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The Rig

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In May 2011 we purchased an '09 Silverado 2500HD crew cab in anticipation of towing our new Trail Sport travel trailer. A ½ ton truck would have been sufficient. But we decided to take the overkill route thinking a lightly taxed ¾ ton would be more reliable and provide firmer handling. We also planned to use the truck bed as a "shed" and liked the extra weight capacity a ¾ ton would offer. The crew cab's full-sized back seat folds up to create a big space for the pets.

The Shed (version 1.0)

I added a Leer 100XR truck cap, a Dee Zee heavy rubber bed mat and a Convert-A-Ball folding tailgate ladder. The thick rubber mat is easy on the knees. The ladder was flimsier than I expected, but seemed to work okay. Nevertheless, I quickly grew tired of crawling around the bed. This setup lasted less than a year.

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Convert-A-Ball folding tailgate ladder.

The Shed (version 2.0)

I scrapped the tailgate ladder and set out to build a bed drawer. Commercial bed drawers are pretty pricy and I couldn't quite find what I had in mind. So I incorporated some DIY ideas I found on the Internet and built my own.

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Finished drawer fully extended.

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Finished drawer fully retracted.

The base is made from a 5⁄8" sheet of plywood with a pair of 2x4s and a pair of 1x6s. The 2x4s form a foundation for the wheels. Each side has nine 2" wheels. The 1x6s guide the drawer and contain cargo in the base. I use the base to store large flat items such as a folding table, a long water hose and my RV folding ladder. The RV's awning pull rod can be useful for fishing out anything that slides too far forward in the base. I kept the Dee Zee rubber bed mat. The mat provides enough grip to keep the base from sliding around without any fasteners. So the drawer and base could be removed, but I never do that. If I need a truck bed to haul something else I use my Dodge.

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Base with drawer removed.

The drawer is 78" x 58". It's suspended above the wheel wells and is the full width of the tailgate opening. Unfortunately it took another two sheets of 5⁄8" plywood to piece together this odd size. But the extra width was worth the effort. The drawer is supported by a double pair of 2x4 runners. The runners guide the drawer and roll over the base wheels.

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Drawer fully extended.

Another pair of wheels is mounted to the edge of the tailgate. As the drawer is pulled out, the tailgate takes the weight and provides leverage. The wheels don't interfere with the drawer when the tailgate is raised.

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Drawer partially rolled out onto the tailgate wheels.

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Tailgate raised.

I also added a pair of upper wheels. The upper wheels are screwed to the rear side walls of the truck bed and prevent the drawer from tipping out when fully extended.

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Left top wheel shown with drawer removed.

I boxed in the drawer surface with 1x4 edging. The edging contains cargo, increases rigidity and guides the drawer by the upper wheels. I added small wood blocks that prevent (within reason) the drawer from being pulled out past the upper wheels. When fully extended, everything in the drawer is within arm's reach.

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Small blocks prevent the drawer from being pulled out past the upper wheels.

The drawer is a smidge shorter than it could have been. I screwed some rubber floor cups to the back edge of the drawer. The cups wedge against the raised tailgate and prevent the drawer from bumping back and forth while underway. To prevent the drawer from inadvertently rolling out with the tailgate down, I added a hinge to the 1x4 drawer edging. I simply flip the hinge over behind the upper wheel block.

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Bumpers made from rubber floor cups. A simple hinge serves as a drawer latch.

The Shed (version 2.1); a few improvements

Sometimes my base junk slides too far forward and can be hard to fish out. So I added an 3⁄16" sheet of plywood to the base with a pair of finger pulls. I can pull out the sheet along with what ever is hiding on top. First I cut a pair of notches in the base plywood. Then a cut a corresponding pair of finger pulls in the 3⁄16" "drawer" plywood.

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Notches in the base plywood.

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Finger pulls in the 3⁄16" plywood.

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Base "drawer" partially extended.

After about eight years of use, the wheels had worn a bumpy groove into the soft pine of the 2x4 drawer runners. I ripped a ¾" strip off the bottom of each runner and laminated an oak board in its place.

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Before (left) and after oak modification.

