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Brand new & building a ladder rack. Advice?

Discussion in '2nd Gen. Tacomas (2005-2015)' started by Tac243, Dec 12, 2009.

  1. Dec 12, 2009 at 8:03 PM
    #1
    Tac243

    Tac243 [OP] Member

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    I should have done more homework before I signed the paperwork for this new truck. I didn’t realize the bed was entirely made of the composite material. I assumed it was just a liner. There’s no way I’m going to be able to attach the new rack I’m planning on building the same way I did the old one. There is no structural element along the rim of the bed, and the deck rail system is so flimsy I’m likely going to get rid of it entirely. The first time I used a ratchet strap to hold down some material, the entire tie point started flexing ominously.


    I know I’m not the only guy to have these concerns. I’ve been digging up some older posts dealing with these issues. And I’ve been cooking up some ideas on how I’m going to re-engineer solid tie points into the new rack I’m building. I have a hunch as to how to mount the rack securely, but I’m wondering if there is someone out there who has already come up with their own solutions or had mistakes I could learn from. I could only find two commercial rack manufacturers making models for the 05 and up Tacoma. Both seem like they’re light duty. Only one has a mounting system I’m half comfortable with replicating:

    http://www.tacomarack.com/id1.html

    I might try to marry/modify a solution Crooked Beat posted with the tacomarack solution. I really don’t want to crack the bed.

    http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=29760

    Any advice or images of solutions?

    Here's the new one:
    [​IMG]

    And this is my old 96 with the rack:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Dec 14, 2009 at 7:52 PM
    #2
    Tac243

    Tac243 [OP] Member

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    Ok, I had a few hours to kill today and picked through my material, Just so happened to have a 14’ length of 1/4” thick 4” x 4” angle laying around. I think these will do just fine for my new bed rails.

    [​IMG]

    Could have cut them up with a plasma cutter, but an angle grinder with a cutting wheel always comes out cleaner on my opinion.

    [​IMG]

    Here they are roughed out and matching. They sit nicely on the rim of the bed. And I’m hoping to only use existing mounting points. I’m going to cut out some custom plates so I can tie into the bolts holding the bed to the frame. This way I tie directly into the frame of the truck. I’m wondering if I should also tie into the bed rails. Any thoughts? The rails are covered up by the vertical leg of the angle. This angle is also pretty heavy; I’m debating boring holes in it for tie points and trimming some weight. It would be a lot of work on the drill press.

    [​IMG]

    Does anyone know off hand what size torx bit I’m going to need to take off the bed mounting bolts and D clips?
     
  3. Dec 15, 2009 at 2:25 PM
    #3
    Crooked Beat

    Crooked Beat Well-Known Member

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    I must have spent 20 hours researching ladder racks for the Tacoma on the web and in person and the phone. No one manufactured a ladder rack that I needed. I spent a lot of time thinking and planning. The tapering of the bed didn't help either.

    Under the plastic horizontal bed sides is metal, but with lots of holes. I have pictures.

    I am convinced that with the 1/4 inch plate I used and you used is very very strong and spreads weight out along the entire bed sides. It is heavy, but strong. With the rack above it, I feel there is no chance of the bed splitting. The rack forms a boxtop with the bed.

    If I was to do it again, I would take about 1/4 inch off the vertical part in the bed, so I could use the tie down cleats.

    I am very happy with the use I got out of the rack for the summer/fall. I didn't take off the bed rails but read that it is easy to strip the torx bolts. I am toying with replacing with unistrut. There are indents in the rail that tied in with my ss washers. My rack will not move - I carried a 14 foot boat on the rack which puts a lot of force through the wind - there was no movement. I measured before and after.

    I have lots of photos if you need more info.
     
  4. Dec 15, 2009 at 2:36 PM
    #4
    burtonboards32

    burtonboards32 Well-Known Member

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    I believe you could get a Thule Trac Rack. Pretty sure they make them for tacos.
     
  5. Dec 15, 2009 at 2:41 PM
    #5
    burtonboards32

    burtonboards32 Well-Known Member

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  6. Dec 15, 2009 at 2:50 PM
    #6
    Mr_Torque

    Mr_Torque Buy the Ticket take the Ride.....

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    The Sure-Fit mounting set up is pretty slick. I wonder if they would sell just the mounting links? You angle rails look great. Are you going to reuse you old rack?
     
  7. Dec 15, 2009 at 7:27 PM
    #7
    OZ-T

    OZ-T Quite an experience to live in fear , isn't it ?

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    Tac243 ,

    I've been looking to build a similar over the cab set up as you show in your pics of your older truck . I had pretty much the same set up on the 1990 Ford Ranger I used to have and I could haul a ton of material on it . I currently have a 2009 Tacoma with a headache rack , just the portion directly behind the cab , and it is mounted by way of a foot that is approx 12" long that sits on the top of the bed edge and goes down 90 degrees to cover over the rail system . The feet have two 1/2" holes about 10" apart that accept some stainless bolts to a threaded peice of flat metal that fits snugly in the track , slid in from the end , creating a t-bolt type of connection .

