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All the trouble for a spare tire

by James Comment(s)

Because the bed of the truck had to be removed, back when I had the Kelderman suspension added to my truck, I took it to a shop. I believe I told them I would like to keep my spare, even if that meant mounting components for the air suspension in the bed of the truck, but the end result was that they mounted the air compressor, dryer, and main tank where the spare tire used to be. I didn’t think too much of it, because I was happy to have the air suspension and do run 19.5″ tires, which are extremely difficult to damage, especially compared to car or light truck tires.

That being said, I don’t ever want to be caught without a spare. I could always throw the spare tire in the trailer, so we have it then, or maybe on the roof of the truck if I were to get a roof rack, but that looks pretty tacky, especially on trucks that aren’t lifted to oblivion. Instead, I decided to take on the project of relocating the air components to the bed and putting the spare tire back where it belongs.

When I picked up the truck from the shop that did the air install, I requested that they provide me with all of the original components. They gave me a small box of junk that, more now than ever, I know was very incomplete. To add the spare back, I had to spend about $150 on components, which gets me everything but the locking cylinder that I would usually use to keep it from being stolen. I could order a replacement for $70, and then pay a dealer to re-key it, but compared to other things on the truck, I’m not overly concerned about the spare being stolen. I’m still waiting on those parts to ship. The parts I ended up having to order were the hoist, the exhaust shield, the guide tube, and a few bolts.

In preparation for moving this equipment to the bed, I decided to go ahead and put my tonneau cover back on. That will help to keep it away from most prying eyes and the weather. I ran out of space for the tonneau cover in my garage, so it has been sitting outside in the weather for a few months. Fortunately it is still in good shape, and just needs a good cleaning. I’ve never had it on the truck with the headache rack at the same time, so I was curious how they would work together. I had to make a small modification with the reciprocating saw, but it all clears fine:

Also, in this photo, you can see that I opted to swap out the 2′ fiberglass FireStik CB antenna for my old Procomm 3′ base-loaded whip. Also, the Tarheel antenna is no longer on the headache rack. More on that in a bit.

The rails for the tonneau cover create a fairly wide lip over each side of the bed, and under that lip is where I intend to mount the air components.  I will be drilling a fairly large hole in the bed of the truck to run the air lines and electrical through, and backfilling the hole with Great Stuff (the expanding spray-foam), then spray painting the foam black. That should provide a nice seal and protect the lines from sharp edges.

Here is how it all fits together with the tonneau cover closed.

Another issue I’ve been mulling over for a long time is height. I’ve ran into a couple places so far that I couldn’t go due to height, and the fault is not that of the truck body, but the Tarheel antenna that was mounted on the headache rack and the light bar over the cab. In addition to them adding about 6″ of non-flexible height to the truck, they gain a lot of attention, not all of it desirable. I decided to relocate them.

I don’t use the HF radio when driving very often, if at all. It’s something I’ll mess around with at a campsite, or an occasional stop. HF requires a lot more fiddling with the radio than VHF does, and really isn’t well suited for use in motion. If I’m on the radio while driving, It’s almost always VHF. I don’t want to completely get rid of HF in the truck, but I don’t need it to be constantly accessible. Tarheel makes several mounts that are designed to let you lay down your antenna when not in use. They’re really expensive for what they are, so I’ve been looking for used ones. Finally, I found one for a decent price on Ebay and bought it. It’s not the specific model I wanted, but I was able to make it work by mounting it near the tailgate. The antenna lays down when not in use, and the lower height is a wash (or potentially even better) because it’s far less obstructed.

I have two whips, a 32″ and a 72″, and both are on quick connects and ride behind the toolbox.

The last change here is the light bar. I wanted to get it off the roof due to height, due to appearance, and possibly most of all due to noise. It creates a lot of wind noise when going down the highway, and can be exhausting to listen to. I found that it fits nicely between the bumper guard and the grill of the truck, matching the curvature of the grill almost perfectly. Unfortunately, all I had were short feet on hand, so I ordered a pair of 3.5″ feet that should lift it above the bar that is partially obstructing it in this photo:

I ordered new feet to raise it up another 2″ or so, which should be in today.

The end result of all of this is that I should have a slightly more aerodynamic, quieter truck, with less unwanted attention, and I have laid the groundwork for moving the air compressor, dryer, and primary tank into the bed of the truck, where it will be covered and kept out of the weather when not towing, and once again I will have a spare tire. This mostly used parts I already had on hand, so was a cheap and quick improvement that will better prepare us for the holiday travel season.