Update Again – Updated

Update – I posted pictures of the CB install below. I’m just using an old magnetic mount antenna for the moment until I decide how to install the permanent antenna(s).

I know it’s been several days since I’ve posted. Been busy, both with work and life.

So, an update on the Truck situation:

I realized that the ladder rack on the new truck had been overloaded at some point in the past and had cracked the aluminum (not fiberglass as I’d originally thought) topper. It was so bad, in fact, that one leg of the ladder rack had almost punched completely through. So I pulled the ladder rack (anyone want to buy a ladder rack with an amber flashing light on it?).

I used my almost forgotten skills as an aircraft maintainer to patch it: I stop drilled the cracks and JB welded them closed as best I could, riveted an aluminum patch over the area and sealed it up with Permatex RTV. I still need to squirt some white spray paint on the RTV to make it look a bit better, but it’s watertight. Had a bad rainstorm yesterday which served as a good (and successful) test of my patching skills.  Everything stayed dry.

Last week, I went and dragged the old truck back home. That was an adventure but not because of the new truck.

I’d reserved an 18′, 12,000lb capacity trailer from a local equipment rental place.   I reserved it for the length, not the weight handling. The old truck only weighs a bit less than 6500lbs, but it has a 13 foot wheel base so in order to get it balanced correctly on the trailer, I needed some space to move it around.

Well, I went to pick up the trailer and the one I’d reserved hadn’t been returned by the last person who rented it yet. The guy at the counter told me that they had another 18″ tilt bed trailer but it was only rated for 7500lbs capacity. The old truck weighs a hair less than 6500lbs with me in it, so I decided to go with that. I assumed they knew their equipment and so didn’t measure it, I just hooked up and left.


After 5 hours on the road I arrived at Salem, paid the shop there $50 for the half hour of labor they charged me (I’m pretty sure they actually spent more time on it than that, they cut me a break) and set up to load the truck. If you’ve never used one, a tilt bed trailer is naturally back heavy so as soon as you unlatch it, it tilts down at the back automatically, you drive or winch the vehicle to be towed up onto it and when the front wheels get past the balance point, it tilts back down level, then you latch it, tie the vehicle down and you’re on your way, easy peasy.

Except, as I quickly realized, the trailer wasn’t an 18′ after all. It was a 16′. Because the deck was too short, the front wheels would pass the balance point and tip the back of the deck up off the ground before the rear wheels were on. So I’d end up with the front of the truck on the trailer, the rear of the deck up against the bottom of the truck with the rear wheels still on the ground.

One of their mechanics saw my plight and came out to give me a hand. They didn’t have any ramps, which I think would have worked, so we brainstormed for a while to figure out what to do. After close to an hour of futzing around we finally came up with a successful solution. On the edge of their lot there was a curb about 6 inches high and the grass on the other side of the curb was as high also. I drove the truck up over the curb onto the grass and turned it around facing the parking lot. Then we backed the trailer up to the curb so that the back end of the deck was over the grass but the wheels were still on the parking lot. What that meant was that when the front wheels of the truck got too far forward and the trailer deck tilted, the rear of the deck was only about 8 inches above the grass and curb rather than the 14 inches or so if it had been on flat ground. We put the old truck into 4WD low and basically climbed it over the 8 inch gap to get it onto the trailer.

So, with the truck on the trailer, I positioned it to the rear of the deck as far as I was comfortable doing and then chained it down securely.

There were only 3 feet of extra deck for positioning, so I wasn’t able to get the balance point right. With a Pickup, the balance point is very forward and there was no room to move the truck back far enough, which means too much weight on the tongue. Well, I wasn’t going home empty handed so I just decided to deal with it.

What that really meant, though, was on the highway at anything over about 55mph the trailer would start swaying dramatically. A 10,000lb trailer swaying wildly behind a tow vehicle that only weighs 2/3 of that is…um…exciting. At any rate, what that meant was that I ended up having to keep my speed around 50 mph or so for the 285 miles all the way home. The trip home took significantly longer than the trip out.

But I made it with no real problems. The really surprising thing to me is that I made it on a single tank of gas and still had over a 1/4 tank left when I got home. That was even towing through the mountains for the first 150 miles or so and getting stuck in crawling traffic for 30 minutes at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. I calculated my gas mileage at 13.7mpg average. While towing a 10,000lb trailer that’s not bad at all. Of course some of that can be chalked up to driving so slow, but still, that’s way better than I expected.

The difference in power between the two trucks is actually pretty amazing. I was satisfied with how much power my old truck had, but the new one puts it to shame.

Anyway, so now that the old truck is back home, I’ve been working on moving all my accessories over to the new truck. I’ve got the Winch, Backup Camera and radio with the screen I use with the backup camera (those were very important with the topper on the new truck, I can’t see hardly anything behind me when backing up), XM radio receiver, and GPS permanent wiring installed in the new truck. Oh, and I moved all my tools, towing/winching gear and miscellaneous accoutrements from the bed toolbox of the old truck into the topper side toolboxes of the new one. I really like how accessible everything is from those side boxes.

I only have three things left to install:

2500W power inverter: Interestingly, they already had a set of 1/0 cables going from the engine compartment into the passenger side of the passenger compartment, but it looks like whatever they had installed was somewhere in the footrest area of the passenger seat. The power inverter is too big to mount there so the cables are too short. I’ll have to run new ones.