    I was thinking of expanding on this idea by making bed rail caps similar to yours that would be the base of my over the cab setup with a welded aluminium cage to save on the weight . I think I share your concern about the flimsyness of the rail connection and cringe every time I tie something down with rope as it seems to flex the hell out of the t-bolt end of the factory tie downs . I had thought that a sub rail about 2 " above the rail cap and extending from the front to back post would replace the rail tie downs I would be covering with my caps .
     
  8. Dec 15, 2009 at 11:00 PM
    #8
    Tac243

    Tac243 [OP] Member

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    It’s a source of pride to build your own rack when you’re in my business. I just can’t see myself buying a rack, especially if it will wind up costing me more out of pocket and limit my abilities. My truck has to perform like a work horse. It needs a versatile and strong saddle to earn its keep.

    Crooked Beat:
    The taper on the bed does make things a bit more complicated. But I have a background in sculpture, and plan on fabricating everything in house. So I traced the curve and cut the angle to match. I break out the measuring tape when it’s the only option. No need to send drawings out to some shop.
    I noticed the metal on the underside of the bed rim. It looks like the fender wraps the entire rim and even folds back down into the inner wall of the bed. This full upside-down U shape makes the bed rim much stronger. But my concern is that the metal fender is still only attached to the composite bed. I’m all for engineering new materials, but I know the strengths and limits of steel and wood. I just can’t bring myself to trust the strength of this composite material, which is really just a fancy term for engineered plastic. Steel bends and dents before it fails. And there’s typically a way to hammer it out or weld in a patch. Plastic just cracks and you’re up sh*t’s creek.

    How did you attach your broken (bent) ¼” plate rails to your bed? I’d be interested in seeing pictures of your mounting solution.
    I’m comforted to hear your rack could handle a 14’ boat. I’m not likely to hold things with that much wind drag. But I will likely carry a lot more weight up there. The picture of my ’96 with the wood is severely overloaded. They put me on the scale with that load of salvage lumber and I had over a ton of material on the truck. Two thirds were on the rack. I don't plan on doing anything that stupid with this rig.

    OZ:
    I’m planning on welding in tie downs along the angle rails I just cut. I decided to leave the bed rails intact and just have them buried under the vertical wall of the angle. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to drill a few holes and use T-bolts to tie into the rail system. But I still have reservations as to having this be the only connection.
    I thought about making the upper rack out of aluminum or stainless, but I have most of the mild steel I need sitting in my shop already. Might as well put it to use.

    Mr Torque:
    I already gave my old rack to a friend who has a 1st Gen. I could have cut it up and retrofitted it to the new truck, but the 2nd Gen trucks are a bit wider and I’m always up for an opportunity to build on past experiences.

    Thanks to all for the input. I’ll keep adding pictures & updates as I make progress. I think I’ll get more time to work on it before the week is out.
     
  9. Dec 15, 2009 at 11:14 PM
    #9
    OZ-T

    OZ-T Quite an experience to live in fear , isn't it ?

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    Tac243 ,

    I think mild steel for the rack is a good choice if you have it and seems like you have all of the know-how to make it up yourself . My old rack for my Ranger was steel and it was bulletproof , taking it on and off by yourself required a few yoga positions but it worked well . I was worried at first about having the rack be attached by only the bed rail system myself, but I think that the rails are rated for approx 400 pounds and if the entire rail is engaged and integrated into the rail cap after it is bolted in I dont think that there will be any chance of the rack coming loose , all of the weight when loaded is straight down onto the top of the box by way of the "L" shaped bed rails and I had thought that if I was worried about the whole contraption launching over the truck in an emergency stop that I could have an eye welded on each rear post of the rack and do an "OH SHIT" tie down to the bed rings .

    Having said all of that it seems you have a good plan together and can't wait to see the progress pics , I've seen some guys using the Thule and other rack systems on their trucks at our local lumberyard and after having a real skookum one on my Ranger I don't think I would trust them too much with some timbers up top .

    Best of luck
     
  10. Dec 16, 2009 at 5:04 AM
    #10
    Bruiser

    Bruiser Well-Known Member

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  11. Dec 16, 2009 at 5:12 AM
    #11
    JDCPA

    JDCPA Well-Known Member

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    Consider mounting the rack with flat steel to the floor of the bed. Back out the bolts holding the bed to the frame and put the flat steel base for the rack down over the bolt holes, drill holes in the falt and replace the bolts. You may need to get longer bolts made up at a machine shop.

    You could fasten the sides to the Tacoma side rails but that rack wouldn't go anywhere with any kind of load. If you use flat steel on the bottom you can still use the bed to haul stuff on top of the rack mounts.
     
  12. Dec 18, 2009 at 8:41 AM
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    Tac243

    Tac243 [OP] Member

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    Thanks to all for the great input and feedback. Especially CB, who sent me a bundle of photos he gathered and shot when he was researching and building his rack mounts. There are some really beautiful custom racks out there. I don’t have the fancy tube benders that some shops have, so my upper rack is going to be a combination of round, square and rectangular steel tube cut and fit to my specs.


