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Old 01-12-2021, 04:02 PM   #1
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DIY install of F150 bed rails for 5th wheel hitch

I'm still a few months away from delivery of our 5.0, not much to do except think about what could go wrong. With the Canadian border still closed, there is a good chance I will be installing a Reese custom rail kit in our 2018 F-150 with a 6-1/2' bed. I watched the etrailer video on an install for a 2016, looked easy. Then I watched a DIY video for a 2018 with the 36 gallon tank like mine. He got the job done but it looked like a real pain getting to the bolts under the tank.

Wondering if anyone here, with the 36 gallon tank, has done this installation. Or if you had it done by a shop, do you recall any difficulties the installer mentioned?
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Old 01-12-2021, 06:54 PM   #2
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Looks like Reese makes an updated rail kit with outward facing flanges for mounting to the truck frame. And maybe the Demco kit would do the job for half the price. Darn those etrailer guys! Lots of helpful information but sometimes they make you search a bit.

Still looking for anyone who has installed their own rails with a 36 gallon tank. I'd had to put a drill bit through it.
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:55 PM   #3
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Just installed my Andersen rails and have a small piece of advice. Buy new drill bits. HSS is fine but get a good quality North American bit rather than the offshore cheapies. New bits cut cleaner and are more controllable when they come through near your tank. I paid $35 at KMS Tools for the pilot bit and the 17/32" bit. Cheap when working on a $40,000 pickup.
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Old 01-13-2021, 12:16 AM   #4
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New bits cut cleaner and are more controllable when they come through near your tank.
If there is a real chance of puncturing anything when the bit breaks through and goes too far, use a drill stop collar.
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Old 01-13-2021, 08:07 AM   #5
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At 69 years old I installed the rails in our 2015 F150, 6 1/2' bed, with 36 gallon tank. Getting those forward bolts installed and tight was a bugger! My back said never do it again.

A year later, we traded for a 2019 F150, 6 1/2' bed, 36 gallon tank and had Truck'n America install my hitch. I believe it was around $250-300 for the installation and I had them install the rails 1" closer to the tailgate so I had slightly more room for our tailgate to lower and for me to get into the front storage compartment when the tailgate was up.

There are many items I'll save money and do it myself, but installing the rails is not one of them.

Just make sure the rails are mounted in the correct distance from the tailgate.

At the same time Truck'n America installed the 7 pin plug above the wheel wells. I now don't have to deal with that cord in the way when I'm trying to get into the front storage compartment.

We're currently heading south (last night in Hillsdale State Park, KS) and don't disconnect the trailer for only one night of camping.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 01-13-2021, 10:44 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Perryb67 View Post
At 69 years old I installed the rails in our 2015 F150, 6 1/2' bed, with 36 gallon tank. Getting those forward bolts installed and tight was a bugger! My back said never do it again.
Well I'm only 64 so it should be a piece of cake!

Do you happen to remember what brand of rail you went with? I see that both Reese and Demco make a Ford F150 kit where the flanges for attaching the rails are bent outward rather than inward under the truck frame. Wonder if that makes a difference?
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Old 01-13-2021, 10:48 AM   #7
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Last September I installed Curt rails in the bed of our F150 4WD 6.5 bed with standard gas tank. I used the Curt vehicle specific bracket kit. It is very similar to the standard Reese kit and installs in the same position with the rear rail directly over an underbed cross member with the mounting bolts on each side. So there is no option for a different position unless you use a universal kit that requires drilling into the frame. After installing the rear rail I used the Andersen hitch to locate the front rail. The Curt kit has the 4 tabs bending inward so that the bolts install between the tabs and the frame, a very limited space. Even with the standard tank the front rail has a really restricted operating space. I used a ratcheting closed wrench with an extension handle. I could only access about 1/2 the bolts with my torque wrench and the bracket to frame torque exceeded my wrench max. I had the truck's first service scheduled so my dealer torqued all the bolts to spec for a nominal charge. They said the front caused problems and they had to find a very shallow socket. The Reese outboard bracket and rails seem to put the mounting hardware in a more accessible location with the tabs bending out away from the frame. In hindsight, the Reese outboards seem like a better choice, but I agree with Perry (and I'm a few years older) tightening those bolts without a lift is literally a pain in the back. Good luck with your install. Anxiously waiting for our 5.0 pickup in mid-March.
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Old 01-13-2021, 12:43 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Shearwater View Post
I see that both Reese and Demco make a Ford F150 kit where the flanges for attaching the rails are bent outward rather than inward under the truck frame. Wonder if that makes a difference?
In addition to the ease (or lack thereof) relating to the one-time installation effort, the configuration of the rail mounting brackets can bear on certain other 'suspension enhancements' (e.g. air bags, etc) that you might consider in the future. Bracket interference can be an issue when looking at those sorts of options, which may or may not be of concern.

