There are any number of reasons why you’d want a set of Jeep Wrangler side steps.While appearance purposes definitely rank high on the list of those with mall crawlers, there are plenty of people who install them for purely practical intent as well (hello, all you overlanders).
We’ll pour one out for Wrangler owners who are vertically challenged enough to need side steps in order to get in their rigs.
The aftermarket has never been in want for high quality Jeep accessories. Items like side steps have often ranked pretty high in the pecking order of equipment purchased by Wrangler owners after getting their machine home in the driveway. Mopar side steps are popular – after all, they’re designed by the crew that built your Jeep – but other options of Jeep Wrangler side steps exist as well.
This is why our staff of off-road experts has gathered a list of what we feel are some of the best Jeep side step options that could be the next accessory you’ll outfit on your Jeep.
Lead photo courtesy Christopher A. Salerno / Shutterstock
Table of contents
1. Editors Choice - DNA Motoring Tubing Armor Side Step
If you’d rather help your rig look like it’s ready to grate a stack of mozzarella, these Jeep Wrangler 4-door side steps could be just the ticket. Built from durable and heavy-duty steel tubing, they are promise an easy and no-drill installation that permits bolting right to factory mounting points. Allegedly, they can be installed by someone who knows what they’re doing in less than an hour. We will point out that four hands are better than two when trying to balance these long items while wrestling mounting bolts into place.
The tubing has a matte black powder-coat finish and is 2 inches in diameter. What’s more, they are of a one-piece welded design, a decision that makes a difference in terms of increased strength. These specific steps are designed for 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited models, but other variants are available for two-door machines. Online reviews are fair to middling, with most complaints centering around the lack of proper hardware and instructions, not the steps themselves.
2. Most Durable - Westin HDX Drop Nerf Step Bars
There’s not a gearhead in the off-roading world that hasn’t heard of the Westin brand name. Chances are, you’ve either bought at least one product from this company or know someone who has. These Jeep Wrangler 4-door side steps are intended for use on the venerable 2007 – 2018 JK model, of which the brand sold approximately eleventy billion (that’s an exaggeration, but only slightly).
These bars have die-stamped steel step areas for maximum traction. Lest you think that simple marketing hyperbole, go step on any sort of unstamped flat steel and see how far your foot slides. That’s a trait you don’t want on your Jeep Wrangler side steps. This product fits tight to rocker panel for a better fit and rugged look. Be aware that very few real-world customers had anything good to say about the instructions that come with these steps.
3. Cleanest Looking - Tidal Nerf Bar Side Steps
Rounding out our list is a set of steps that are marketed as ‘rock bars’. Rather than being a club that only plays Iron Maiden or Motörhead, these types of Jeep Wrangler side steps are designed to take a beating from rocks rather than folding up like a cheap tent at first impact. While they can’t technically be called ‘rock sliders’ in the truest sense of the term, their dual girder system should provide ample wheel-to-wheel protection for typical off-road shenanigans.
A heavy-duty steel mount bracket promises an installation that won’t result in side steps that flop about like a freshly caught carp. It is also possible to weld these things right to the chassis, an option not mentioned by anything else on our list. This is likely due to the fact these particular bars are designed for older YJ and TJ rigs, most of which have already been hooned to within an inch of their life and whose owners do not mind taking a welder to their vehicle. If your skills at sticking metal together are lacking, it is also possible to mount these steps by drilling holes and using some of the included hardware.
4. Bully Universal Black Powder Coated Side Step
Sometimes, the word ‘universal’ should be looked upon with the same amount of derision shown towards a soiled copy of Playboy magazine. However, in this instance, that doesn’t seem to be the case. These steps are simple metal hoops that stick out from your Jeep’s rocker panel area like a spoilt child’s bottom lip. Cast from a single piece of lightweight aluminum, they should prove durable even in tough conditions. We will encourage buyers to think about the clearance they are potentially giving up if they frequently take their Jeep rock crawling.
These steps are paintable, meaning the most extroverted of Jeep owners can color key the steps to their rig’s paintwork. A 350lb weight limit will permit even your huskiest of off-road buddies the purchase to step up into your Wrangler. In what seems to be something of a theme, some customers griped about incorrect (or insufficient) hardware, while a few took umbrage with the ‘universal’ description in claiming they had to break out a DeWalt drill in order to achieve proper fitment.
5. Hooke Road Metal Folding Door Hinge Steps
If a set of Jeep Wrangler retractable side steps are your bag, these too-cool folding door hinge steps might be right up your alley. Technically not a side step in the image of products already profiled in this article, these steps won’t permit better access to the interior of your rig but they will permit better access to the roof of your rig. According to the seller, their folding design does not affect opening the door, nor will it scratch doors when used properly.
Made for both 2018+ JL Wrangler and all JT Gladiator, the folding door hinge steps are crafted from rust-resistant high-strength steel and look for all the world like you just installed a pair of bottle openers on each side of your Jeep. Come to think of it, that’s pretty on brand for most Jeep owners. The stepping surface folds down easily, providing an area that has a serrated area for maximum grip. Remember, these go installed into the factory door hinge bolts that face outwards, not the bolts you frequently remove to take the doors off; this is worth mentioning since the bolts in question may be tougher to break loose than expected.
How do you install Jeep Wrangler side steps?
As it would seem most of the aftermarket options on this list come with instructions that may be less than totally helpful, be sure to research your purchase and search up any relevant documentation or videos that might help. There are plenty of online resources. If you’re not sure or are a total newbie to finding your way around a socket set, phone a knowledgeable friend and ask for help.
In short, while all Jeep Wrangler side steps are different, the vast majority of them use a series of bolts that line up with existing mounting points on the underside of your vehicle. Ensuring the steps are securely fastened is important, since they will be bearing the weight of anyone who enters or exits your Jeep. Also, there are few more irritating sounds than a loose side step rattling around as you make your way over a rough road.
What are the different types of steps?
Some of the more common styles include tubular-shaped bars, single hoop steps, and full-length running boards. Note that true rock sliders aren’t technically steps since they are supposed to be simple but robust pieces of metal covering the rocker panels of your Jeep. However, many brands do market their steps as ‘rock sliders’. You know the difference, right?
Are there any disadvantages?
If you care about such things, there’s a solid chance the leg of your pants will get dirty upon entry and exit as you brush up against the steps. Also, there is a debate as to if they help or hinder fuel mileage, with some saying their design creates a ‘skirt’ of air that covers the back wheel to reduce turbulence. The corollary of that, of course, is the school of thought that the irregular shape of these steps ruin airflow and create drag. Your author has never noticed a real-world difference, even after driving his Ram pickup for an equal number of months – in equal conditions – with steps both installed and removed.
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