Sliders, Nerf Bars and Running Boards

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Aftermarket Rock Sliders, Nerf Bars, Stock Running Boards or Electronic Drop Down Steps for your 5th Gen 4Runner – What’s best for you?

When choosing mods and accessories, rock sliders and Nerf Bars are some of the most common upgrades.

Aftermarket Running Boards & Steps?

  • Stock Running Boards – Basic Steps
  • Automatic Running Boards – Hidden Steps
  • Nerf Bars – Minor Protection/ Stepping
  • Rock Sliders – Max Protection/ Steps or no Steps

In this article, we will be going over the pros and cons of all these upgrades. We will also help guide you in the right direction of choosing what you need.

Rock Sliders

2016 Trail 4Runner Swell Runner - Slee Rock Sliders

Rock Sliders are an upgrade that provides the best protection for your rocker panels. Rock sliders are made of a stronger material than Nerf bars, usually DOM and HREW – not aluminum like other options. If you want to learn everything this is to know about rock sliders – check out this rock slider overview post.

Rock sliders do exactly what is in the name. They slide on rocks, stumps, and humps so if your hung-up on a rock they will slide off. Instead of worrying about damaging your rocker panels, the sliders take the damage instead.

Every scratch or blemish the sliders receive is one less to your 4Runner. That alone is a huge plus for anyone who off-roads their daily driver. While most sliders are only meant to protect your rockers they do sell dual-purpose sliders. These sliders have features like indentations for you so they double as step bars.

If you’re looking for the industry’s best products, check out our rock sliders buyers guide.

Best Options for Aftermarket Rock Sliders

  1. C4 Fabrication With or Without Top Plates: Check Price
  2. Cali Raised LED Step Edition: Check Price
  3. Cali Raised LED Trail Edition: Check Price
  4. CBI Rock Sliders

Rock Slider Pros

  • Full Protection
  • They look Bad-Ass
  • Better Aerodynamics
  • Optional Steps/ Plates Offered
  • Re Powdercoat if Scratched-Up

Rock Slider Cons

  • Super Heavy
  • Not Affordable
  • May need to powder-coat

Nerf Bars

5th Gen 4Runner Nerf Bars - NFAB

The Nerf bar is the most common upgrade out of all of these. The Nerf bar was originally created to keep race car tires from getting caught between tires in other cars. In the 60/70s nerf bars were becoming popular for trucks and SUVs to add protection.

While nerf bars do offer protection they typically are not made from a thick metal. So, Nerf bars are best if you are doing light trail’s or if you 4runner is just a daily driver.

They are great at protecting your 4Runner from getting dinged up from other peoples car doors. On trails, they add protection from small things but most rocks will destroy them. Nerf bars all come with some sort of spot to be used as a step. Modern nerf bars while providing the protection they do, are designed to be used as steps.

So nerf bars are what you should purchase if your 4Runner is your daily driver or you do light-weight trekking around dirt roads and fire-roads.

Best Options for Nerf Bars

  1. N-Fab Nerf Bars, Easy Install – Check Price

Nerf-Bar Pros

  • Easy Install
  • Medium Protection
  • Provides a step
  • Protects against door dings
  • Re Powdercoat if Scratched-Up

Nerf-Bar Cons

  • Can lower MPG due to aerodynamics (Some say, kind of a stretch)
  • Not typically aesthetically pleasing
  • Can be fairly heavy with mounts

Running Boards

Stock Running Boards - 5th Gen 4Runner

While running boards are an option on most 4Runners, yours may not have come with them so we will include this section.

Running boards serve no protection from anything major. They do however still provide minor protection from small objects including rocks, humps, and stumps. These little obstacles could potentially hit your rocker panels.

Other than this minor protection, running boards are more or less for decoration. They do function as a step but typically are not as sturdy as any aftermarket options. The reasoning for that is like we said, they are more of a decorative accessory.

The Automatic Running Boards?

There are companies that make running boards that retract. These running boards are sturdy and meant to be used as a step when entering or exiting.

