Electric step to climb into the van

It’s a long way up into the van. We added a handle in the sliding door area, but we were fed up with using a folding step stool to help us get in and out. We installed an electric step that is activated when the door opens.

We chose to use the step (running board) sold by Sprinter Parts Depot. It’s actually an AMP Research part modified by Specialized Applications.  We can’t work out the relationship between Specialized Applications and AMP, if there even is one. The step seems to have an AMP part number (75163-01A) specific to 07-16 Sprinters.

Update: AMP is now selling the passenger side step under their own brand. Amazon offers it with free Prime shipping.

At the time we bought this step, Specialized Applications was going through a redesign of the step system. We didn’t find out until after we’d placed the order and the “3-7 day delivery time” advertised on the Sprinter Parts Depot site turned into two months, plus an extra week for a part that Specialized Applications forgot to ship in the box, plus having to grind out another part to make it fit. We didn’t sign up to be beta testers for the product, but they definitely received some feedback from us.

Power running board step deployed

Having said all that, now that the step is installed (about a 4 hour job), it’s very handy. The step reaches from the passenger door back to the sliding door. It deploys when either door is opened, and stays open until both doors are closed.

When it’s stowed, there’s 12-1/2″ of clearance on a 4×4 van. That’s 3″ less than without the step, but pretty tidy considering its functionality, and probably better than fixed running boards.

Power running board stowed

When it deploys, the step is 9-1/2″ from the ground, leaving 12″ to the sliding door step. It sits quite close to the van, which is probably good for parking in town without whacking other vehicles, but when you’re climbing out of the vehicle it would be great to have the step slightly further away from the side.

We didn’t get the driver’s side step because most often we’re entering and leaving the vehicle through the sliding door and we couldn’t really justify the extra cost. Now though, we’re not so sure. The step has made a big difference to ease of access on the passenger side.

It comes in plain black, or with stainless trim if you want a shiny look. We didn’t order the cutoff switch but that allows you to turn the step off if you don’t want it to deploy. It might be useful, but we have found that the step stops pretty well if it hits anything like a high curb or a rock (anti-pinch). We like that if you stand on the step as you close the door, it’ll stay down. That means you can use it even when the doors are closed.

Some installation notes if you’re thinking of adding an electric step:

  • Sprinter Parts Depot seemed to be as frustrated as we were by the delays. They did OK keeping us informed. I’d use them again.
  • You can read the installation instructions online if you want.
  • The step components are a mixture of metric and imperial. 13mm bolts, 4mm allen wrench for the motor attachment, and then 3/16 allen wrench for the bolts that hold the step in place. And no, common metric allen wrenches are not a similar enough size. Don’t you just love manufacturers that do that to you?
  • I was slightly surprised to see black oxide and zinc finishes on the bolts. Stainless would have been a nice touch for such an exposed location. We’ll see how well they weather.
  • The M8 rivnuts that come in the kit are beefy – thicker bodied than any we’d previously bought – so they need a 17/32 drill. Yes, an imperial measure drill for a metric rivnut. And also one you’ll be unlikely to own if like us you own a set of drill bits that only go up to 1/2″. We grabbed one from Amazon. It worked out at $2.50 per hole. It’s nice that they include a simple rivnut setting tool with the kit though.
  • The wire harness has to run above the exhaust pipe. It’s probably just fine above the heat shield, but we had some leftover heat reflecting fabric tube material, so we threw that around the split loom that the harness is in.
  • The 4×4 van is tall enough to do this whole install with the van on the ground. We have a cheap creeper. That makes it much easier.
  • The installation manual misses out some steps and/or makes assumptions. It says to install the bolts for the step arms into the van rocker panel, then slide the arms on to the bolts. Yeah right. That’s possible with the front one but there’s no room for that to happen with the rear one. Prepare yourself for some fiddly bolt tightening, 1/8 turn at a time.
  • It says to install the motor on the drive arm right at the beginning of the installation instructions. Don’t do it until after you’ve got the rest of the mechanical components set up, otherwise you won’t be able to move the step up and down to check for adjustment. The motor “locks” it in place. Interestingly, the sketch of the rear arm assembly in the instructions shows it without the motor in place, so my guess is it’s a CYA warning at the beginning of the instructions.

4 Replies to “Electric step to climb into the van”

  1. Great post. Just started this installation last night, it would have been nice to have seen this post first! I came to the same realizations when following their cartoon drawing instructions.

    1. Glad you found it useful. I imagine they have default instructions for all their vehicles and forgot to change them out for the Sprinter. It’s not always easy to match those cartoons up to reality when you’re underneath the van.

  2. Do you need the Parametric special module (PSM) for this to work? How does it know the doors have been opened or closed?

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