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    Weld a Bed Extender | Winter 2012 Out Here Magazine

    This easy project will help your truck haul extra-long cargo

    man attaching long cargo sticking out of his truck bed to his extender
    A bed extender keeps lumber, ladders, and other supplies from bouncing out the back of your truck.
    Out Here

    By Mike Dauplaise

    Photography by Mike Roemer

    Drill a hole for a pin and clip to secure the entire construction to the truck.
    Use a 90-degree magnet to hold the vertical support bar in place as it's welded to the horizontal bar.
    Weld a gusset plate to the joint that connects the main support bar to the vertical support for extra strength and stability.
    Drill holes for eyelets through the top of the crossbar near both ends.
    Weld the crossbar onto the vertical bar.
    Attach eyelets for bungee cords or tie-down straps.

    Unless welding is part of your regular routine, tackling a weekend project that features the white-hot glow of a welding arc can be an intimidating challenge.

    Fortunately, hobbyists with even the least of welding expertise can fashion a useful piece of equipment, such as a bed extender for a pickup truck. A little planning, a few pre-cut components, and a couple of hours are all it takes to give your truck the ability to support extra-long cargo.

    "Like any do-it-yourself project, making your own bed extender can save money and allow you to customdesign the piece," says Shane Welbes, a welding expert with Hobart Welding Products in Appleton, Wis.

    "A bed extender gives you the ability to haul things like ladders and lumber that you don't want to have bouncing out the back of your truck."

    GETTING STARTED

    Begin by collecting the individual parts for your project. Keep in mind that the longer the main support bar extends from the receiver hitch, the less strength it retains at the end of the extender.

    Welbes uses a 70-inch length of 2-inch diameter steel tubing for the main support bar, which provides about 4 feet of additional support beyond the open tailgate. Steel is easy to work, especially for beginning welders, and is his recommended material.

    Insert the bar into the receiver hitch and mark the spot where you need to drill a hole for a 5/8-inch diameter pin and clip. This secures the entire construction to the truck.

    A drill press is the best tool for the job because of its ability to secure the bar, but a power drill will do the trick, too. Start with a small drill bit and gradually increase the hole size.

    VERTICAL SUPPORT BAR

    With the main support bar in place, measure the distance from the top of the open tailgate to the top of the support bar. This determines the length of the vertical support bar. Subtract 2 inches from that measurement to allow for the 2-inch diameter of the crossbar to come.

    Place this vertical support piece on top of the main support bar, and use a 90-degree magnet to hold the piece in place for the welding process. Because this is a loadbearing piece, the best option for placement of the vertical support is on top of the main bar rather than attached to the end of it.

    Do a few practice welds on scrap pieces of steel to get the feel of the welding unit you're using and confirm the settings. Be sure to attach the ground clamp to a grounded item any time you weld to complete the electrical circuit.

    "I always remind people to move in close to the weld point," Welbes says. "You'll notice a drop in voltage and hear some popping sounds if your wire is too far away from the target."

    MAKE YOUR RIG HEAVY-DUTY

    Add a gusset plate to the joint for added strength and stability. A ¼-inch steel gusset is sufficient to prevent the vertical support from having any lateral movement.

    Hold the gusset with your free hand and tack it to the main support and vertical bars. These spot welds hold the plate in place, but are weak enough to enable repositioning of the plate if necessary.

    When you're satisfied with the position, finish by running inchlong weld beads at a few points along the lengths of the plate on both sides. Run the beads at a relatively slow pace, similar to applying caulk from a gun.

    PREPARING THE CROSSBAR

    Measure the width of your truck bed and cut a piece of 2-inch steel tubing no wider than that figure. About 50 inches is typical. Drill holes for eyelets through the top of the crossbar near both ends. A good size is 5/16 diameter for 5-inch eyelets.

    Center the crossbar on the vertical support bar and apply tack welds to hold it in place. Finish by running weld beads along all four sides of the crossbar where it meets the vertical support.

    While not required, welding gussets under the crossbar on either side of the vertical support will boost the structure's weight-bearing capability. Use the same tack-andbead technique as suggested earlier for the gusset that connects the main support bar to the vertical support.

    FINISHING YOUR PROJECT

    Use a flap disc on an angle grinder to smooth out the rough edges and eliminate any weld spatter on the completed unit. Because steel oxidizes easily, you'll want to apply primer and rust-resistant spray paint to seal and protect the unit. This is your opportunity to do some color coordinating with your truck or favorite athletic team.

    Attach eyelets to the holes you drilled near the ends of the crossbar, and run straps or bungee cords through them to secure your load.

    Remember to attach a red flag to the end of the cargo for added safety. Laws vary by state, but a good rule of thumb is anything that extends more than 3 feet beyond the rear bumper needs a flag.

    Mike Dauplaise is a Wisconsin-based writer.

    WELDING SAFETY

    For safety using an arc welder check out our next article.
    If you use an engine-powered welder, click here for some additional tips.

     

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