Rut roh, truck bed cracking at tie downs

ski3pin said:
I've never seen one of these brackets. But, to my eyes, that is a bracket that is bolted to the frame with three bolts (we see in the photo. I suspect a fourth) and the single hole goes up through the bottom of the truck bed. The large eye bolt would be installed here. The photo is from underneath looking at the bottom of the truck bed. These look - I'm no engineer - like solid brackets that eliminate bolting (turnbuckles) only to the truckbed.
Thanks for your input ski... I'm seeing that now also. From Stan's reply I'm wondering why he said these brackets are for the front bolts only. I'd imagine that these brackets will be using the existing eyebolt locations.
We plan on taking the rig up to Woodland as soon as we first take care of other issues with the F-150 including the dreaded "Service AdvanceTrac" warning light that implies immediate attention and which can cause loss of steering and control.
Ever have one of those years where absolutely everything in your life seems to be breaking? 2023 has been that for us to the max!
 
daverave said:
Thanks for your input ski... I'm seeing that now also. From Stan's reply I'm wondering why he said these brackets are for the front bolts only. I'd imagine that these brackets will be using the existing eyebolt locations.
We plan on taking the rig up to Woodland as soon as we first take care of other issues with the F-150 including the dreaded "Service AdvanceTrac" warning light that implies immediate attention and which can cause loss of steering and control.
Ever have one of those years where absolutely everything in your life seems to be breaking? 2023 has been that for us to the max!
I would not assume the existing holes will line up. I would hope so but suspect, on a new camper installation, the brackets are installed and then the hole in the bed drilled. I expect these brackets are for the front holes only, as Stan said.

Hope things turn around and the coming year is much better! :)
 
Hi Dave,

I had a 2014 F150and had a similar problem. IN 2021 I got a new F150 I bought the mule brackets. Mule was very helpful for me-their instructions are pretty weak. This is what I received from Mule:

" I've been out in the shop while they have been installing them, but never installed a set myself. What I've typically seen done is they stick all 4 of the bolts through the holes in the frame so that they look kind of like studs sticking out. Doug will then typically wrap a piece of masking tape around the end of the bolt at the frame to keep it from pushing in when he slides the bracket over the "studs" . Once the bracket is on he uses a regular nut (non locking) and an impact to buzz them on fast enough that they just eventually tighten up."



The truck bed indentations led to not a "perfect fit" but I made it work. They seem pretty bomb proof. I can attach a few photos. No extra drilling was neccessary and they are attached through existing holes in the truck bed. I still used the plates. HOnestly, I haven't taken my camper off much but haven't noticed any cracking.


daverave said:
Does anyone here have a better understanding of the Mule front camper tie-down brackets or better yet have them on their rig? Are they attached to the front end of the truck box on the bottom or the sides?
The Mule website doesn't have much in the way of showing how they get installed or how they interface with the camper body just a poor photo of.... something per the attached photo.
 
Sorry for the double post but pic attached IMG_2665.jpeg
 
Ruck_and_Roll said:
I had a 2014 F150 and had a similar problem. IN 2021 I got a new F150 I bought the mule brackets. Mule was very helpful for me-their instructions are pretty weak. This is what I received from Mule:

" I've been out in the shop while they have been installing them, but never installed a set myself. What I've typically seen done is they stick all 4 of the bolts through the holes in the frame so that they look kind of like studs sticking out. Doug will then typically wrap a piece of masking tape around the end of the bolt at the frame to keep it from pushing in when he slides the bracket over the "studs" . Once the bracket is on he uses a regular nut (non locking) and an impact to buzz them on fast enough that they just eventually tighten up."

The truck bed indentations led to not a "perfect fit" but I made it work. They seem pretty bomb proof. I can attach a few photos. No extra drilling was neccessary and they are attached through existing holes in the truck bed. I still used the plates. HOnestly, I haven't taken my camper off much but haven't noticed any cracking.
Thanks for sharing R+R, the photo really helps me understand the orientation. Glad there is no additional drilling.
So which "plates" are you still using?
Also what did you do when you had a similar problem on your 2014 F150?
Cheers
Dave
 
UPDATE:
I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath for the rest of the story and unfortunately the jury is still out.

Well another couple of months has gone by and we've been stuck at home with our busted truck and bed at a time of year when we would normally do at least two trips to the NorCal coast. The delay is due to the fact that the welding/body shop we are using in Woodland is booked to the gills with work and could not get us in until today 2/12. We had hoped to do a three week DV/Mojave trip starting Thursday but that's on hold too.

Anyway we were at the FWC shop in Woodland at 8am this morning to have the camper removed [gratis, thanks FWC] and the truck bed damage was significantly worse than expected with a lot of deformation of the sheet metal bed and sidewalls [see attached photos]. We took it to the welding shop and it was more work than they expected based on the underside photos I had shared with them earlier. They are currently coming up with a new estimate and I expect that it will take a few days to do the work rather than the one day I had anticipated. We've also ordered today a set of the front bolt Mule Expedition tie-down brackets as shown above in the thread and suggested by Stan at FWC upthread. If they work that should go a long way to solving the problem. However in talking to Mule they explained that they were specifically designed to work with the Ford aluminum truck bed frame and they did not know if it would work on our steel bed frame as they are designed to be no-drill, utilizing existing holes in the frame of the aluminum bed truck. So that solution may be out the window since no one, including me, is interested in drilling additional holes in our frame. Apparently no one has ever attempted this application with the Mule bracket product to their knowledge.

