Introduction: Truck Bed Utility Rack
My wife and I recently bought a pair of kayaks, but didn't really have a good way to transport them. So we stopped at the local hardware store on the way back from a hiking adventure, and I went to work on an easily removable and fully adjustable utility rack for our truck to haul our kayaks without loosing any bed space.
So grab your drill, and get to work!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
I got everything necessary for this project at a home improvement store for under $100. It would have been a bit less, but I didn't have any bolts in stock in the size that I wanted...
- Safety Goggles (SERIOUSLY!)
- Drill with various drill bits and a driver
- Saw to cut metal (I used a reciprocating saw)
- Sandpaper or Grinder
- Screwdriver (I used Phillips and a Flathead)
- Wrench (I used 7/16 boxed end)
- Measuring Tape
- Pair of Yard sticks (not necessary, but it helped me)
Since this rack will need to fit your truck bed, your exact measurements may be different than mine...
- 1 1/2" diameter Conduit (Mine came in lengths of 10', in total I used about 11')
- 1" diameter Conduit (Mine came in lengths of 10', in total I used 2 x 6' pieces)
- 1/2" diameter Conduit (Mine came in lengths of 10', in total I used 2 x 80" pieces)
- 4 x 1/4" coarse 1/2" long bolts with flat washers, lock washers, and nuts
- 8 x #4 conduit collars - needs to fit the 1 1/2" pipe
- 4 x #2 conduit collars- needs to fit the 1" pipe
- 4 x #0 conduit collars - needs to fit the 1/2" pipe
- 8 x 1/4" wingnuts (The bolt thread on my conduit collars was 1/4" coarse)
- Electric Tape
- 8 x Smaller self-tapping screws
- 2 x 6' Foam Pipe insulation for 1" pipe (typically found with PVC pipes in plumbing section)
- 2 x 6' Foam Pipe insulation for 1/2" pipe (typically found with PVC pipes in plumbing section)
- 4 x Threaded adjustable Hook and Eye (Found in hardware by the bolts and such)
- Zip Ties
Step 2: Make a Plan
As I have mentioned, this is yet another project you will have to customize to fit your needs. My truck bed is short, so my measurements won't work for a long bed, step side, or other strange type of truck.
- Measure the corner mounting holes. Mine are a bit less than 1 1/2 " wide. The two forward ones are 6 1/2" deep while the two rear ones are only 6" deep.
- Measure the height off the roof over the truck bed walls. Mine is about 26" above the bed, so the rack needs to be about 27" to ensure whatever is on it will clear the roof. The vertical supports will need to be this height plus the depth of the mounting holes.
- Measure the bed dimensions. My truck bed is 6' across by 6 3/4' long.
I want to connect the pipes together at the upper corners, and anchor the vertical supports to the bed at each corner mounting hole.
Step 3: Cut the Pipes
Please wear safety glasses whenever you are cutting, drilling, sanding, or otherwise working with any materials!!!
I cut the poles based on the measurements in the previous step. Your lengths may vary...
- 2 x 33" lengths of 1 1/2" pipe
- 2 x 32.5" lengths of 1 1/2" pipe
- 2 x 72" (6') lengths of 1" pipe
- 2 x 80" lengths of 1/2" pipe
After the metal pipes are cut, the edges should be sanded down. You can sand paper or a grinder for this step.
In order for the vertical support pipes to fit into the mounting holes, one end of each needs to be hammered down a bit. This is relatively simple to do.
- Mark the end of the pipes to be beaten - I needed 6.5" and 6" on my pipes.
- Find a solid surface that won't fracture from hard blows (a wood block will work)
- Hold the pipe firmly with one hand (It may help to wear gloves as well)
- Use a hammer to slightly flatten the end of the pipes. It doesn't take much... better to need to do more than to do too much.
- Ensure the pipes fit in the holes. If not, flatten them some more!
Step 4: Create the Anchors
I am using adjustable hook and eye pieces attached to a pipe collar to hold the rack to the bed. This allows the rack to be removed without needed to screw anything into the bed in any way. These units have two threaded ends - one is a hook, and one is an eyelet. On my units, the hook is reverse threaded, so twisting the center will either tighten or loosen both threads.
