Pimp Your Ride

by Jake Poinier

8-DECKED_Painter 02_150You know the old saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place”? That doesn’t just apply to your workshop—it’s every bit as important when you’re in the field.

“Having an organized work truck means you save time and are a more efficient painter,” says Jeffrey Heininger, founder of Heininger Automotive ( “And let’s face it, time is money in the trades.”

Whether you’re naturally organized or have to make an effort, the following systems and accessories can make life much easier for you and your team.


The concept behind DECKED ( is to provide easy access to your gear without crawling in and out of the bed of your truck. This ergonomic system includes two drawers that are load-rated for 200 pounds each—meaning that you can load them up with a variety of brushes, paint cans, and other tools. The top deck, constructed of 100% recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) that’s molded around a steel subframe, is rated up to 2,000 pounds. So, you can safely load anything from commercial grade paint sprayers to paint buckets—as many as 36 five-gallon buckets, if you do the math.

“The nice thing for painters is that the HDPE is impervious to anything,” says Scott Mavis, vice president of marketing at DECKED. “If you spill paint or solvents, they won’t damage it. Even if you have a topper on the truck, it can be easily rinsed out. The drawers are both weatherproof and waterproof, and you can hose down the entire system.”

Installation of the DECKED system utilizes the existing tie-downs in your vehicle and doesn’t require drilling into the truck bed—just the ability to operate a socket wrench. While the initial assembly process takes about two hours and nine steps, it only takes about 15 minutes to remove it or put it back in.

The 8½”-deep drawers can be accessorized with a number of items, such as dividers or trays, so you can keep smaller items isolated. Since your existing tie-downs are underneath the unit, additional CORE Trax Tie-Downs can be drilled directly into the deck and reinforcing tubes. You can also add locks, although once you have your tailgate closed and locked, there’s no way for someone to open the drawers. “Quite honestly, someone can throw a brick through your window before they’d be able to crack through the top of the deck,” Mavis says. The model of truck you’re putting the system in dictates the space between the system and the tailgate. In a Toyota Tundra, it’s about ½.” In a Ford, with a slightly longer bed, it will be 4″ or 5,” which is still not enough to get your hand in and getting anything out of the drawers.

DECKED systems are 100% made in the U.S. and will fit nearly every full-size pickup with a 5½’ or 6½’ bed made since the mid to late ’90s. While they’re not available for midsize trucks or 8′ bed lengths yet, the company is working on developing units for popular vehicles such as the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and Chevy Colorado pickups.

Time To Step Up

The Ironton Truck Service Step from Northern Tool + Equipment ( is a simple product that could be used alongside any organizational system. The bar slips over your tire, giving you a convenient way to step up and get access to a truck box or the bed of your truck—or even for doing maintenance on your engine. (The company also sells an extra-large unit for service trucks with larger tires.) With a 300-pound capacity, it can accommodate just about anyone in your workforce. The step folds down compactly, and the serrated platform gives you a good foothold even in slick weather conditions. “You can carry a step stool, but this is a lot easier and takes up almost no space,” says Justin Sticht, an Internet merchant with Northern Tool. “They’re very durable, and the price is right at $30—and if you keep an eye on it, sometimes it’s discounted to $25.”


Let’s face it: Permanent utility racks aren’t always convenient and aren’t a quick on-off situation. They limit the other uses you can make of your pickup—and don’t even think about taking them through a car wash.

On the other hand, laying a ladder at an angle from the bed of the truck over the cab isn’t a good solution either, from the space it takes up, to the potential damage to the truck. If you’re looking for a better way to stow your ladders or lumber, the two following accessories can be a smart play.

The combination Headache and Flip Rack from Detail K2 ( is a multipurpose item, protecting the back window with a guard as well as giving you a convenient rack for mounting a ladder. “When you need your ladder, you just flip the crossbar back,” says Bryan Johnson, account manager with Detail K2. “Then, when you’re not carrying a ladder, it folds down flush.” Whether it’s up or down, the device offers full access to the bed for your supplies. Holes along the rails allow you to put ratchet straps across the ladder to secure it.

The Flip Rack is made of powder-coated steel to prevent wear and tear and rusting and is rated to 500 pounds. Johnson says it takes just 15 or 20 minutes to install, with a four-clamp system that attaches to the walls of the truck. (It can also be bolted on, for extra security.) Because the unit telescopes in height and width, it fits 95% of all pickup trucks, including smaller vehicles such as the Ford Ranger.

