With the right accessories, you can turn your pickup into a virtual Swiss Army Knife on wheels that’ll work harder, last longer and might earn you a few bucks to boot. I know you spent plenty on the truck already, but even a few low-cost add-ons can increase an outfit’s value as a workhorse and offer a bit of self-reliance in the process. For example, the money we saved pulling our daughters’ car from a snow-filled road ditch completely covered the cost of installing tow hooks on the pickup, and we didn’t have to wait for the wrecker to show up from town. The hooks came in handy again after I put the truck into the same ditch. Our eldest daughter came to the rescue that time with a tractor – I was thrilled to be able to hook the tow-strap to the truck without having to swim in the mud.
To use your truck for other more specialized work, you’ll need accessories to match the job?– like the 350-gallon plastic tank we bought to haul water for cattle in a remote pasture. The tank’s cost was small compared with the expense of running plumbing to that outpost. Thanks to our trusty little gasoline-engine-powered transfer pump, filling the mobile reservoir with creek water took less than five minutes, which made the chore simple enough that I never ran the waterlines. Tow hooks and water tanks are just the tip of the accessory iceberg though. No matter what you need to pull, push, haul, build or fix, add-ons can turn your truck into a working partner.
Electric or PTO powered (with gear reduction) rotating spools wound with steel cable – experienced DIY or professional install.
Winches are most often used to pull disabled machines and stretch long runs of fence wire before fastening it to posts. However, with care, and sufficient rigging, a winch can be used to drag logs from the woods, direct a soon-to-be-felled tree’s fall, right an overturned tractor, slide a large haystack and much more. For the best value, choose a heavy-duty electric model with at least enough capacity to pull your pickup’s weight. If you also need an air compressor, consider an integrated winch-compressor attachment.
Plastic, steel, aluminum or fiberglass liquid hauling containers – easy DIY install
Turn your truck into a small tanker for hauling tractor fuel, water, maple sap or any other liquid. Choose welded steel or aluminum bed-mounted DOT-rated fuel tanks with transfer pumps for delivering bio-diesel or gasoline to remote equipment – only use tanks approved for the fuel you are hauling. Choose plastic tanks specially shaped to fit between the wheel wells for vegetable oils, livestock water and other aqueous materials. Knowing the fluid’s density and the load capacity of your truck are key to understanding the volume you can safely haul and the maximum capacity of the tank you’ll need to haul it.
Steel or aluminum front bumper or frame attachment designed to protect the truck’s grill (and radiator), headlights and other front-end components from impact – easy DIY install.
A grill guard protects your truck’s front end from close encounters with brush, wildlife or your own livestock, and it provides attachment points for additional lighting. Choose an aluminum model if front-end weight capacity is a worry. If steel is the material of choice, be sure that it is powder-coated for the best rust resistance.
Rectangular pieces of rubber or other composite material that extend beneath the truck’s wheel wells to intercept missiles launched by spinning tires?– easy DIY install.
The front pair will protect the truck’s body from nicks caused by thrown gravel, mud and road salt; the rears will do the same and protect a trailer in tow, or the car on the road behind you. Choose an anti-sail and anti-spray design at least as wide as the truck’s tires.
Hydraulic lift, associated frameworks and hinge that convert the pickup’s bed into a dump box – experienced DIY or professional install.
Hydraulic pressure is supplied with PTO or 12-volt DC electric power. If you regularly haul bulk materials like mulch, firewood or aggregate in sufficient quantity, dumping the load is as easy as pulling a lever or flipping a switch. Choose a package with a self-contained, electrically powered and controlled hydraulic (electric over hydraulic) system if your truck isn’t already equipped with a PTO pump.
Dump bed insert
Electric winch or hydraulically raised dump box that fits inside the pickup’s bed – easy DIY install.
Like the bed hoist, this accessory allows you to use your pickup as a small dump truck, but it doesn’t require significant modification to its frame or bed. When not needed, the entire unit can be removed in minutes.
Aluminum or steel attachment that mounts to the bed just behind the cab?– easy DIY install.
A headache rack keeps loose
cargo from flying forward through the rear window and into your head. This
accessory is a must if you intend to heap-load your truck with firewood or
stack hay bales above the bedsides. Choose high-quality aluminum or powder-
coated steel models to resist corrosion.
Everything you need to push
snow in the winter – experienced DIY or
Includes plow, undercarriage, plow frame, lights, hydraulic system and controls. Recommended on 4x4 trucks previously outfitted with the manufacturer’s plow-ready package. Choose from among the range of heavy- to light-duty systems based on snowfall and surface area to be cleared.
All-manner-of-attachment point for load-securing straps or lines – easy DIY install.
Most pickups come equipped with a few good tie-downs in the bed floor, but for many loads, their locations are ineffective. Install a few additional permanent tie-downs to secure special equipment like water or fuel tanks, and keep several stake-pocket mounted versions in the toolbox or behind the seat for flexibility.
Lockable steel, aluminum or plastic container designed to fit in a pickup’s bed – easy DIY install.
Select from among models that install across the bed at the front, along the sides, or as part of a rollout system to secure and organize your tools. If you also need to supply fuel to remote equipment, choose a toolbox with integral tank and transfer pump. Aluminum and powder-coated steel will offer the highest security and longevity.
Portable 12-volt DC arc welding system that doesn’t take up any bed space and is powered by the vehicle’s engine – experienced DIY install.
Repair fence gates, tractors, implements and virtually anything else made of steel without having to drag anything back to the shop; fabricate brand new components at any off-grid location using your truck’s engine for power.
Twelve-volt DC compressed air supply – experienced DIY install.
Operate small pneumatic tools, fill tires far from the shop, and maintain your vehicle’s rear airbag helper springs (if equipped) with a compressed air system tucked under the hood or between the frame rails. Choose a complete package for easiest installation.
Lightweight but strong rectangular shapes used to create a sloping surface between the ground and truck bed?– easy DIY install.
Choose from any number of steel, plastic, fiberglass or aluminum models in the longest length practical (longer ramps make gentler slopes) to safely load garden tractors, tillers or other wheeled equipment into your truck’s bed.
A long-time pickup man, Oscar “Hank” Will has enjoyed making his trucks more useful by installing everything from auxiliary transmissions to gooseneck hitches – often with a bit of help from his wife, Kate.
This article was originally published in Mother Earth News (www.MotherEarthNews.com).
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.