How to build pickup truck side rails

Written by michael straessle
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How to build pickup truck side rails
Side rails on your pickup truck enables you to haul a higher load. (side of old truck image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com)

Truck side rails are a common need among truck owners who use their pickup trucks for hauling on a regular basis. Most want a set of side rails that fit into the stake pocket holes located at the top of the truck cargo bed walls for ease of mounting or removing them. For trucks without stake pocket holes, building side rails is a matter of building something that resembles a post and rail fence. Minimal woodworking skills are all you need for this project.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • 6 1.5-inch rods, 96 inches long
  • Electric mitre saw
  • 3 pieces of 2-by-4 lumber, 96 inches long
  • 2 C-clamps
  • Variable speed drill
  • 1 1/2-inch paddle bit
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 1/4-by-3 1/2-inch dowels
  • Hammer
  • 1-by-4-by-96-inch lumber, 2 pieces
  • Philips-head screw bit
  • 1 1/4-drywall screws, 12 pieces

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut the rods to length. Measure the distance from the front of the bed just behind the cab, to the end, at the tailgate. Cut six pieces from the 1 1/2-inch rods to this length with an electric mitre saw.

  2. 2

    Set the height of the posts. Measure the distance from the top of the sides of the bed and the top of the cab. Cut six pieces that length from the 2-by-4-by-96-inch lumber.

  3. 3

    Mark the posts for the rods. Lay the posts flat on a worktable. Make a mark at 2-inches from one end of the six posts. Label this end of the posts as the top. Make a mark at 4-inches from the bottom of the posts. Make a third mark midway between these two marks. Make a mark on those marks that is centred between the long sides of the posts.

  4. 4

    Drill the holes for the rods. Lay one of the posts flat on a worktable and clamp it to a worktable so it won't move. Drill a 1 1/2-inch hole through the post on each of the marks. Repeat this for each post.

  5. 5

    Insert the rods. Slip a rod through one of the posts until the post is about midway the length of the rod, then do the same with two more rods. Next, insert the ends of the rods on the remaining posts. Make the posts on the ends of the rod flush with the ends of the rods.

  6. 6

    Mark the posts for the dowels. Lay the side rails on their sides so the narrow side of the posts faces up. Make the same marks on the posts that you made for the rods. Make a mark on those marks 3/4-inch from one long side.

  7. 7

    Bore holes for the dowels. Drill a 1/4-inch hole through the post and the rod from one narrow side to the other on each of the marks. Be certain the middle post is in the centre of the side rails before drilling the holes in that post. Tap a 1/4-inch dowel through the posts and the rods with a hammer. These keep the rod from sliding.

  8. 8

    Attach the bottom to the side rails. Cut a piece from the 1-by-4-by-96-inch lumber the same length as the rods with the electric mitre saw. Cut one for each side rail. Turn the side rails upside down and secure the 1-by-4 to the bottom of the posts with the drywall screws.

Tips and warnings

  • Cut carpet strips to go on the bottom of the side rails if desired.
  • Do not leave power tools within the reach of small children.

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