I want to buy my bf a tool box for his ute. What do I need to know?
January 20, 2014 3:28 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy my bf a tool box for his ute/pick up truck. What do I need to know?

My boyfriend's 30th is coming up and he wants to do an adult apprenticeship as a plumber. He's always going on about wanting to get a proper toolbox to install in his ute (pickup trucks for the USians) - but I have no idea how these work (does it matter what model ute he has? What's good and bad? Do they fit any tools? Where should I look? I'm in Melbourne, Australia. Thank you.
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet to Shopping (7 answers total)
My understanding with ute-based toolboxes is that if you want it to be snug and secure, it has to be custom-fitted. Industrial and car-type areas will usually have places that do this sort of stuff (you've probably driven past dozens of them). These jokers are in Melbourne, give them a call and see what the story is.

If it all gets too hard and expensive, I have yet to meet a plumber who wouldn't appreciate a really kick-ass Leatherman or a super-good LED flashlight.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:45 PM on January 20, 2014

Yes from what I understand ute tray toolboxes are strictly custom affairs. If he wants to weld or secure them himself to the vehicle they sell them at Bunnings and other big-box hardware places. You do need to weld or bolt them to the vehicle; there's the safety issue of heavy contents shifting but there's also the problem of them being a really high theft risk (you might as well hang a sign saying 'power tools inside!'). When your boyfriend wants to insure the contents it'll likely make a difference if you get them fitted.

They vary from really quite small, top-opening ones you might be able to hide in the tray behind the cab (to fit some hand tools and a drill or two) to the kind of boxes that take up the whole tray, open on either side, with their own gas lifts. I've seen utes with whole workshops inside them, vice, workbench, power source and everything.

Does the ute have a separate aluminium or steel tray, one that you can put the sides down, or is it the sort where the tray is integral to the vehicle body, with only a rear door? That'll affect the possibilities: if it's only a rear door ute, then you'll probably only fit a smaller toolbox.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:21 PM on January 20, 2014

I am in the US, so not sure how relevant this is, but I have a box for my Ford F-150. I got it at Sears. They are made to different sizes. I told them the make and model including vin number of my truck and they showed me what would fit. They did the install.

Also, places that sell caps for the bed will often also sell boxes. I suspect if you Google toolboxes with the make and model of the ute with your location, you will have several options. They can be expensive.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:41 PM on January 20, 2014

In the US, there are fairly basic metal boxes about two feet deep that sit behind the pickup truck cab and below the level of the window. These are usually relatively cheap, a few hundred dollars, though it's not unknown to find them used for as little as $25. As pickups in the US vary in size, there are different sizes available.

Large toolboxes that run the length of the truck will be much more costly, possibly thousands of dollars. It's a nice thought that you would want to buy something like this for him, but he would probably want to choose how the boxes will be sized and configured himself. It would be sad to have something like that installed in his truck and find you picked something that wasn't able to carry the things he needs to put in the toolbox.

Some boxes available in the US. These may have different names in Australia, or not work with the type of trucks/utes there.
posted by yohko at 9:48 PM on January 20, 2014

1) Make sure you don't get one with only one lock/latch in the centre - two locks one on either side. The amount of times I've come out of the house and noticed that someone has tried to prise up the lid has been 4. It's a pain in the arse having to walk all the way around the other side of the ute to unlock the second lock, but better that than loose my tools.

2) Don't keep tools or valuable stuff in it.

You can get tool boxes at Bunnings, you can fit them yourself but that requires drilling up into the tray - not down through the fuel hose/petrol tank/gas cylinder.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 9:49 PM on January 20, 2014

As others have said, pickups in the US generally go compact (Ford Ranger), mid-size (Dodge Dakota), and full size (Ford F150, Chevy 1500, Ram 1500 etc). While the length of the bed may vary, it's the width and depth that are more important in this case. Measure the width of the bed at the top, between the rails, and then measure the depth, from the top of the rail to the bottom of the bed. Note the truck's model and year, if you can. That should be all you need.

There are a number of types of toolbox that will mount to a truck's bed. There's the type you can get for under $200 from Sears or an automotive store. These generally sit on the rails (the high sides) of the truck bed and reach all the way to the bottom. There are often provisions for securing the box to the stake pockets in the front corners of the bed, and it can be drilled and bolted through the bottom as well. The cheap ones are made of high-density plastic and are fine for storing rope, chains, and other low-value tools, but they are easily broken into and generally have lousy locks.

A step up from this is the same basic design as above, but in medium-gauge steel. These are generally about $300 to $400 for the better models with good, concealed hinges and recessed lock mechanisms (to deter thieves or prevent padlocks from being attacked easily.) Generally safe to store most tools in.

The standard you'll find in every contractor's truck, though, is the Jobox from Delta. Darn near bomb-proof, when your livelihood depends on your tools, this is what you keep 'em in.

Whatever route you go, don't skimp on the lock. If it looks like a cheap lock you'd find on an office desk, it'll be easily bypassed. I like the style of box that has a protected recess for a padlock; it makes it very difficult to attack the padlock, and if the lock is damaged, it is easily replaced.

This all assumes an open pickup bed. If there's a cap on the truck bed, that changes things greatly. Does it have side doors or just one at the tailgate? In this case, it might be better to just give a card saying "I want to get you a tool box, but you get to pick out the kind that works best for you." Cause, wow. So many variables there.
posted by xedrik at 11:16 PM on January 20, 2014

Thanks so much everyone. This is clearly even more complicated than I thought - I will take the advice about the Leatherman and let him sort this one himself (however once his birthday's over I'll show him the thread because it has some great advice about what to look for!). Many thanks!
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2014

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