Truck Upgrades

with 4 Comments

My new tow rig is a 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE Crew Cab with a standard box. However it is very tall and difficult to get into. There is also a lot of wasted space. So here are a few things I did to get the new truck ready for the RV Life. I added Nerf Bars, under-seat storage and a tool box for the truck box.

These upgrades were designed to:

  1. Make it easier to get into the truck (I am partially disabled due to leg / foot issues)
  2. Add storage under the rear seats so that space isn’t wasted
  3. Add storage to the truck box in the form of a tool box


Nerf Bars – 03-29-2018

First we’ll start with the Nerf Bars, which are essentially tubular running boards. In my case however I decided to add a version that has an additional step to make it easier for me getting in / out of the truck. After asking around, reading reviews and getting advice from my brother, who has modded quite a few trucks, I decided on the Go Rhino brand and chose the Dominator D4 SideSteps from, which as I mentioned have an extra step.


I chose to do the passenger side first. First step was to put down some padding so I could climb under the truck. When I say this truck is tall, I mean that I was able to climb under it and install these bars without jacking the truck up at all!


These bars came packaged in a really big box! The two smaller boxes contained the mounting brackets and hardware.


All it took to install these bars was a screwdriver and a single socket with ratchet. The screwdriver was only used to pop out the plugs in the body for a few of the mounting hardware parts. All the bolts for the mounting brackets and the bars used the same size socket. I did use two different extensions while installing them because some of the bolts were horizontal and some were vertical to mount the brackets and clearance varied depending on which one I was working on. In this photo you can see all the brackets installed, though they’re not tightened until the bars are added.


And the passenger side is completed!


Same deal on the driver’s side. The brackets for each side are unique. So the remaining brackets all go on this side, four in total.


And the driver’s side is completed…almost


I did have an issue with one bracket on the driver’s side. It had a defective weld and so the support was not level with the bar. In fact you may notice in the photo that the corner has already dug into and scratched the bar on this side!


Here’s another view of the bracket and you can see the gap where it should be flush with the bar. It did take me several weeks to get this cleared up because they don’t have spare / replacement parts readily available for these. Each kit contains all the parts and so getting a single part means getting a whole new set! It also takes time, though I did eventually get this straightened out and everything is installed and working fine. While the extra step helps getting in and out of the truck, there is one caveat. When you walk over to the truck to reach in without actually getting in, these steps stick you right in the shin. Likewise, if you slide out of the truck and miss the step, it can scrape the back of your calf. Not pleasant at all. You just have to be careful is all.


Under Seat Storage – 03-30-2018

The next project was to add under seat storage for the rear seats. The seats folded up, but I found I preferred them down, which then made the space beneath them a waste. I found this really nice under seat storage solution on Amazon called, Husky Liners Under Seat Storage Box. The cost wasn’t bad for what I was getting and it even came with a couple of dividers.


As you can see, with the seats up there’s a lot of storage, but then you can’t use the seats. I folded them up here to prepare for installation of the storage box.


The storage box had arrived on my doorstep only hours earlier. It was time to get started.


This was going to be easier than I thought. There was literally one strap to secure the box under the seat!


Of course, trying to lean into the truck over the bars and wrap this strap around the frame under the seats proved to be more difficult than I had originally guessed! But I did finally get it done and installed the dividers.


Here’s a view from the driver’s side and the seats back down. Initially I put things in the box like my first aid kit, jumper cables, air-pump and window wipes.


Truck Tool Box – 04-01-2018

The last project was to install a truck tool box. I picked up a Kobalt 69-in x 19-in x 18-in Black Powder Coat Aluminum Full-Size Truck Tool Box from Lowe’s for under $300. Since it was made of aluminum, it was lighter than expected. Of course, as I later found out, it was also weaker than expected! I had to remove some of the things I put into it because it was causing the bottom to bow / buckle.


