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Troubleshooting Article Archive:  July 2005          
Proper Equipment Mounting is Your Truck's Foundation
In my last column, I talked about troubleshooting the taillight converter on tow trucks with import chassis.  In this column, I'll address another troubleshooting challenge that comes with import chassis:  equipment mounting.

Like most truck-mounted equipment, tow truck beds mount to the truck chassis by means of mounting brackets that bolt onto the outside of the chassis frame.  The mounting brackets fit easily onto most domestic chassis, which, like the chassis in the upper photograph above, tend to have "clean" frame rails from the back of the cab rearward.  That is, the frame rails are bare and free of hardware that would get in the way of the brackets.  Import chassis, on the other hand, often come with lots of hardware on the frame rails behind the back of the cab, as in the lower photograph.  When the bed installer attempts to install the tow truck bed while working around the hardware on the frame, using brackets shaped like a jigsaw puzzle piece, using extra-thin bolts and spacers, a less-than-sturdy piece of equipment sometimes results.  

So how should equipment be mounted to a truck chassis?  Here's some dos and don'ts.

Equipment should be mounted:
With large, good quality nuts and bolts, preferably frame bolts, and lots of them;
To the vertical "web" surface of the frame rail, not to the top and bottom flanges;
Flat against the frame rail, without any gap or spacers;
With thick, generously sized brackets;
In a way that does not compromise the integrity of the chassis frame.

Equipment should not be mounted:
With too-small nuts and bolts, and too few of them;
To the flanges of the frame rails;
With a gap or spacers between the frame rail and the mounting brackets;
With spindly, contorted brackets that look like a jigsaw puzzle piece;
In a way that compromises the integrity of the chassis frame.  (This means no welding to the frame unless the mounting's at the very rear end of the chassis.  This also means no drilling into frame flanges.)

When you check out a new truck or evaluate an old one, it's a lot less glamorous to roll around looking at greasy frame mounts than it is to admire the paint job or the wheel simulators.  For that reason equipment mounting issues tend to get glossed over.  However, proper equipment mounting is the very foundation of your entire rig, and it pays to do some "preventive troubleshooting" by looking at the chassis and the bed and determining exactly how the two will fit together for a firm, lasting installation.