Biggest myths about truck accessories
Big lift means better off road capability
It is a common misconception that a truck with a big suspension lift means it’s more capable off road, and can drive over anything. A suspension lift will allow for only one thing: bigger tires, and it’s the larger tires that matter the most for off road driving, mostly because larger tires are the ONLY thing that actually increases your pickup’s ground clearance. If you can get away with a minor suspension lift so you can replace your vehicle’s stock tires with something larger, maybe with a little more aggressive tread, it will give you better ground clearance without having to do major modifications. I hate to drop brand names, but Ready Lift has some simple kits to do just that. If you want to do a serious lift kit, you may need more than just a suspension lift, shocks and tires, but beefier drive lines and a complete brake overhaul, because much bigger tires will require a lot more power to stop them. Keep it simple and your wallet will thank you.
My truck can tow 10K lbs because it says so on the hitch
It may sound simple and obvious, but if your owner’s manual says your truck or suv’s drivetrain can’t handle more than (insert weight capacity here), installing a heavy duty hitch or extreme bumper will not change that, and I’m not talking about a fifth wheel or gooseneck type hitch that mounts in the bed and distributes the weight evenly over the drive axle. I’m talking about a hitch that bolts up to the frame under the rear bumper, or heavy-duty bumper itself. It’s not a secret that most manufactures grossly over rate towing capacities, and the smart hitch manufacturer knows you shouldn’t be towing that much weight with a light-duty truck. If you’re towing something really heavy, always check with a hitch dealer or towing specialist to make sure you’re setting up your vehicle properly or if it’s even the right vehicle to be using at all. I once knew someone that would tow a two-horse trailer with a 2-door Ford Explorer. Although she was using a weight distributing hitch attachment, you could tell the little Explorer was working very hard. I told her you really should think about getting at least an F150 to tow that trailer. Remember too that if you successfully towed that 16K lb boat 10 miles to the storage facility with your 1500 Silverado, it doesn’t mean that everything is just fine, in fact, your transmission and rear end probably just took a pounding and may have sustained damage that you’ll notice later on.
And just a side note about trailer hitches. A typical truck hitch mounted under the rear bumper is what’s called a class 3, and they are not identified by a specific tow rating. They will always be a 2 inch by 2 inch hole, or receiver, and are typically rated anywhere between 3K and 6K lbs., depending on the vehicle. Remember that every component has a rating, whether it’s the vehicle, the hitch, the ball mount (that’s the piece that slides into the receiver) the ball, and the pin that holds the ball mount into the receiver. If you invest in a heavier duty class 4 hitch, which is typically rated at 7K lbs or more, remember that unless the ball and ball mount are also heavy duty, that increased rating means nothing.
M12000 Warn Winch
You need a big winch on the front of your truck
Not necessarily. I had a friend who mounted a 3,500 lb Warn ATV winch on the front of his older Toyota, and I swear he pulled out a full-size Bronco from the mud with that thing, and not the smaller, early Broncos, but the larger (post 1978) ones. The reason is because most of the time you don’t need the winch to pull your vehicle across a field or up a mountain, it just has to get you unstuck. True, there’s nothing wrong with being safer than sorry and having plenty of pull power, but I think most people buy winches that are much larger than they need to be, and of course it really depends on what you plan to do with it, like if you’re considering using a big winch to pull out tree stumps, etc., you may need that extra power. Remember too that a simple accessory like a snatch block will essentially double the pull power. If you can’t afford a winch, a simple come along hand cranking winch and hi-lift jack are incredibly effective in getting you unstuck, as long as you have a good co-pilot on your off-road journey to help you. Truth be told, a hi-lift jack is a great off-road accessory even if you do have a winch.
Small winch, big technique
A factory plastic bedliner will protect my bed
I’m sure the dealer gave you the added bonus that they can include a ‘factory’ bedliner at no extra charge if you buy the truck today-a whopping $200 retail value(yes, that is all they cost). This isn’t always the big bonus you think it is. Believe it or not, a plastic bedliner can actually do more damage to your bed than not having one at all. Plastic liners will generally keep a bed from getting dented, but that’s about it. Over time, road grime(dirt, dust, small rocks etc.) that gets sucked in underneath the plastic will wear away your bed’s paint through the natural vibration the bed experiences while driving, kind of like sand paper. After the paint wears away, moisture will sit under that plastic and eventually will cause the bed to rust. Yes, no matter what you think or what anyone tells you, water and moisture through condensation and weather will make its way under the plastic. This takes time, and depending on the environment, it can happen more quickly, but many old-time truck owners do not realize that new trucks have thinner paint in the bed along with thinner gauge steel, so the rust process can start to happen in only a few short years. Rubber mats, spray-on liners and carpet liners are much better options.
The irony of a bedliner
Dropping the tailgate or removing it will improve gas mileage
The idea is that it will eliminate drag, and thus increase your gas mileage, but this is actually not true. When I first started selling truck accessories, this was a common thing we use to tell customers until I did a little research on the topic and found out it is not only not true, it actually makes your gas mileage worse. Tailgate nets, however are suppose to actually help with mileage. Will a tonneau cover help? It depends. Some fiberglass covers are so heavy that any decrease in drag is made less significant with the added weight. There are some light-weight plastic covers that do in fact help, as well as vinyl covers.
Grill guards will protect your grill and front end
There was a time when a simple, frame mounted grill guard, much like you might see on the front of a police car, offered some protection. Thanks to plastic grilles and bumpers and airbag sensors, grill guards offer little in the way of protection and are more for looks than anything else. Ironically, these things can actually do more damage than protect. If you had a front grill guard and were driving off road and bumped into a tree, it could cave in and do more damage to your hood and fenders then if wasn’t there in the first place. The days of buying that cheap, Smittybilt double tube front bumper to protect your truck are over. I maintain those were the cheapest, best option for real protection. Yes, the brand still exists, but it’s just the name. They only have the tube bumpers for Jeeps now because they’re just using the Smittybilt name on another product. My good friend’s old International Scout had one of these bumpers and he slammed into trees many times-did nothing to his vehicle because of that bumper.
When tube bumpers protected
A camper shell will make my bed water tight
This may come as a huge disappointment to many people, but putting a camper shell on a Chevy Silverado will not make it a Suburban. While a top, whether it’s a SnugTop, Leer, A.R.E. or Century are relatively water-tight, a truck bed, typically is not. The weakest point is the tailgate area, and while there are products to help seal the opening around a truck’s tailgate, there will almost always be gaps in the area where the camper shell door meets the top of the tailgate, and this is not the only trouble area. I have seen a few trucks that have gaps in the front seams of the bed; the corners actually. If you have water getting in, and it’s a lot, the best thing to do is get inside the bed, close the door, and have a friend shoot it with a garden hose to pinpoint where the water is coming in. One of the more recent interesting cases was a guy who had a utility shell on a new Tundra that was leaking water into the bed. Turned out that water was actually coming in under the factory plastic rail caps. The shell was sealed, but it was sealed to the top of the bed caps, which does nothing to keep water from coming in underneath them. A simple bead of silicone shot into that gap from the outside sealed the bed, but the leak had nothing to do with the shell itself. I’m not saying a camper shell won’t keep most of the water out under normal rainy conditions, I’m saying you have to reasonably expect some water will leak in a little bit, mostly in the tailgate area, and that it won’t be sealed up the way the inside of the cab will be. If you live somewhere it rains a lot, consider getting a hard tonneau cover, most of those will wrap over the gate and generally more water tight than a shell.