    I’ve been busy making paper dolls before I get to cutting out my mounting plates in ¼” steel.
    [​IMG]

    For those who are curious, the bed mounting bolts are metric. They use a T55 Torx head, 12cm long, 12mm x 1.25 thread pitch (threads per mm). That puts them at a M12 if my charts are right. I’ll take a photo of one next time I have it out. You should also know that the washer is integrated into the bolt, and it’s very necessary to have one, as the mounting holes are about an inch in diameter, and some of the bed bolts are offset in those holes.


    The Bolts attaching the D ring hold downs are different. They are more a specialty bolt. I’m double checking my initial measurements; they don’t appear to be metric. The major diameter puts them at 7/16 with a pitch that matches my standard 20 threads per inch gauge (very close to a metric 1.25mm pitch). The overall length is about 1 ¼” with a threaded portion about ¾” long under a modified head.
     
  13. Dec 30, 2009 at 2:57 PM
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    OZ-T

    OZ-T Quite an experience to live in fear , isn't it ?

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    Any news ?
     
  14. Dec 30, 2009 at 4:01 PM
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    Finksies

    Finksies Active Member

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    Nice, Im doing the same. Going to make the back removable. Im going to use 1/4"x4" flat bar for the steel that runs along the bedrails. Too cold to work on it now here though!
     
  15. Dec 30, 2009 at 9:07 PM
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    brandob9

    brandob9 Well-Known Member

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    Whatever you guys do, don't use the caps as a base. Do yourself a favor and pop out the side pockets. You'll quickly see why I say that - there isn't anything but plastic with a metal sheet hanging off of it. It is good enough for a topper, but I wouldn't put any real weight on it.

    The winning solution here lies in the bed bolts. Base your anchors here, because they attach directly to the frame.
     
  16. Dec 30, 2009 at 9:10 PM
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    staplak

    staplak Well-Known Member

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    i have a thule xsporter on mine and i love it. it has two height adjustments and i think the new ones have more adjustments. check out my pics
     
  17. Jan 4, 2010 at 8:25 PM
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    Tac243

    Tac243 [OP] Member

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    Sorry for not updating in a while. Between the weather, work and holidays, it’s been difficult to find time to work on the rack. But I’ve made a small amount of progress.


    I welded five 3/8”-16 stainless bolts to two strips of 1” x 1/8” inch flat bar. These slide right into the bed rails and mate with the Angle iron caps. This spreads any load or force on the angle iron over the entire 5’ length of the bed rails. And any downward force on the rim is spread along the entire length of the existing cap. You would sooner break the axle than damage the rim. This way there is no point load on the rails or the rim.


    I’ve already cut out some plates to mount to the floor of the bed. The bolts closest to the cab seem to grab with many threads to spare. So I don’t think I will need longer bolts there. The bolts in the back (by the tailgate) are too far away from the walls and only seem to grab with a few treads. Instead, I’m getting rid of the “D” loops and I have a longer bolt to mount a ¼” plate to the floor there.


    My general idea is to keep the rack as rigid as possible, and mount to as many locations as possible without doing any violence to the existing truck. This way I keep my options open (everything I do is reversible).

    I’ll try to get a picture of the angle iron mounted to the rim so it’s easier to comprehend. It’s been hard to steal time during daylight to work on this. Once I get this bed mounting system fabricated, the rest of the rack should go together more quickly.


    Thanks for the input by all.



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Jan 4, 2010 at 8:26 PM
    #18
    01GREENTACO

    01GREENTACO Not all who wander are lost

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    Lost track many, many mods ago.
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  19. Jan 4, 2010 at 9:19 PM
    #19
    OZ-T

    OZ-T Quite an experience to live in fear , isn't it ?

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    Good to hear from you again ,

    OZ
     
  20. Jan 5, 2010 at 11:27 PM
    #20
    Tac243

    Tac243 [OP] Member

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    I put about 12 hours into the rack today. I finished cutting out the bed floor mounting plates. But I’m still batting around ideas for attaching them to the angle iron.

    [​IMG]

    I’ve also made four plates to receive the upper part of the rack. The angle iron rails receive the plate with hardware threaded directly into the ¼’ thickness (tapped). Each plate has two ¼-20 bolts in the top, and two 3/8-16 bolts threaded into the sides. This keys each plate into position.
    I also added two small tabs on the vertical legs near the tailgate. These tie into the two screws treaded into the existing steel portion at the rear of the bed.

    And for my new bedrail tie downs I ran two 64” long ½” diameter steel bars down the length on the vertical walls. They are welded to ½” posts every 3” along the walls. The posts are drilled through and plug welded from the back for a cleaner look and a stronger connection. Should be more than enough tie points, but I’m planning to put more in other locations.

    It all fits well and is currently I mounted it to my truck for further layout and measurements. But it was dark by that point so I’ll get a picture tomorrow.
    These are the mostly completed bedrail caps. The four plates are bolted in place in the photo that will later receive the upper portion of the rack making the two parts separate and removable.

    [​IMG]
     
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