AMP Research PowerStep Running Boards Review

Dec. 16, 2013 By Josh Burns
AMP Research offers truck and SUV access with its PowerStep.

Now that you have a lifted vehicle, what’s the easiest way to get in and out of it? For guys, grabbing the handle and pulling yourself into the cabin may not be a big deal, but what about your wife or girlfriend? How do they get into the truck each time without a struggle? They may love the new height, but chances are they will – now or later – hate getting in and out of the truck.

There are a number of options for off-roaders looking to easily gain access into their lifted vehicle. Step options in the aftermarket for trucks, Jeeps and SUVs include a variety of running boards, individual steps for each side, and even some sliders can be used as steps (while also providing trail protection). The problem is that many of these options hang quite a ways down below the frame of vehicle, thereby creating a potential rubbing/dragging issue when on the trail. After going to all of the trouble to increase ground clearance, having a step or slider that could potentially catch on rocks and ruts on the trail seems like a step backward.

The AMP Research PowerStep is available for a number of different truck, Jeep and SUV applications, but each kit consists of roughly the same components: running boards,  PowerStep support brackets, motors (one for each side), LED lights, wiring harness and all the necessary hardware.

The PowerStep support brackets are constructed of die-cast aluminum. There are two brackets to support each running board, offering a weight capacity of 600 pounds per side.

AMP Research offers a unique alternative to accessing lifted vehicles in its PowerStep, which is an electric-powered running board designed to extend when the door is opened and then hide out of sight once the door is shut. Aside from reducing clearance issues by tucking up neatly near the frame of the vehicle, the PowerStep also aids in reducing the aerodynamic drag created by traditional running boards or side steps that stay in a fixed position. We've known about AMP Research's innovative solutions for some time - even contributor Jaime Hernandez installed a set on his Dodge Mega Cab and loves them to this day - but until now, we've never had the chance to check them out. Believe us when we say they are worthy of the praise.

The PowerStep uses existing frame holes for mounting. Believe it or not, there are unused bolts in place, but AMP Research provides flange bolts for the installation of the PowerStep.

The support bracket is bolted into place using the pre-existing holes.

The motor for the PowerStep is mounted to the front bracket (nearest the engine) before being installed.

Utilizing OEM-quality electric motors, the PowerStep lowers and raises sturdy aluminum running boards to gain access into the vehicle. The steps are powder-coated for traction and will support a 600-pound load capacity per side. The Tundra PowerStep comes with CNC-machined, aluminum-alloy components, which are anodized and Teflon-coated to reduce corrosion. It also thoughtfully features a low-profile integrated LED light system to illuminate the steps when in use. For durability, the included components, such the electric motors, drive system and wiring harness, are weatherproof. The American-made-and-designed system features maintenance-free, self-lubricating bushings for all-weather performance, and comes with a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty. The PowerStep is available for a number of different trucks and SUV applications, including Chevrolet/GMC, Cadillac, Hummer, Ford, Jeep, Nissan/Infiniti, Ram and Toyota.

The boards needed to be trimmed to fit our Toyota Tundra Double Cab, since the step is long enough for the larger Tundra Crew Cab. First, the end cap needs to be removed before trimming.

The step is measured before making the cut. Remember: measure twice, cut once!

Once measured, trim the board before installation.

After the running board is cut and the end cap reinstalled, it’s time to line it up on the support bracket for installation.

For the installation of the parts, we headed over to AMP Research’s offices in Tustin, California. We got a chance to not only check out the large facilities, but also have some expert help from AMP employees who know the products very well. Eric Bajza from the engineering team and Fred Gatti and Joe Ledezma from the sales and marketing team were on hand to help put it all together. The PowerStep install is considered a 4 of 4 on the difficulty scale from AMP Research’s perspective. For the intermediate garage mechanic with a decent understanding of electrical connections and with access to the right tools, it’s probably a 4- to 5-hour job. With the help of the team the install was complete in less than four hours. 

The PowerStep will run off the vehicle’s battery. The connections to the battery and ground are in place.

A line needs to be marked on the pinch weld to drill a small hole for the LED lights to illuminate the running board.

After making a spot with a punch, using a 9/32 bit drill a hole for the LED wiring to run through. The supplied grommet should go in place of the hole for both appearance and wire protection.

There are two LED lights for each side, offering lighting for both the front and rear doors on each side. The light itself features a 3M-type backing to stick in place, but be sure the surface is clean before adhering it.

The power draw to the motor for the PowerSteps maxes out at 14.3 amps, and it typically hits that spike when the boards are fully retracted or extended.

The easiest route for the trigger wires is to remove the grommet in the floorboard, cut a small hole in it and run the wires through it.

A Step Forward?
Over the past few weeks since the installation, we’ve had a chance to put the PowerSteps to the test. Each and every time we get into and out of the vehicle, the PowerStep is there to help. The LED lights are a nice touch, as they provide just enough illumination to see the steps after dark. It should also be noted that the steps extend in such a way that they don’t present a hazard to bumping your knees and shins. Initially we wondered whether they would extend so far that you’d have to stand back from the truck when they deploy; however, the PowerSteps are designed to deploy just under the frame, so they offer an easy-to-access step each time the door is opened with no threat of bumping your leg.

Once everything is hooked up, the PowerSteps will raise and lower and also be lit up by the LED lighting.

The PowerStep running boards are also very sturdy. The coating on the boards provides great traction in wet and dry conditions, and we even put the weight limit to the test by having two full-sized adults enter the vehicle at the same time (a combined 380 pounds approximately), and the PowerStep showed no signs of bending or warping with the weight, so the 600-pound weight capacity seems legitimate.

Since it is an electrically controlled system, the motors can be heard deploying the PowerSteps and then retracting them after the door is closed. This is to be expected, and if nothing else the sound lets you know the step has properly retracted out of the way. One great feature is the two-second delay of the PowerSteps, which keeps the steps deployed in the down position two seconds after closing a door should you move from the front to the rear doors to grab kids or groceries from the back seat. Although the motors are "weatherproof" and are designed to handle the elements, they are not waterproof. This is an important consideration for truck, SUV or Jeep owners who plan to ford water crossings. It’s possible if the motor is fully submerged it will burn out. This won't impact most, but it's something to note off-roaders who plan to ford small water crossings.

Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the PowerStep. It’s a thoughtfully crafted system that provides easy vehicle access for lifted vehicles. It’s also a head-turning piece as well, since the step’s deployment is sure to catch some attention with your friends and neighbors. The AMP Research PowerStep may not be for everyone, though, as it does carry a suggested retail price of about $1200. That said, in our opinion it’s worth the dough. It is well designed and constructed, and it definitely is one of the coolest steps we’ve ever seen. Even after only a few weeks, we can't imagine getting into our truck without them. If you’re in the market for running boards or steps for your truck or SUV, the PowerStep is something worth checking out.

AMP Research
15651 Mosher Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780

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