- Remove the tightening bolt from four of the #4 collars.
- Place the eye of of the hook pieces in between the collar tabs, and replace the bolt.
- Loosen the hook and eye pieces most of the way.
- Place the collars over the vertical polls
- Tighten the collar at a height such that the hooks are loose in the mounting hole along side the pipe.
- Slightly tighten the hook and eye (not a lot, just to keep it where it is)
My collars were actually a bit to wide to get a firm grip on the pipe, so I wrapped copious amounts of electric tape around the pipe under the collar. This worked OK, but I later removed the electric tape and used a pair of self-tapping screws to ensure each collar stayed in place when the hook and eye were tightened.
Step 5: Create the Pipe Mounts
Next, we will create the mounts that connect the vertical pipes to the cross ones. This involves bolting the #4 collars to the #2 collars.
- Remove the tightening bolts from 4 of the #4 collars and all of the #2 collars.
- Connect the collars together: Bolt >> Flat Washer >> #4 Collar << # 2 Collar << Lock Washer << Nut
- Ensure the collars are perpendicular to one another (The hole for the pipes) and firmly tighten the nut
- Repeat for all 4 collar sets.
- Replace the tightening bolts, but use a wing nut instead of the standard nut.
- Slide the mounts over the top of the vertical pipes and tighten the wing nuts firmly.
- Run the 1" pipe through the #2 collars on both sides of the truck bed
- Tighten the wing nuts on the #2 tightening bolts a bit.
Again, I wrapped electric tape around the pipes to ensure a tight fit. I also made sure all #4 tightening nuts were pointing into the bed and #2 bolts were pointing down. The last bit is just preference, but I think it looks nicer that way.
Step 6: Add Support Rails
At first, I wasn't going to create rails to run along the truck bed, but I think it is necessary for a sturdy rack. To add the #0 collars for the 1/2" pipe, I connected them through the tightening bolts for the #2 collars...
- Remove the tightening bolts from the 4 #2 collars (on the 1" cross pipes).
- Drill out the end hole of the #0 collars such that the square peg of the #2 tightening bolts fit through it.
- Connect the #0 collars to the top of the #2 collars: #2 Tightening Bolt >> #0 collar << #2 collar << Flat Washer << Wing Nut
- Run the 1/2" pipes through the #0 collars (they will run along the truck bed, not across it)
- Tighten the #0 collar bolt.
Again, I wrapped the 1/2" pipes with electric tape for a snug fit.
Step 7: Adding Foam
To keep whatever is mounted to the rack from sliding around so easily (and from scratching), I added foam pipe insulation to the cross and support pipes. Again, since your truck bed may be a different size, your lengths might be different than mine
- 2 x 6' foam for 1/2" pipes
- 2 x 5.5' foam for 1" pipes
You might want to do this before you tighten all of the bolts on the collars in the previous steps, but it is easier to do those steps without the foam in place.
- Loosen the #2 Collars on the 1" pipes enough to slide the pipe out of one of the collars
- Loosen the #0 Collars on the 1/2" pipe enough to slide the pipe out of the one of the collars
- Remove the pipes from one of the collars (Do one pipe at a time!)
- Slide the foam over the pipe
- Put the pipe back through the collar
- Repeat for the remaining top pipes
- Wrap a zip tie over the two ends and middle of each foam piece.
- Cut the ends off of the zip ties.
Step 8: Tighten the Anchors
With the pipes all in place, you can now tighten the four anchors. This will hold the vertical pipes down into the mounting holes. I found it easiest to use a flat head screw driver in order to twist the hook and eye unit. Tighten each unit a bit, then go around and do it again. Be careful not to over do it, as the hook might puncture the metal on the bed wall top.
The rack doesn't have to be 100% stable... the hooks will keep it from coming off of the bed. It is bound to have a bit of play in it due to the way the pipes are hooked together.
Step 9: Mount Your Gear
With the rack done, you are ready to mount whatever you can fit on top of it! This could be a boat, ladder, or anything else long enough to cross the two 1" pipes. Remember to strap whatever it is to the rack (and even down to the bed) to keep it from flying off while you drive!