The advantage to retracting running boards is better aerodynamics vs having them stick out, they also look so much better. Overall, running boards should only be used on your 4Runner if it is a daily driver and you do not need protection.

Best Options for Aftermarket Running Boards

Stock Running Board Pros

  • They work…
  • Minor damage protection
  • Not many pros here

Stock Running Board Cons

  • Damages easily
  • Plastic Sucks
  • Bulky
  • Not very pretty

Automatic Running Boards

5th Gen 4Runner Automatic Running Boards

Automatic running boards are the go-to aftermarket solution for many soccer mom 4Runners. Also, automatic running boards are a solid choice for 4Runner owners that do not plan on hitting “rugged terrain”. Let’s keep in mind here that you can d0 any dirt road and most “off-road” trails with these auto running boards and be just fine.

Your 4Runner has plenty of clearance on its own. Running a set of these auto running boards would really work for so many owners if you like the look. This is a great option that like the look of no stock running boards, but are present when you open the doors.

The automatic running boards come in a few different options but most of them operate the exact same and have a similar look and feel.

Its simple: When you open your door, they pop out and down. When you close your door, they suck back into place.

Auto running board options


  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Provides a step
  • Provides a “heightened” Look


  • Not Cheap
  • Damages easily
  • Advanced Install

What Sliders or Steps Are for You?

5th Gen 4Runner Rock Sliders

So when it comes to choosing which type of Bar, Step, Board or Slider your 4Runner needs it all depends on what you do. Let’s look at the main points below to determine what each application is best for.

  • Rock Sliders: If you are someone who does a lot of Off-Roading, Trekking around or exploring backcountry roads, rock sliders are for you. Sliders offer the most protection so you can go wheeling without worrying as much about body damage.
  • Nerf Bars: If you are someone who does some offroading but your 4Runner is still a daily driver nerf bars are for you. The Nerf Bars will protect you from most damages on easy and medium trails. They will also protect you from other cars and door dings.
  • Running Boards: If your 4Runner is your daily driver and you have zero intention of going off-road, you will want to stay with running boards. They protect against minor damages that occur in everyday life.
  • Automatic Running Boards: With the Automatic Running Boards, they can be hidden if you’re only wanting function. Automatic Running Boards are also great for anyone looking for an adventure, you like the look and only need minimal clearance.

At the end of the day, we recommend rock sliders as they provide the most protection. But, the Nerf Bars really kick ass too if you are an occasional trekker.

The choice is yours but at the end of the day, HAVE FUN and go explore something new!

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3 years ago

I had the stock running boards installed on my 2019 Limited. The running boards are almost useless for short people that need the added step to get in and out. (My wife and parents) The running boards only give you a toe hold. Does anyone know of an extension that can be bolted to the frame to extend the running boards so they can be useful?

James Creech
James Creech
4 years ago

My 2019 ORP came with sliders with removeable steps, at least they were advertised as rock sliders. Do you have any experience with these? Are they legitimate rock sliders and will they support the weight of jacking the 4Runner?

Chris - @Deadeye.4r
4 years ago
Reply to  James Creech

I have the same ’19 ORP and mine came with something that sounds similar to what you are describing. This is a link to what came on mine

They’re nerf bars and I personally would never jack my truck on them. If you get under the 4Runner, you’ll see where they bolt on and it’s clearly not the frame. Sliders are going to either be welded or bolted to the frame. I plan to remove and sell mine when I purchase my sliders.

James Creech
James Creech
4 years ago

Yeah, I climbed under it yesterday after finding them while google searching Toyota rock sliders and emailed N-Fab. I was a bit disappointed as the dealer advertised them as rock sliders. I’m really glad I haven’t been in any situations that would have warranted using them though.

Scott Reynolds
4 years ago

Perfectly written, thank you!

6 years ago

I got the rock sliders as well. Heavier but well worth it in the long run and also helps with door dings big time! I have the RCI ones that were powder coated. Easy install with KDSS.

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