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Cargo area platform slider for SUV, truck, station wagon

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Picture of Cargo area platform slider for SUV, truck, station wagon
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I wanted to be able to slide out the "bed" of my cargo area in my Chevy Tahoe. I primarily wanted a work surface (leaning over the bumper was killing my back), but this should make it easier to access items stored in the cargo area as well. There are really nice products made that will do this, but they're quite expensive and the majority of them are not made for anything smaller than a Suburban. I didn't want to spend $1000; I wanted to spend less than $150 (and I was successful).

I have a '99 Chevy Tahoe, and those are the measurements I'll give. This concept should be easily adaptable to any SUV, maybe a station wagon, possibly even a pickup truck but the platform would have to be much longer and well-secured.
 
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Step 1: Supplies

The "bed" of my Tahoe is 48" by 48", so this is sized for my Tahoe. I will include descriptions so that you can alter it for your own vehicle width (side to side, measure at the narrowest part of your cargo area) and depth (back of the seats to the lip of the cargo area--leave enough room to close your doors or tailgate).

Parts:
  • 2 x 3/4" plywood sheet, 48" (width) by 48" (depth) -- I was able to buy one 4' by 8' sheet and cut it in half.
  • 4 x 48" (depth) 2.25"x1.5" slotted angle iron
  • 2 x sets of "Appliance Rollers"
  • 30 x #8 x 5/8" screws -- you may need more or fewer depending on the length of your cargo area
  • 10 x washers to fit the #8 screws -- you may need more or fewer
  • 10 x 1/2" long bolts, with rounded heads, not hex, each with washer and lock nut -- you may need more or fewer
  • 1 2" long bolt; 1/4" or 3/8" diameter

You're probably also going to want some sand paper, possibly some wood finish or paint. If you're going to put this in an area exposed to the elements (like a pickup truck bed) you should certainly paint or finish it.

Tools:
  • Eye protection and gloves, sensible clothing
  • Pencil for marking measurements and screw hole locations
  • Measuring tape
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Socket wrench with socket to fit the lock nuts
  • Circular saw, table saw, or other wood saw with a blade to cut plywood
  • Drill with 1/2" bit for "stop" hole, 5/64" bit for screw pilot hole, and Phillips screwdriver bit
  • Metal cutting saw, hacksaw -- possibly optional
  • Angle grinder -- possibly optional, but I strongly recommend it
  • A pair of clamps if you're going to be using an angle grinder or if you're going to be making any precise circular saw cuts, or for many other uses.
  • Router if you've got access to one (lucky you)

Step 2: Build the base

Picture of Build the base
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1) Make sure you use eye protection. Cut your plywood so you have two pieces, each the size of your "bed."

This is a good place to stop and make sure that you have the measurements correct. Try to slide the board into your "bed," oriented properly, and make sure it goes in without a fight. When you're finished, the whole thing will be just a touch wider than the base.

Put one board (the top board) to the side. You'll only be working on the base at first.

2) On the base plywood board, measure 3 straight lines from forward to backward, making sure you're orienting it as it will be in the "bed." Take several measurements from the side of the board, at each end, in the middle, etc, so that you know you have a very straight line. Use a line 4" over from each side and at the center line. Trace these straight lines--I used the angle iron because it was handy.

3) Attaching the rollers:

Take out your "appliance rollers" and unscrew the screw/wing nut that holds the two pieces together. You now have 8 individual rollers, each with a long tail. You will put these in place by lining up the tail with the line you have drawn. Line up the tail, and put a mark for a screwhole at each extreme end of the slots (one at the close end of the close slot, one at the far end of the far slot), and a mark at the middle of the middle slot.

Mark screwholes to put one roller in each corner, and three rollers along the center line (that's a total of 7). Alternatively, you could put rollers in each corner, and in a diamond shape in the center of the base; this will require more elaborate measurements.

Once you have carefully marked the screwholes, (use eye protection) carefully drill a pilot hole at each mark.

Now line your appliance rollers back up in their places, and use a screw per pilot hole. Your rollers are in place.

Step 3: Put in the retaining angle irons on each side

Picture of Put in the retaining angle irons on each side
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1) Make sure you use eye protection, and for power tools on metal protect your hands (gloves), arms (long durable sleeves), legs (long pants), surrounding area, etc from flying sparks. Make sure you securely clamp anything you will grind.

Cut your angle iron so that it is the length of your "bed" (angle grinder, hacksaw, other metal saw); you may also want to round the edges with an angle grinder or other metal saw. I certainly did; I know I'll scrape myself on the edges if they're left sharp.

2) Fit one slotted angle iron up against the each side (left and right) of the plywood base, with the short side of the angle iron up against the bottom of the base. Clamp the iron in place, and use a screw with a washer about every foot to screw it down. Your base now has vertical edges.

