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Truck Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer

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author photo by Autotrader May 2008

Nothing beats the satisfaction of a successful home improvement project, especially if it's completed with your own two hands. But all do-it-yourselfers know the frustration that comes from a project not going as smoothly as it could.

Maybe you have to take an excess number of supply trips, or your vehicle gets damaged before the job gets done, or maybe your vehicle just lacks the proper capability. These are all roadblocks to the glorious finish line of hammering that last nail, or planting that last flower, or laying that last tile. And these roadblocks are especially significant for those who have to tackle their projects a weekend at a time.

The bottom line is: you need a vehicle that's up to the task, whatever it may be. Here are some things to consider if you want a truck that's as hard-working and efficient as you are.

If You're Buying New — Daily Driver or DIY Workhorse?
Most serious do-it-yourselfers need trucks to tackle their biggest projects, and through the years trucks have become almost infinitely customizable — both aesthetically and functionally. So if you're shopping for a heavy-duty vehicle, it shouldn't be hard to find something that meets your needs.

But the first question should be: do you need a daily driver or just a tough truck for your weekend projects? If you have the budget and storage space, a workhorse is beneficial because you don't need first-class amenities, and you won't feel bad about beating it up. But either way, a new (or new-to-you) vehicle requires a good deal of homework.

For DIY purposes, the most important attributes in a truck are bed size and configuration. If you're often working with sheets of plywood or drywall, for example, you'll want to find out what size sheet can lay flat in the bed. Other things to look at include load and towing capacity. Making a smart purchase just means anticipating your long-term project needs.

Utility Boosters
Even if you're not in the market for a new vehicle, you can make some additions to your current truck to reach new levels of versatility. Just look into some of these utility boosters:

Tonneau Cover – All trucks can benefit from the addition of a tonneau cover, and your options are many. Available in various materials, styles and textures, tonneau covers add to your truck's look, protect cargo from the elements, and even boost gas mileage by improving aerodynamics.

Bed-Mounted Toolbox – A key addition to any full- or part-time work truck, a bed-mounted toolbox allows you keep all your tools in line without letting them slide around the bed or take up valuable interior space. Multiple mounting options are available for almost any truck — you can get a toolbox for either the front or side of your truck bed, and some curved models are even available to fit flush with your truck's wheel well.

Ladder Rack –A ladder rack is especially helpful for painting, or if your DIY spirit takes you up on the roof. Apart from saving space in the truck bed, adjustable models can even double as sawhorses.

Adjustable Tie-Downs – Every DIYer has cargo to tie down, and while every truck comes with a tie-down system, many are limiting. The best way to keep your load in place is with adjustable tie-downs, which can be helpful even if you're not in the middle of a home improvement project. In addition to tie-downs, look into cargo nets for maximum load security.

Bed Extender – Sometimes, even the biggest bed isn't big enough for everything you have to haul. In those cases, a bed extender can be a life saver. It extends your truck bed by the length of the tailgate, allowing that much more space for cargo. Some bed extenders can also flip the other way, so when your tailgate is up, you can use it to secure smaller items.

Tailgate Ramp – Need to haul some heavy-duty equipment, but don't have an easy way to get it in and out of your truck bed? That can be a painful predicament, but a tailgate ramp makes it both easier and safer. Many tailgate ramps also fold up for easy storage.

Tailgate Assist – When your hands are full, just opening or closing your tailgate can be a hassle in itself. With a tailgate assist, the process becomes effortless and also lessens the risk of damage by allowing your tailgate to open and close with a smooth, easy motion.   

Bed Liners – Protecting your truck can often be more important than protecting your cargo. That's why many DIYers opt for a spray-on or drop-in bed liner. The main question is whether you want your bed liner to be removable — apart from that it just comes down to personal preference.

Assess Your Needs
These are just some of the most useful add-ons, but the perfect product for your upcoming project may not be listed. Shop around, because the DIY market is broad and new products pop up all the time. Whatever the case, make sure the product you select will fit your particular vehicle. Trim levels change from model to model and year to year, so one-truck-fits-all products are rare. And before you start customizing your truck, think of your long-term workload. Consider your month-to-month needs before buying an expensive addition.

Most modifications are easily possible if you put your DIY spirit to work for your vehicle, just like you do for your home or landscape. And once you've figured out exactly what you need, you can finally get to work. You'll still be doing it yourself, but your truck will provide a lot of help.

© 2008 AutoTrader.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Truck Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer - Autotrader