Life En Route

TC Deck

We’ve received a lot of requests for information about how to duplicate the deck we added to the truck camper, so decided to dedicate a post to it. Since we weren’t planning any “how to” posts, we didn’t take many pictures of the build process but will try to describe everything as best we can.

We chose to build the deck 3′ x 6′ because it best fit our camper – sitting between the lights, it doesn’t require its own lights to be legal, it doesn’t obfuscate the license plate, and the 3′ depth keeps the angle within an acceptable range for where we wanted to locate the mounts for the chain stays.

Tools needed:

  • Angle grinder
    • Cut-off wheel
    • Flap disc
  • Welder
    • We love the Lincoln FC-90 which is extremely portable and works great for small projects
  • Drill and various bits
  • Speed square
  • Marker
  • Wood saw of some sort (we used a compact compound miter)

Materials needed for deck:

  • 4x 6′ pieces of 1/8″x1-1/2″ steel angle
  • 2x 8″ galvanized tee hinges (these)
  • 10′ 1/4″ chain (recommend stainless)
  • 4x 1/4″ chain quick links (recommend stainless)
  • 2x 1/4″ spring snaps (recommend stainless)
  • 4x Eye bolts + nylock nuts (we used these because they’re hard to find locally)
  • 2′ 1-1/2″ x 1/4″ aluminum bar (you can double up 1/8″ if you can’t find 1/4″)
  • Stainless 5/16″ bolts, washers, split washers, and nuts
    • The Torklift steps below come with hardware you can use for this application
  • 2x Slide bolt latches (recommend stainless, we ended up with Zinc for now)
  • Spray enamel (we used Rust-Oleum Gloss White)
  • Assorted Teks screws (we used #12-3/4, #14-1.25″)
  • #12-3/4 wood screws
  • 2′ Eternabond tape
  • Cedar boards (calculate # based on desired spacing, etc)
  • 12″x12″ sheet of 12ga steel (optional)

Materials needed for steps:

  • Torklift Stow N’ Go steps – 5 steps (A7835 or A7845)
  • Torklift Basement Camper Step (A7510)

Materials needed for tailgate carrier:

  • 1″ ratcheting tie down straps
  • 8″ corner brace
  • 32″ pipe insulation
  • Zip ties

Install the Torklift Basement Camper Step first, according to the directions.

The first step for building the deck is to build the frame. Cut one piece of steel angle in half, for two 3′ pieces. Then use the speed square to mark opposing 45° angles at both ends, and mark the same on two of the remaining pieces of angle. Cut all those corners so that they box together and weld them into place. Trim 1/4″ off the remaining piece and weld it in the center. The end result should be a 3′ x 6′ rectangle with a bar in the running lengthwise in the middle.

The deck has been holding up well for us, with no signs of distress, but we threw it together in a hurry and didn’t make special trips for extra parts back to the hardware store. If I were to do it over again, I would add additional gusseting to the corners and will be doing so on mine in the near future. If you purchase the 12″x12″ sheet of 12ga steel listed above as optional, cut it into four 6″x6″ sections, then cut each section in half to form triangles. Weld the triangles at each intersection with a bead running the full length of the edges. Paint the entire frame before continuing.

Mock up the hinge locations and drill holes on the backside of the frame as well as into the bumper. Cut off the excess length from the hinges, and bolt the hinges to the back of the frame, but do not bolt them to the bumper yet.

Cut the cedar into 3′ lengths. Lay the frame down over the laid out planks and drill holes in the frame over each piece. Use the wood screws to secure the planks, with at least one screw per intersecting frame member. We initially used Teks screws but found they were not holding, so pre-drilled everything and used wood screws instead. We used 1″x4″ cedar, and used 20 3′ lengths with a thin piece of scrap metal to set uniform spacing between the pieces. Because we didn’t have the gusseting listed above, we used scrap cedar horizontally on the bottom to add additional rigidity to the deck.

Measure 3″ from what will be the front of the deck, and drill holes in the center of the frame for the eye bolts that will secure the chains. Attach the eye bolts and with the help of an assistant, bolt the deck to the bumper. Use a table, chair, scrap lumber, or whatever you have on hand to support the free end of the deck while you continue onto the next step.

Cut a pair of 4″ long pieces of the 1/4″ aluminum bar and drill holes in each half. Add one of the eye bolts to one end. Remove the bolt pictured below from the jack mount and attach the piece of bar you just cut. The bolt should be long enough to reuse. Then run a quick link through the eye bolt, cut the chain into ~5′ pieces, and attach the chain. Use a quick link to attach the chain to the eye bolt at the front of the deck, using a link that lets the deck sit level. Use your angle grinder to cut off the excess chain. Repeat on the other side. See the below photos for clarity.

Fold the deck up against the camper, and measure the length from the bottom of the frame to the wall of the camper on each side. Cut 1/4″ aluminum bar to these lengthts and attach to the frame using pairs of #14 Teks screws. These are the uprights near the front of the deck you see on each side in the photos. Wrap the tops of the bars in Eternabond tape to keep them from damaging the camper wall.

Place the deck back in the upright position, and now measure from the outside edge of your awning brackets to the bars you just added. Cut aluminum bar to those lengths and use additional #14 Teks screws to attach them to the awning brackets. Attach the slide bolt latches to the bars and drill the corresponding holes in the uprights. See the photo below to accompany the above two paragraphs of explanation.

We ran out of 1/4″ bar so used two layers of 1/8″ scrap for this side.

Lay the deck back down and mock up the location for the stairs. We chose off to the right side, so that they wouldn’t interfere with the Jeep when flat towing. We can’t extend them with the Jeep attached, but can easily get in and out of the camper by using the Jeep bumper as a step. The factory holes in the steps won’t line up properly to the 1-1/2″ bar, so drill your own through the bracket and the frame and secure the steps with at least three bolts.

Add the spring snaps halfway down the chain on each side, and use them to secure the bolt latches and take some slack out of the chains while in transit so that they aren’t swinging around and damaging anything.

At this point you should have a fully functioning deck – if you wish to carry your tailgate, secure the deck in the upright position and measure at least 1′ from the center to each side on the bottom. Drill holes and bolt the corner braces on as shown in the below photo. These are not actually to support the tailgate when in transit – but only to aid in the process of securing the tailgate with the straps and act as a fallback mechanism in the case of strap failure.

Wrap them in pipe insulation and secure the insulation with a few zip ties. Drill holes in the frame to correspond with where you want the tie downs to go. Mock this up with your tailgate and then cut the straps down to the required length plus about 1′ of extra and use a lighter to melt the ends to keep them from unraveling.

We found that the tailgate camera in our tailgate uses RG174, so we ordered BNC connectors and crimping tools to build an extension and will be able to use our tailgate camera with this moving down the road. That’s outside the scope of this post, but an easy mod for anyone interested.

This deck is both lightweight and strong, and because of the hinged design with slide bolt latches is very quick to deploy and to secure. It takes approximately ten seconds per side to secure the slide bolts and lock them into place with the spring snaps, and the same amount of time to reverse the process. The additional weight of the tailgate makes it somewhat awkward to handle and might be best avoided if you aren’t able-bodied, or you might look at some sort of gas strut or handles to ease the process. Without the tailgate, lifting and dropping the deck can be done single-handed.

On our truck, the entire assembly has several inches to spare over the 4′ extension and Roadmaster Falcon AT bar that we have mounted under there to tow the Jeep. We can fold the deck down and easily clear the Jeep, when parked straight or at most angles, but cannot deploy the stairs. Every rig will be a little different, so be sure to take your own considerations into account when building something like this.

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