The tool box just slid nicely into the truck box. I originally bought two of the mounting kits from Lowe’s so I wouldn’t have to do any drilling, however I was only able to use one kit because my truck box liner interfered with adding the second set. By the way, if you go to North 40 and see similar boxes with the name Better Built, it’s the same company.


I ended up putting a moving pad into the bottom because the noise of everything sliding around was annoying.


Lowe’s also had these neat organizer trays that fit nicely into the top of the tool box.


So those were the changes I made to my truck to improve things while boondocking and travelling. I have been seriously considering removing the tool box though and instead adding a truck cap / shell. The reason is that I I really wanted to bring my shop vac, jack and jack stands and they would get wet in the truck box without cover, but they’re too large to fit in the tool box. So in a sense I really didn’t plan far enough ahead to think about these things and now I may have to remove the tool box so I can add a cap / shell. If I make any more changes to this truck I will add them here.

Follow Chris Savage:

At age 48 I decided to downsize, minimize and shed things that cause me stress and contribute to my declining health. For 22 years I've spent most of my time indoors in front of a computer. It's time to change that!

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4 Responses

  1. Cheryl
    | Reply

    I grew up in Midwest farm country and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what in the world you were talking about when you wrote, “truck box.” To me, a truck box is a tool box you put in the BED of a pickup. Welp, I learned a new way to use a word today! And that’s always good.

    I have a question about the Nerf bars. Does it work to step on them toes first or do you have to put your foot on sideways? Keep up the good work.

    • Chris Savage
      | Reply

      Cheryl, there’s a reason I used the term, “truck box”. I’m from NY and we always called it the “bed” of the truck as well. However, I think the nomenclature has evolved to remove some ambiguity in referring to the “bed” which is the bottom versus the rest of the box. On a flat-bed, all you have is the bed, unless you installed rails. The bed is what everything sits on. I started using “box” because the last few times I looked at trucks from GMC and Chevy, my options were Short Box, Standard Box or Long Box, referring to the length of the bed. The truck in these photos has a standard box as does my new truck (more coming on that soon). So yeah, I think they refer to it as a box to differentiate between trucks without a bed, flatbeds and box beds. I wouldn’t go so far as to “correct” someone using the term, “bed” though. 😉

      As for the nerf bars, they’re a little more tricky than I expected. I probably wouldn’t get that style again. I like the ones on my new truck better. But on these you can put your foot on straight or sideways on the lower step, but the main bar doesn’t have enough room for more than your toes unless your foot is sideways.

  2. Brinn Mar Nakahara
    | Reply

    Hi Chris,

    I am enjoying your site. I left a message over on Bob’s Cheap RV Living site in the newcomer’s area under the name Cranky Old Hen. I will have to show your site to my husband. We are just entering this realm, ourselves. My husband still works full time. We have been showing our Akitas. We started with one Akita, then got two sisters last fall. Suddenly, our Suburban wasn’t adequate for the job, and we were spending a lot on hotels, so we purchased a travel trailer, then realized that we should get a more heavy duty truck, so we purchased a 2014 Chevy 3/4 ton diesel 4×4….now we are wondering if we will want to go with a 5th wheel which may, at some point necessitate a 1 ton. Time will tell.

    Anyway, you have a nice site here with lots of good information.

    Brinn, aka: Cranky

    • Chris Savage
      | Reply

      Thank you for your compliments on the site. It is a work in progress, barely started. But I am getting there whenever I have power and a cell signal.

      A 5th wheel has many advantages over a travel trailer. One of the main ones is no “sway” issues, since the pivot point is right over the rear axle of the tow vehicle. But there are caveats as well. Bob has interviewed many people on his YouTube videos and if you go to his channel and type “5th wheel” into the search box for his channel you will see at least a dozen videos. I would watch those to see what people say about living in a 5th wheel. Same with Travel Trailers.

      Maybe we’ll see you at the next RTR. Keep checking back on the site as I should have more content up soon. Until next time, safe travels.

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