We are scheduled to have the camper re-installed on the truck next Wednesday at FWC. It will be either the Mule front brackets if the holes align the same and with standard FWC turnbuckle tie-downs in the rear or standard FWC tie-downs in all four corners. We are debating whether we should add additional plates top-side of the bed but it does not seem that would do much to restrict the heaving that created the cracking and deformation in the first place. The consensus is that we had hit a bump or whoop-de-do and the camper had tried to launch from the bed. I must admit that does occur on occasion but I'd always thought that the turnbuckles would fail first in that event.

It was also implied that we'd let the turnbuckles get too loose thereby allowing the heaving to occur or that I had over-tightened them. Most likely the latter since like I mentioned in the original post I'm pretty diligent at checking/maintaining the turnbuckles. Now I'm not sure what the proper amount of tightening is...
Again it behooves camper owners, if you've read this far, to occasionally check the status of the tie-downs from the underside of your truck bed,
To be continued...
 

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I myself are not impressed by the FWC mounting system. Having the eyebolts installed like they do and the type of turnbuckles that are used makes me nervous. Would love to see the structural calcs they use.
 
SlowernOlder said:
I myself are not impressed by the FWC mounting system. Having the eyebolts installed like they do and the type of turnbuckles that are used makes me nervous. Would love to see the structural calcs they use.
Structural calcs? They might assess the turnbuckles and forged eye bolts they supply or recommend because that analysis is relatively simple for assumed loads and those parts are rated by their manufacturer, but I highly doubt they have analyzed any truck beds for anything other than simple shear stress around the perimeter of their plates for yield. It would be very difficult to do bending and fatigue analysis of the complex shapes involved without doing a finite element model of each configuration, and I can’t imagine they’ve done that. It’s a pretty specialized computer modeling skill.
 
Rut roh, hopefully final installment.... plus a bit of a trip report.
Got the truck back from Lindstrom's Body Shop in Woodland (just a few minutes from the FWC factory) more or less on time and on budget. Their work looked impeccable especially after painting. Drove over to FWC where they installed the camper back on the truck using the original four turnbuckle bolt locations. The Mule Expeditions brackets will not work on the 2013 F150 steel bed as the bolt holes do not line up with the holes on an aluminum frame, later model F150. We returned the brackets to Das Mule for a refund minus shipping costs.
Left the next day for a long awaited trip to Panamint and Death Valleys to see the lakes(s) and impacts of the weather events of the last eight months. Death Valley has changed considerably and the backcountry roads are not what, or even exactly where, they used to be. There has been a hellacious amount of grading done which has deepened the road beds and pushed up quite large berms on both sides of sand and gravel roads. It was often difficult to find places with enough room to just pull over to get out of our vehicle and/or to pass on-coming traffic. A NPS contractor explained and complained that this was due to the regulations regarding wilderness designations which often begin just behind the road edge so they cannot feather out that much debris into the wilderness areas.
Had a great trip despite the worst winds we have ever experienced in DV in probably a couple of dozen trips there. This was during the last week of February and first week of March when apparently Lake Manly got pushed a couple of miles to the north from the incessant prevailing winds from the south and southeast. The wind and dust was a drag for hours daily necessitating exploration in east-west canyons or at a local saloon for some respite.
As an aside, note that the Greenwater Road now requires a permit from the visitor center in order to camp overnight just as has been done in Echo and Hole-in-the-Wall canyons for a couple of years now (a good thing) except the Greenwater does not have designated campsites. The ranger claimed that the Greenwater area has seen severe impacts from camping (insert eye-rolling emoji here.) I don't know how they expect you to get a permit if you are coming up from Shoshone and want to camp on the south end.
[Photo from our two night campsite in Echo Canyon behind a large rock which mitigated the winds.]2024_02_29_4108-PS-no jo (Medium).jpg
Happy trails!
Dave
 
What did the body shop do to strengthen you tiedowns? I am interested in this thread because I have a 2017 Grandby on a 2008 Dodge 2500 that I have had cracking around the tiedown points. My truck has made a dozen or more trips to Baja carrying first, my 1998 FWC Ranger II shell, and second, my Grandby. It is a short wheelbase with the camper hanging out on the tailgate.

In Baja every town has "topes" which is their word for speedbumps. Not all of them are marked so you inevitably hit some of them at higher than the 5 mph that they are designed for. That sudden shock really takes its toll on your suspension, and in my case, because the suspension on the 2500 is so stiff it puts a real load on the camper tie down. That along with potholes etc is how I ended up with the cracks. I tend to agree that fastening the camper down to sheet metal is not a good idea, even with backing plates (which were installed by FWC when the first mounted my camper). My welder agrees.

What my welder did was to make a couple of large "L" brackets out of 1/2" x 2" steel which he welded to the frame of the truck. They are positioned directly under the original tiedown holes so the new holes would be drilled to line up. So now the camper is mounted to the frame. My rear tiedowns were not a problem as they were drilled through a crossmember and seem to be solid.

I had a problem with my Ranger II model, first one of the tiedown pulled through the 3/4" plywood floor, so I moved the tiedown forward and reinforced it with a 4" metal plate. Then the next time it broke the bolt that the tiedown loop was threaded onto.

I came away with the conclusion that if you just make it stronger, something else will break next time. Check your tiedowns!
 
camper rich said:
What did the body shop do to strengthen you tiedowns? Nothing really other than getting the bed back to what it was originally.

I came away with the conclusion that if you just make it stronger, something else will break next time. WORD! I fully expect that this issue will raise it's head again at some point in the next 100k miles. It just seems inevitable that something will get in the way, not be seen, and the camper will buck and something will break.

Check your tiedowns! The crux bit of information that came out of this lengthy ordeal to share with the forum.
 
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