, keeping it safe from rocks, debris and from bottoming out when riding on an off-road trail. Some of the other benefits of installing Nerf Bars include:

  • Safe stepping in any kind of weather with treaded pads for non-slip grip.
  • A measure of safety and convenience for older and younger passengers as well as a boost after a tiring day at work.
  • Adding a bit of class to your vehicle
  • Damage control

Choosing the right Nerf Bars for your vehicle works much like choosing any other accessory for your truck or SUV - match the make, model and year with that of the manufacturer product recommendation. However, there are some additional considerations to take into account when purchasing a Nerf Bar, especially if you are adding them for a functional purpose. In the sections below, we list several significant attention areas and pair them alongside a few of the many corresponding products offered right here.

Weight Limit and Accessibility

Two of the first considerations you should make when choosing the right Nerf Bar are weight capacity and accessibility. If having extra strength is crucial, RBP Wheel to Wheel Nerf Bars boast a 450 lb. weight rating and are constructed from the highest quality 14 gauge, marine grade 304 stainless steel that is meant to take a beating. For more compromise between strength and style, the Go Rhino! 6000 Series Nerf Bars are a great choice; built from thick, durable .065" gauge 3 inch steel tubing meant to withstand extreme conditions and Available For 2, 3 and 4 door vehicles in a variety of finishes.

For older and younger passengers, as well as the disabled who might have a tough time climbing steps into high clearance vehicles, the AMP Research Power Step line of running boards by AMP Research is the answer - automatically extending out when the vehicle door is opened, and then retracting safely out of sight when the doors are closed. At the same time, the aluminum constructed Power Step can support up to 600 lbs. and is equipped with anti-pinch safety guards that prevent them from closing on obstructions.

Material Construction and Shape

Some of the materials utilized in Nerf Bars and running boards include carbon and stainless steel, polished aluminum and molded polymer. While all of these options offer value and reliability, it is important to consider how the materials used in their construction effect the durability and performance of each Nerf Bar, not to mention the price.

Carbon and Stainless Steel: One of the strongest and most corrosion resistant Nerf Bars are those made from alloys such as marine grade T304 stainless steel. While these premium products usually come with a premium price, TrailFX offers a Premium Grade Nerf Bar at a reasonable cost. Carbon steel also offers high durability, but is more prone to rust, which can greatly reduce the lifespan of your Nerf Bars. For this reason, the majority of carbon steel Nerf Bars are covered with a powder coating that makes them resistant to corrosion.

Polished aluminum: A great choice for the do-it-yourselfer. Polished aluminum Nerf Bars offer high strength while remaining light in weight, making them relatively easy to install. The Westin 4-inch Oval Tube Steps are a great choice in this option that can be matched with other great Westin products such as Light Bars, Winches, and Grille Guards to complete the look.

Molded Polymer: A high-strength, lightweight and low-cost plastic compound, Molder Polymer is used in many running boards and as a top stepping surface for some Nerf Bars. Molded Running Boards feature one-piece construction on an extruded aluminum base for support, grooves for secure footing and are often available in lighted or unlighted styles.

The shape and size of the Nerf Bar step is another component that will affect accessibility to your vehicle, as well as the appearance. The primary choices are:

  • Wheel to Wheel Nerf Bars – These extend from one wheel to another on each side of the vehicle to provide easy, secure footing as well as a step to get into the bed of a truck.
  • Oval Nerf Bars – Elliptical in shape, oval side steps allow for a more secure and comfortable step into and out of the vehicle. In addition, the shape allows for the convenience of step pads, providing an increased measure of protection against a slip and fall in poor weather conditions.
  • Round Nerf Bars – The perfect choice for adding a clean finish with some presence to the side of your vehicle without looking too flashy. Since most round Nerf Bars mount high against the panel, they also offer an increased level of protection to the vehicle body.
  • Side Steps and Hitch Steps – For those looking to add accessibility while remaining discreet, side steps and hitch steps add the function of a Nerf Bar without taking up the space.


On a scale of 1 to 10 in do-it-yourself difficulty, installing Nerf Bars on your vehicle falls between 2 and 3, as most simply screw into brackets that secure to the body mount bolts without the need for any drilling. If you have another person to help hold the Nerf Bar up to the bracket holes, installation is even easier and can be completed in 30 minutes or less. Like any other body accessory, installation can differ slightly by manufacturer and vehicle. For example, the Jeep Liberty Sport has mud flaps that will not work with Nerf Bars recommended for the Jeep Liberty because of the difference in mounting locations and bar placement. Moreover, each manufacturer has a slightly different way of securing their brand of Nerf Bars to your vehicle. In another article, we cover this process for Westin Nerf Bars. No matter what brand of Nerf Bar you purchase however, be sure to check the installation specifications to find out about the mounting bracket positions and tools required for your make, model and year.

All of our Nerf bars come in pairs and include the customer mounting hardware and instructions for mounting on your vehicle.

For more information regarding Nerf Bars, as well as other aftermarket truck, Jeep and SUV accessories, check back on our articles page or blog regularly.

Have additional question or concerns not addressed in this article? Email us and we will respond to your inquiry in a timely manner.

Posted on February 12th, 2013
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