I had the tailgate open and I forgot to flip the hinge over behind the upper wheel block. I was backing down a hill and tapped the brakes... The bed drawer and all its contents ejected clear out of the truck. I needed something a bit more idiot-proof. I fashioned a pair of hooks (one per side) from a scrap of ¾" plywood. The hooks are lifted before pulling out the drawer. The tip of each hook rides along the 1x4 drawer edging. Then when the drawer is pushed in the hooks automatically drop to their latched position. One hook may have been sufficient, but the drawer and all its junk are a few hundred pounds of rolling mass that I didn't want to lose again.

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Hooks up; drawer extended.

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Drawer retracted; hooks down.

The initial shape of my hooks wasn't quite good enough. Pressure from the drawer could potentially pop up the hooks. I recut the face of each hook to a sharper angle and glued a small corresponding wedge to the top lip of the drawer edging.

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A reworked hook and corresponding wedge.

I had a collection of store-bought plastic totes which were inefficient with their rounded corners, tapered sides and predetermined sizes. I replaced them with custom boxes made from ¼" plywood and glued rabbet joints. The boxes were strong and reasonably light. And I made what I wanted. For example, one box was made to fit the grill and grill accessories. Another small box was just for charcoal storage.

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Some of my custom storage boxes.

Hitch

I went with a Reese trunnion style weight distributing hitch. Reese doesn't offer a prepackaged hitch kit to accommodate a heavy truck on one end and a light trailer on the other. So I assembled my own setup including a Titan 2½" shank (part 54976) and a ball mount with 600 lb spring bars (part 66020). The spring bars are compatible with the Reese Dual Cam sway control system. But sway hasn't been an issue so I've skipped that option. The 2½" shank is stupid heavy. In retrospect I may have been better off buying a 2" shank with a reducer bushing.

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Reese weight distributing hitch.

After adjusting the ball mount to my liking, I had a empty hole at the top of the shank. So I made a carrying handle from ½" copper pipe fittings. The handle is strong, light and comfortable to grip. Installing the hitch assembly is way easier. After setting up at the campsite, I store and lock the hitch assembly into the RV coupler. Again, the handle makes this process easier. Note the set screw in each of the lower elbows which keeps the handle centered in the shank. A coat of black paint made the handle more presentable.

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Hitch handle.

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Hitch assembly stowed in the RV coupler.

To stow my spring bars at the campsite I installed a U-bolt at each front corner of the trailer chassis. The bars hang between the U-bolts and the lift brackets. This arrangement keeps the greased ends of the spring bars out of the dirt and away from anyone brushing by.

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U-bolt on front chassis frame.

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Spring bar hung on U-bolt.

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Spring bar hung on U-bolt.

Here's my hitch aid (a.k.a. the "Wood Wife"). It's a L-shaped arrangement 2x4s with a red mark. I place the board on the center of the tailgate with the red mark at the edge. I can see the top of the board from the driver's seat. I aim for the tongue jack on the RV. When the board bumps the jack, I'm there.

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The "Wood Wife".

Electrical

The truck is equipped with the optional Integrated Trailer Brake Control (ITBC). ITBC information is displayed on the Driver Information Center (DIC). I went out of my way to find a truck with this option and like it a lot.

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The ITBC panel is below and left of the steering wheel.

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ITBC information is displayed on the DIC.

The Silverado comes with a pre-wired circuit for providing 12 volt auxiliary power to the trailer. Pop the hood and locate a red/black wire bundled up below the master brake cylinder. The wire goes on the smaller 6 mm stud at the front of the fuse block. Completing the hookup requires a 6 mm stud nut and a 40 amp fuse at fuse location 68. I did not connect the wire since we don't plan on doing much boondocking. But I did unwrap the wire and I added the stud nut and fuse just in case. Note the second red/blk wire attached to the larger 8 mm stud. This wire provides power to the Integrated Trailer Brake Control.

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Under hood fuse block showing the 12 volt auxiliary power wire, the 6 mm stud and the fuse location.

Update: I decided to hookup the 12 volt auxiliary wire via a Hellroaring battery isolator (model 95150B). Check back for installation pics.

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