This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue.
A major upgrade completed on magazine publisher Ryan Harris’s new Ford was the installation of new ARIES ActionTrac powered running boards in place of the stock ones to make his truck more accessible with his new lift and larger tires and wheels. ActionTrac powered running boards are among the ideal power steps for lifted pickup trucks. These boards feature a unique “step-within-a-step” setup, which literally means the product is two steps in one, as a lower step automatically deploys 8 inches below the main one when a cab door is opened, providing easy access. The installation of these unique power boards was completed at PowerTech Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, by technician Jordan Johnson.
Step 1: Unpack The New Product
Of course, with any new product, it goes without saying to open the boxes and unpack the materials first. The point here, though, is to double-check to make sure you have everything you need to do the project, which is what Jordan did. Be careful to check the list of everything that’s supposed to be included in the box to be sure it actually matches up.
Step 2: Removal & Prep
Next, Jordan loosened the bolts and removed the stock driver side running board on the truck so he could install the mounting brackets. He then began the process of installing the three new brackets in place of the old ones by mounting them on the body studs. He then put the nuts and washers on the outside of the brackets and tightened the lower ones. The upper nuts were left loose so the board could be repositioned as necessary.
Step 3: Install Driver Side Board
After tightening the brackets, Jordan inserted the three two-stud T-rails into the bottom track on the running boards in getting them ready to be mounted on the brackets. He picked up the board and inserted the aligned studs into the brackets; he then tightened the nuts on the studs to hold the board in place. After establishing the position for the board, Jordan tightened the upper nuts on the outside of the brackets. In this case, one frame stud turned out to be loose and needed readjustment as well as the old washer from the stock running board. These studs are supposed to be riveted into the body of the truck.
Step 4: Repeating For The Passenger Side
Jordan repeated the same process for installing the passenger side running board. He came across a loose stud on one of the T-rails while working on this side, so he reseated it just before mounting the new running board. With the passenger side board installed, Jordan double-checked all the nuts in all areas to make sure they were tight, and the boards themselves were installed. Now it was time to set up the wiring, which ended up being a much more involved process.
Step 5: Feed In Wiring
Jordan began by removing a boot on the vehicle firewall and then inserting one end of the red and black wires (color-coded for power from the battery) into the hole, feeding them into the cab.
Step 6: Set Up Harness
After getting the wires into the cab, Jordan took off the front trim panels on the driver side so he could feed the connecting wires through. That’s when he removed the door linings, mats, rear trim panels, and storage compartment upon loosening the applicable bolts so he could have full access to the vehicle floor, which the running boards’ master wiring harness would run under, starting on the driver side and ending on the passenger side. Of course, since the power feeds in on the driver side, always make sure the end of the harness with the red and black wiring faces that side. With all of it in place, Jordan then ran the harness end of the red and black wiring up the driver side and connected it to the wires feeding in from the firewall.
Step 7: Drilling Holes
With everything in place on the inside of the truck, it was now time to connect the wires to the boards. Jordan kicked that off by drilling a hole in the body on the passenger side for the red, black, pink, and purple wires to go through via a rubber grommet (the pink and purple wires are color-coded for lighting). He repeated the process for the driver side.
Step 8: Rear Passenger Sensor
Of course, in order for the boards (and their lighting) to work, they need door sensors to trigger them, so Jordan next set up a sensor on the rear passenger side door to get the corresponding running board and its lighting ready to be tested. He connected the white and blue door sensor wires to the corresponding harness connection and then to the black wires on the sensor. He mounted the sensor below the lock bracket on the doorsill with a 3M sticky mount and stuck a magnet (to trigger the sensor) on the door to line up with it.
Step 9: Connect The Wires
It was now almost time to test the running boards and lighting, but before doing so, everything needed to be wired together. Jordan inserted the remaining unused prongs on the red and black wire into the switch (which turns the entire system on and off). After that, he made a temporary connection for the split end of the red and black wires under the hood to the battery (for testing) and connected the emerging wires below the rear doors to the connectors on the running boards and the lights. Jordan opened the rear passenger door; the light lit up and the step deployed from the running board. He kept opening and closing it to make sure it kept working, and it did.
Step 10: Repeat For Other Doors
With the rear passenger side door sensor working, Jordan repeated the same sensor mounting process for the truck’s other doors with the same 3M sticky mounts. All sensors ended up working for their respective corresponding running board.
Step 11: LED Lights On The Boards
With everything now working, it was time to tie up all the loose ends. What came first was installation of the LED light brackets on the rear T-rail studs on the passenger side. After establishing the lights’ location, Jordan tightened the nuts on the studs. He then did the same for the driver side.
Step 12: Reinstall Door Liners
Jordan began to put the truck’s interior back together by reinstalling the rubber door liners and trim panels. He began with the passenger side and then moved on to the driver side, also zip-tying loose wires along the way. Also while doing that, Jordan prepared to reinstall the backseat storage box by shifting the wiring harness around to allow for access to the storage box mounting studs.
Step 13: Top Off Wiring
Jordan then mounted the on/off switch on the bracket below the steering wheel next to the truck’s OBD-II port. Beneath the cab, the split end of the wires still needed to be finalized. The red wire was connected to the live (red) terminal on the battery and the other end of the black wire was connected to the vehicle frame as the ground. “It looks messy if you drag the wire across the battery for the ground,” Jordan says. “Not to mention, it’s also a big hazard.” With the battery end of the circuit finalized, he zip-tied the remaining loose wires and reshaped the firewall’s rubber hole for the wires to fit through better.
Step 14: Reinstall Storage Box
With the wiring finished, all that was left was to reinstall the storage box and then put the mats back in place. The Running Board install was now complete.