If you’re a fan of the TV show Shark Tank, you may already be familiar with the Invis-A-Rack Cargo Management System. Inventor Donny McCall didn’t cut a deal with one of the sharks because he wanted to keep the manufacturing in the U.S.—but the visibility from the show paid off with a slew of sales and a manufacturing agreement with Des Moines, IA-based Dee Zee. The Invis-A-Rack folds up or down, holds up to 500 pounds, installs easily with clamps, and has racks that fit 5½,’ 6½,’ and 8′ truck beds. Made from lightweight aluminum extrusions, this innovative cargo system has non-rusting strength sealed by a textured black-powder-coated finish. An optional custom tonneau cover secures with unrolled, it covers the entire bed, and it can be locked for extra security.

Dan Kruzic, Dee Zee’s director of marketing, notes that the Invis-A-Rack is practical even after you’ve sealed up the paint buckets and washed off your tools. “On the weekend, you can also throw your kayak or canoe up there and go fishing.”


The HitchMate Cargo Stabilizer Bar offers a simple, clever way to separate your bed space into sections. It’s a rugged bar that expands or contracts to fit the width of the pickup truck or van, using lateral pressure to stay locked in place. “Say you have five 5-gallon buckets of paint that you’re ready to splash onto a house or building,” says Heininger. “You just secure the bar next to them, and they’re not going anywhere, even if you stop short or hit a bump. The goal is to stabilize your cargo and make the inside of the vehicle more organized.” Rubber feet ensure that the bar stays in place and prevent scratching your paint job.

Many of Heininger’s contractor customers use multiple bars to separate their cargo. For example, if you’ve got loads that need to go to different locations, you can use additional bars to create sections and eliminate confusion or mis-deliveries. The gear mechanism and lever bar make it easy to relieve the tension and move the Cargo Bar to another area of the truck.

“The Cargo Bar is heavy duty and can restrain any piece of equipment that a painting contractor might use,” Heininger says. “In fact, I have friends who have used it to hold a motorcycle in place.”

The Cargo Bar can also be accessorized to make it even more utilitarian. The HitchMate BedBag and Cargo Bag are made of high quality, heavy-duty mesh that will stand up to your heaviest items. They simply attach to the tubing and offer a good solution for tidying up smaller tools and appliances. Finally, the HitchMate Divider Bar clamps onto the Cargo Bar to create perpendicular sections. “Say you’ve got cargo on one side and a bucket of paint on the other,” Heininger says. “You just attach the bar with wing nuts, and it will keep them both in place.”


Truck boxes have earned a reputation as the standard way to organize equipment in the bed of your truck, but if you’re purchasing a new vehicle or looking to make an upgrade, there are new options to consider.

Sticht says that the crossover truck box is the most common variety, whether low profile or deep design. Northern Tool’s crossover models have a unique handle, which mimics the function of a door handle, and a two-stage rotary system lock with an adjustable pin that stands up to vehicle torquing and temperature changes. About a year ago, the company introduced a matte-black finish rather than the standard glossy finish. “It looks really sharp,” he says. “Chrome truck boxes are going out of style.” He also suggests choosing aluminum rather than steel, because it won’t rust and is incredibly strong, while weighing 50% less. Piano hinges run the length of the box to offer additional security.

If you want to conserve prime real estate in the truck bed, a rail-top truck box is another good solution. The models offered by Northern Tool include a bottom and top shelf with plenty of space to put supplies, paint cans, and gear. With a side-mount truck box, part of the L-shaped box sits on the rail, and part on the inside of the truck on the wheel well. While drilling into your truck is an option for security, a mounting kit is available for easy installation.

Dee Zee, Inc. ( introduced its Crossover Padlock Tool Box last year, which the company says requires 2.5 times more pry force to open the lid compared to standard tool-box latches. This box is constructed of 20% thicker aluminum than Dee Zee’s standard Red Label box, and the patented slide surrounds heavy-duty striker bolts to keep the lid closed with a single moving part. One unique aspect of this truck box is that it’s designed to work with any kind of padlock including the BOLT brand, which can be used with your truck ignition key for convenience. The box’s patented design nests the padlock into the side of the box, making it impossible to reach the shackle with bolt cutters.

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