3) Again on each side (left and right), fit a second slotted angle iron up against the first; bolt them together such that the vertical side is about 3" tall. Use your short hex bolts, a washer, and a lock nut about every foot. I put the top angle iron on the inside on each side, as I ended up sanding/rounding the top board such that it is slightly more narrow than the bottom board.

Step 4: Finish the top board

Picture of Finish the top board
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Next I rounded the front and side edges of my top board and sanded the top surface. I abused my angle iron to get the rounded edges, but a router would do that much more easily, and it's also possible to do by sanding it down (lots of work).

I'll probably leave it bare wood, but I may try to find a scrape-resistant finish (looking around, seems like my best choice is penetrating resin). You may wish to sand yours very smooth or leave it rough, paint it or stain it or leave it unfinished. Do whatever suits your use.

Step 5: Finishing touches

Picture of Finishing touches
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  • Making a "stop":
Slide your top board between the rollers and the retaining angle iron. Situate it such that the top and bottom boards are parallel. Mark the top of the board under the first circular hole.

Slide the board out to a few convenient lengths, and mark the top board under the first circular hole for each one.

Pull your top board back out and drill a 1/2" hole at each mark.

Slide the top board back in all the way, and drop the 2" bolt through the first round hole into the 1/2" hole underneath. It's finished!

If you can manage to align the drilled holes, the "stop" will be even more secure if it goes through the base as well as the top board. You'll want a 2 1/2" or 3" bolt. Be careful not to drill all the way through the base and into the angle iron, as the drill may kickback and injure you.

  • Tweaking:
If you find that you have too much leeway sliding it in and out (it wobbles), you may wish to consider attaching a very thin wood strip to the inside vertical edge side or underside of the top edge of the retaining angle iron, so that it holds the top board more snugly. Both surfaces will need to be polished very smooth or otherwise allowed to slide against each other. I've read that UHMW (ultra-high molecular weight) tape is good for such applications.

  • "Installing" it in your vehicle:
Slide the whole thing into the "bed" of your vehicle with the rounded front edge facing out. To use the slide, pull up the bolt, roll the top board out and drop the bolt back down into another hole to lock it until you're done.

  • Bolting it down:
If you will be putting a lot of weight on the extended slide, you will probably want to find a way to bolt it down. In the back of my Tahoe, there are rings bolted to the "bed." I could use a U-bolt through each of those rings and then bolted to the base, or I could simply remove the ring itself and bolt the base down to that hole. I also considered attaching a strap to the front edge, and wrapping that strap around the seat hinges directly in front of it. You'll need to examine your cargo area to see what is feasible for your vehicle.

So far, for my use, the bottom board is quite heavy enough to keep the whole from tipping.

  • Automatic stop:
I'd also like a mechanism to keep the platform from extending too far. It would need to be easily disconnected so that I can dismantle the sliding platform without too much hassle. I don't have any ideas and am wide open to suggestions.
thisiskaleb4 years ago
Favorited! Definitely making one of these for my 4Runner with some astroturf on the top piece and maybe a retractable/stashable sawhorse deal for added support.
great idea with the "rollers". i disomething simular with my utility trailer to make it extendable for my motorbike and canoe. I just used "u-channel" and plywood...it wont extend or retract as smooth as your design, but the "friction-fit" in my design suites my purpose better.
70sford4 years ago
This is a great project, easily adapted to any vehicle. For your slide-out "stop", just pull out your top platform and turn it over, anchor a piece of strapping(seat belts?) near the front/middle. Now turn it back over, slide it back in, and attach the other end of the strap/belt to the front/middle of the bottom platform to limit the travel. Just make sure you have enough belt to allow the top platform to go back in!
this is fantastic... I build a box on the top platform using L brackets, considering a Lid too. This will go in my Jeep Wrangler, I can bolt the bottom board to the bolt holes already in the floor for the back seat bracket. I'll get pictures as I work it up for you to see. give me a little while though, I work slow... :)
Supercrew5 years ago
I have been contemplating the same truck-bed slide... I was considering using two short sections of garage door guide/wheels for the underneath, but I think I like your idea better....more stable.  Great job!
chtinico7 years ago
Good explanations. It gives me the basis for want i want to build : a foldable ramp so i can roll heavy things up in the car.
6gun7 years ago
On the wood drill out the holes that that will match up with your angle iron and just drop in a pin and then you can make it ajustable to any size you want. This is good idear think ill put one in my pick up. thanks.6GUN
galadriel (author)  6gun7 years ago
Yes, that's the first 1/3 of this step, marking/drilling holes and using the 2" bolt.
jongscx7 years ago
Automatic stop idea:

put a short carriage bolt down through the top platform, so that it's inside the cavity between the boards. Place this hole as close to the angle iron as possible, near the back(of the rack... this would be towards the front of the car I guess)
On the side, take a long-ish bolt and fasten it through the holes of of the angle. they too should be protruding into the cavity, but instead will be horizontal.