IME otherwise the particular design / configuration makes no difference, all from the reputable manufacturers mentioned are equally suitable in terms of ultimate quality and capacity. All other things being equal I'd let cost, availability, and going with whatever the installer is familiar with drive the 'brand' decision.
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Old 01-13-2021, 07:32 PM   #9
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Itís interesting; all the install videos for Reese and Curt skip over the last screw that goes into the center of the rail closest to the cab. They show all the preceding 9 and then say something to the effect - finish installing and then torque all the screws. Itís almost funny.
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Old 01-15-2021, 04:11 PM   #10
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After all the good advice here, I've decided to go with a pro install for the bed rails. Too much uncertainty about accessing those middle bolts along with the premium price Reese wants for their outward facing mounting flanges. While I'm at it, I'm having the installer put in my box mount 7 pin socket. Saves me having to buy a new drill, bits and hole saw (my old drill's battery crapped out and a new battery is about what a new drill kit runs...kind of like the free printer HP will sell you when you commit to buying their ink). I'm having the install done next week to avoid the inevitable rush this spring when everyone wants to get ready to go camping.
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Old 01-15-2021, 04:37 PM   #11
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At 71, I will admit I happily paid a local RV Supply (and maintenance) facility to install the rails in my 2020 F-150 with a 6.5-foot bed and 35 gallon fuel tank. I did not have any back pain or scraped knuckles! I also knew from previous installs how frustrating close clearances are, and wasn’t going to put myself through the hassle of another rail installation. IMO, it was money well spent, and avoiding the frustration was worth what I would have saved. I did, however, install the in-bed 7-pin umbilical cord outlet, and modified the wiring to allow me to turn the back-up/rear view camera on and off from the driver’s seat.
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Old 01-16-2021, 12:08 AM   #12
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It makes sense to me to have a business install the under-bed structure for either rails or an in-bed ball, but I would certainly check their work. I have heard of both conventional hitch receivers and flat-towing brackets installed with the less convenient bolts entirely missing. This is certainly a field in which "professional" just means "paid to do work", rather than "having special training, education, or skill" or "subject to codes of conduct by a professional association".
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:23 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
It makes sense to me to have a business install the under-bed structure for either rails or an in-bed ball, but I would certainly check their work. I have heard of both conventional hitch receivers and flat-towing brackets installed with the less convenient bolts entirely missing. This is certainly a field in which "professional" just means "paid to do work", rather than "having special training, education, or skill" or "subject to codes of conduct by a professional association".
I agree entirely, Brian, and I always check this type of work when it is done by others. While there are several ďRV Service CentersĒ in every part of Florida for obvious reasons, there is only one that I personally trust. It is a small operation, but the service people have been there for years. I have never been dissatisfied with their work, although their charge for routine maintenance is a bit high, but that results from geographic location. It seems to me that there is lack of training and high turnover in RV Tech jobs, and that is a big part of the problem. I also know of an individual in his 30s that has his own one man business, but is 100 miles up the road from me. He, too, does not take shortcuts on any of his work.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:16 AM   #14
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I am 2-3 months away from this very problem when my truck gets here. DIY is not an option, so it will be a third party install of rails - to fit an Anderson Ultimate type hitch. The problem is that I have no ability to credibly QA the installation work by some mechanic. The choices are:

- Look to have the Trade Masters in Chilliwack do this work. There is uncertainty that the US-Canada border might still not be open in late May.
- I did scope out a place locally that seems to specialize in hitches. The business began in the 70s building its own turnover ball and receiver hitches.

