August 17, 2022.
On our first day of the trip to Plumas National Forest, on our way down to Poker Flat, we heard a new banging noise. It reminded me of the noise I'd heard when I'd broken a leaf spring, so I was out of the truck quickly to look for the problem. I wasn't able to isolate it entirely, but I was pretty sure that I found where the bed had split (more than in the past) in the passenger front corner. Luckily, it only seemed to rattle around on significant downgrades with rocky conditions, and I knew the bed liner would mostly keep things together, so we ignored it for the rest of the trip.
This isn't the first time I've had problems with the bed cracking. The first crack I noticed was back in 2019, under the front, driver-side leg of the bed rack. It started where I'd drilled a hole to secure the bed rack and had already worked its way around to the outside of the bed side, slowly extending with each bumpy road.
Securing a couple hundred pounds to the bed rails and then driving down bumpy roads leads to trouble.
My attempt to stop the crack with a hole has been entirely unsuccessful.
Around the same time, I noticed that the front passenger side corner of the bed was cracking as well. Since that was covered by the bed liner and wouldn't require color-matched paint (and clear coat), I tried to repair it by cleaning up and welding the crack, and then prevent it by designing - and building - a new bed rack that would reduce the stress on that part of the bed.
A sign of future problems.
Well, once we got back from Northern California and I was able to get the bed off, it was immediately apparent that the sound we'd heard was the bed rattling against itself. The entire corner had split.
It appears that my weld didn't hold, and that even a newly designed bed rack could only prevent the inevitable for so long.
Knowing that I needed to get things patched up more permanently, I considered my options. In my mind, there were three(ish), but they all required me to remove the bed so I could access the corner from both the inside and outside, so that was the first order of business.
Thank goodness for the garage hoist. Though I rarely use it, it makes it easy to remove the tent and bed rack.
The rear bumper was next. This is something that I could have skipped if a few buddies were over to help me lift the bed over the bumper, but ... they weren't.
Finally, I removed the six bolts securing the bed, and with that, I was able to rotate the bed enough on the frame - without removing it entirely or messing with the fuel neck - to achieve the access I needed for a repair.
As I was saying, I had three options:
- Because the piece that had cracked was a flange on the front bed panel - that secures it to the bed side - I could buy a new (used) front bed panel. This would mean finding one in good condition, getting it painted, etc., so I really didn't want to go this route. Plus, it'd be expensive.
- I could weld the crack - like I had when it was much smaller. That obviously worked well, so I was totally excited to do it again - with a much longer weld of the thin sheet metal. No thanks.
- My final option was to put some sort of reinforcement in place. The piece that'd sheared off had originally formed a 90-degree angle between the front and side of the bed, so I hoped I could replicate that in fabricating a repair.
With access to the front of the bed, I could remove the three bolts that secured the - now broken off - flange of the bed front to the bed side.
Initially I thought I'd be using a piece of 1.25" angle to make the bracket that would attach the two panels. I wasn't thrilled with this, since I thought it'd mean a 30-mile drive to the steel yard for a measly 16" length of material. Luckily though, I found that Lowe's Depot carried something that would work even better: the bracing that's used to hang garage door components.
At a little more than 1/16" thick, with lots of holes, and galvanized, it was perfect for my needs. I picked up a piece and marked which holes aligned with the existing holes in the bed side, and where I'd need to drill the bed front to accommodate the other face of the angle.
A nice find at the local home center.
Naturally, when I picked up the material, I forgot to pick up hardware to secure it, but I was able to find a few stainless steel fasteners in my pile that would fit the bill just fine. And so, after drilling three holes on the bed front, I bolted it up.
This fix won't even be visible once the bed is reattached to the frame and the bed liner is reinstalled.
I even used the original reinforcing plate that had cracked off on the inside of the bed to spread the clamping load. I don't know if it'll help, but it probably won't hurt.
With the bed back together, it was a simple matter of reattaching it to the frame, resecuring the rear bumper, and getting the bed rack situated in place.
Putting everything back together.
And now, we wait. I'm sure it won't be long before I discover the next issue I'll need to address with this bed!