Now, what will happen is that the vertical carriage bolt will hit the long bolt and make it stop. A carriage bolt is suggested b/c they leave a rounded top as opposed to the exposed edges of a normal bolt.

The stops are adjustable by moving the long bolt along the angle iron.

crude ascii drawing

|| is the carriage bolt
== is the long bolt
vv and is the plywood

vvvvvvvv||vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv||vvvvvvv
|_ ====||=== ===||====_|


galadriel (author)  jongscx7 years ago
Aaaaah, this is what I was groping towards and just hadn't been able to put together, yet. If the top bolt is just sitting snugly in the hole, with no nut holding it in place, then all I'd have to do to remove the whole top board would be to pull out the bolt.

This would allow for easy removal of the top board, to get at the base, to unbolt the base from the bed. Terrific, thank you!

Now, *fast* stops might cause splintering or even tearing out of the top bolt. Not a problem for me, but something others might need to consider. It's probably possible to glue/screw/etc another piece of wood underneath the bolt, but not deep enough to it intersects the cross bolt, in order to reinforce the hole.
... you know, instead of bolts, you could just use blocks of wood to do the same exact thing... they'll be more permanent, but probably more durable. OR, stretch an inner tube across the width of the platform instead of the "long-ish" bolts. They'd be stretchy, so they'll have a damping effect when they stop the top platform, instead of doing a dead-stop.
galadriel (author)  jongscx7 years ago
Oh hey, the inner tube sounds fantastic. Still very easy to disassemble, and built in shock absorber instead of sudden stops of the slide. Wonderful adaptation to the design. I am finding that, with my tools/demo pieces loaded on it, it doesn't slide quickly or uncontrollably anyway. It does slide quite easily enough and does just what I need it to do, but it doesn't accelerate. I don't think an emergency stop is even going to be necessary, at least for mine, with the amount of weight that will be on it as a matter of course..
jongscx jongscx7 years ago
and all my hard work is deleted by instructables anti-spam... Doh...
qorlis7 years ago
For an automatic stop, you could try to screw two blocks of wood (one each) on your two boards. One to the top of your bottom board at the near end and the other one to the underside of the top board at the near end. If you need to disassemble the unit, you can either remove the entire unit and simply pull the two boards in opposite directions away from the blocks or remove the screws holding the block on the upper board and remove the upper board without removing the entire unit, if you don't want to move the bottom. Another option to screwing in a top block might be to install the lower block as suggested above. Then you can cut a slot at the far end of the upper board and insert a piece of angle iron to hit the block when the upper board is extended. To disable the stop for removal, simply pull out the angle iron. qorlIS
galadriel (author)  qorlis7 years ago
If I end up bolting the base to the bed--or if someone else makes a similar slide and needs to bolt it down--then the top board will need to be removed in order to take the whole thing out. I don't anticipate needing to remove my slide at all (it helps that my spare tire is bolted to the underside of the truck, rather than under the bed), but I think it's probably important to make it possible in case the situation does come up.
Galadriel, This is what I had in mind.
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strods7 years ago
For an automatic stop you could use something as simple as a piece of rope or light string attached to the top board and connected to the frame of the back seat.
Kardolf7 years ago
An easy-to-use stop might be a length of steel cable bolted to both the top sliding board, and something on the bottom that isn't sliding, like the bottom board or the angle iron. However, this idea is great. Thanks!
etlerd7 years ago
Great job! To prevent the top from sliding too far out: cut a notch in one edge of both the top board (near the back) and a corresponding notch in the top angle iron (near the front). Weld or otherwise affix a strap of spring steel or other semi flexible metal near the notch on the angle iron such that when the two notches line up, a bolt or other protrusion on one end of the strap drops down into the notches locking the top board in place. To release, pull up on the bolt and slide it back in.
galadriel (author)  etlerd7 years ago
Thanks! This slide suits my purposes so well. I hoped it might help other people too. Your notch/spring sounds like the button on, say, an umbrella that holds the umbrella top open until you press it in to release it. That seemed like something that would work well--it pops up when a hole goes over it--but I didn't know where to find or how to build something like that. With a design like that, I could still pull the board entirely out if I needed to, by holding down the butting and pulling past it. (I did not want to put in something that would make it impossible to disassemble.) I'd love to put in something like that--and that could go on the OTHER side of the slide, in my case on the right, so as not to interfere with the stop already there which locks it open or closed (ie, the 2" bolt in the 1/2" holes under the holes in the angle iron).
etlerd etlerd7 years ago
Actually, you don't even need a notch in the angle iron, you've already got holes in it to work with.
Kevvixx7 years ago
Great Idea and Instructable!