Any advice would be appreciated.

PS: There are some horror stories (and pictures) around Anderson Ultimate hitch failures where the ball at the top of the pyramid shears off. Not sure how worried one should be around that. So far, keeping that concern at bay with the positive experience here on the forum and modest weight of Escape 5.0.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:23 AM   #15
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Installing bed rails and more in RAM1500

I was going to do it myself with the help of our son but the virus stopped us from working together or socializing. So I went with a long time local shop for the rails, hitch, box and retractable step. I do have about 10 more years on most of you and frequent sore muscles, I made a very good choice to pay people to do the work.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:35 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by kavm View Post
I am 2-3 months away from this very problem when my truck gets here. DIY is not an option, so it will be a third party install of rails - to fit an Anderson Ultimate type hitch. The problem is that I have no ability to credibly QA the installation work by some mechanic. The choices are:

- Look to have the Trade Masters in Chilliwack do this work. There is uncertainty that the US-Canada border might still not be open in late May.
- I did scope out a place locally that seems to specialize in hitches. The business began in the 70s building its own turnover ball and receiver hitches.

Any advice would be appreciated.

PS: There are some horror stories (and pictures) around Anderson Ultimate hitch failures where the ball at the top of the pyramid shears off. Not sure how worried one should be around that. So far, keeping that concern at bay with the positive experience here on the forum and modest weight of Escape 5.0.
There are installation videos on etrailer.com and YouTube you could view to educate yourself on the installation process. I understand you don't want to do the install but it'll give you the knowledge to pick a installer. I watched videos with the intent to install the rails myself but ultimately decided to have them installed. I had to go to three places before I found a shop that I felt comfortable with and they did an excellent job.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:44 AM   #17
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Thank you, Uthorns! I did watch a couple of installation videos. They, of course, differ by the rails manufacturer. The rail kits for my truck (2021 F150 with hybrid PB engine) are not out yet. The manufacturers are either to waiting to confirm their present designs or working on adjustments to the brackets. I have time for that play out, but definitely plan to watch the videos when they are out. The videos focus mainly on the installation of the first rail and leave the installation of the second rail fairly abbreviated. I am not sure how well I can QA that piece of work...
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Old 01-16-2021, 10:00 AM   #18
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I found this video very helpful when installing the Reese rail kit in my truck.

The fact that this guy installed his kit one handed was inspiration enough to convince me that I could install my own rails.

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Old 01-16-2021, 11:10 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
It makes sense to me to have a business install the under-bed structure for either rails or an in-bed ball, but I would certainly check their work. I have heard of both conventional hitch receivers and flat-towing brackets installed with the less convenient bolts entirely missing. This is certainly a field in which "professional" just means "paid to do work", rather than "having special training, education, or skill" or "subject to codes of conduct by a professional association".
I agree in general with this but the shop Iíve chosen gets a lot of good reviews. They are a small independent shop so I feel comfortable with the risk.
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Old 01-16-2021, 11:15 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by kavm View Post
PS: There are some horror stories (and pictures) around Anderson Ultimate hitch failures where the ball at the top of the pyramid shears off. Not sure how worried one should be around that. So far, keeping that concern at bay with the positive experience here on the forum and modest weight of Escape 5.0.
The solution to this concern is to install a conventional 5th Wheel hitch and eliminate the need for safety chains at the same time.
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