The aftermarket automatic headlight control: I read up about installing a factory automatic headlight switch, but it seems that you can’t just install the switch and sensor even though the truck is pre-wired for it…you have to get the computer re-programmed and there are lots and lots of truck forum threads about how hit or miss it is for Ford dealerships to have the ability to make the change…apparently it’s not just a “switch” they have to flip in the software, it requires writing specific information into specific lines of code in the software…and even then, if you have something serviced and they restore the computer back to the “as built” software from the factory, they disable the auto headlights again. I actually have the cable interface and computer software I need to make changes like that in the software, but I’m not confident enough in my ability to do things like that. I bought the interface and software just for programming chip keys for my wife’s 2011 Taurus when we bought it. That was cheaper than getting new keys programmed at the dealer. But a side-effect is that the software can also make changes to the computer settings and software or just be used to perform analysis and troubleshooting. It’s pretty amazing how much information you can get about how the engine is running when everything is monitored and controlled by a computer. The downside is that when everything’s controlled by a computer, if anything breaks, the computer will detect the fault and won’t let the vehicle run anymore. If my new truck throws a sparkplug like my old one did, I seriously doubt that I’d even be able to convince the computer to let it start, let alone be able to drive it around on 7 cylinders like I can the old truck.

Anyway, I think it’s probably better just to use the aftermarket solution I already have. If I do a clean install (and I do) it’s just one additional, relatively unobtrusive, switch on the dashboard (that’s used to turn off the headlights in the dark if you want to over-ride the automatic feature).

Finally, the last thing to install is the CB radio*. The new truck’s interior is different enough (both due to model year changes and the fact that the old truck is a Lariat and the new one is the base model XL trim package) that I struggled to find a place to put the CB that wouldn’t be ugly as sin or in the way. I was laboring over it when my wife came out, sat in the truck for about 15 seconds and said “why don’t you just put it here”. To which I responded “duh…why didn’t I think of that?”. Sometimes it’s good to have a smart wife.

Update – picture added

Basically, there’s a cupholder at the bottom center of the dash where a center console would be if there were a center console. It folds down and I don’t anticipate needing it often, but the way it’s in there, I don’t see an elegant way of removing it to put the CB there without it being ugly as can be. She suggested just mounting the CB vertically to the front of the cupholder face. That way most of the time when the cupholder is closed, the face of the CB will be up and easy to see and access,

but if we need the cupholder we can just swing the CB down, the cupholder will open above it and the CB will be horizontal with the face to the rear.

[update – The radio was a little too heavy for the cupholder to stay closed, so I added strips of velcro to either side to help hold it up.  That’s worked well so far.]

Harder to see and access, but only temporary while the cupholder is in use. Genius. There’s plenty of room beneath and behind all that for the back of the CB and the cables to have room to move. I’ll post a picture when I get it installed.

The other question is the antennas for it.  On the old truck I have dual firestik antennas mounted to top of the bed rails just behind the cab, one on each side.  the problem I see with the new truck is that mounting them like that with the aluminum topper, the topper will interfere with and block a large bit of the signal from them.  aluminum is a very good conductor of RF energy so having that huge sheet of aluminum alongside and behind the antennas will play hell with the radiation pattern.  I’m thinking I need to switch to a single antenna and mount it in front of the cab on the driver side opposite of where the radio antenna is mounted.  I’d get better range if I mounted it to the top of the cab or even to the top of the topper (that would make a great ground plane) but I’m afraid it would be too tall and I’d be smacking it against and catching it on stuff all the time.  Any opinions about that?

Anyway, that’s where I’m at and what’s been occupying my time lately.  I still need to get the old truck cleaned up, get some pictures taken and get it listed for sale.  I’m hoping I can find someone with the ability (and workspace, which is what I lack) to replace that bad head themselves and have a decent work truck for a small amount of money.   A new head can be had for about $500 so I’m thinking ask $2500 for the truck and some enterprising do it yourselfer can have a solid work truck for $3k and maybe 8 hours of labor.

As usual, if you’ve doggedly stuck with reading this long-winded post for this long…thanks for reading.

*Yes, I know that CB radio is passe, but I came of age in the era that (at least in the rural community where I grew up) everyone had CB radios in their vehicles and probably a base station at home with a directional antenna on a 30 foot tower…poor man’s ham radio setup.  The CB I have has sentimental value…I bought this radio from a truck stop when I was a teenager and have had it installed in every primary vehicle I’ve ever driven starting with my very first 1973 Dodge Charger SE.  Having this particular radio in my truck, even if I don’t use it much, has significant sentimental value for me.  I will have this radio in my vehicles until I flat can’t keep it working any more – which, considering my 21 years of experience as an Aviation Electronics Technician and associate’s degree in electronics technology, will probably be when I die.


2 thoughts on “Update Again – Updated

  1. No, I didn’t even know what SSB was back when I bought this radio.

    Like I said, I really only keep this radio for sentimental reasons, I don’t use it much…in traffic mainly to find out what’s going on. Every once in a while I turn it on on the way to work, there are a couple of characters in this area that are on pretty much every morning and they’re pretty entertaining.

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