DECKED Truck Bed Drawer System for Our Overland Chevy Silverado Project
At first glance, it’s easy to think that a pickup would make for the ultimate off-road or overland exploration vehicle. They are tough, rugged, capable, and have loads of storage space. Unfortunately, most of that precious storage space is found in the bed, which is exposed to the elements and lacks any sort of real organizational capability from the factory. Fortunately, there are a host of options for getting gear storage under control.
Tonneau covers can help keep the rain out, but also make accessing items at the front of the bed difficult and offer no real advantage for organization. Toolboxes are a great option, affording both watertight storage and organization, but the typical truck bed toolbox eats up a good deal of bed length and doesn’t allow for installing any sort of rack system in the future. So, what’s the best solution then for those looking to keep the full footprint of the bed while gaining both organization and protection from the elements? Enter the DECKED Drawer System.
The DECKED Drawer System has been around for almost a decade now, and we’ve been fans of both the company and the drawer system since its introduction. DECKED builds its drawer systems from 100-percent recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and recycled steel, and each drawer system is completely designed, engineered, and built right here in the United States. Each DECKED Drawer System is custom-shaped to fit the truck’s bed precisely, and hardly any capability is lost, with the system being capable of holding a full 2,000 pounds (evenly distributed, of course) on its deck and 200 pounds of gear in each drawer.
When we set out to turn our 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD into a full-fledged backcountry exploration rig, we knew we were going to need a DECKED Drawer System for the truck. Overlanding requires a lot of gear, and the ability to keep it all out of the elements (the DECKED Drawer System protects from rain; however, they are not fully sealed and may allow dust to get in), secured from wandering hands, and well-organized is a huge benefit. Plus, we knew that we would be installing some sort of bed rack and rooftop tent, which eliminated both tonneau covers and toolboxes as viable options.
Follow along with us as we dive into what it takes to assemble and install the DECKED Drawer System, and what makes them awesome. We’ll get deeper into loading and using our new drawer system in the near future, so stay tuned to Four Wheeler for updates.
Preparation Is Key
As with any good project involving an older off-road truck, there’s bound to be some dirt that needs evacuating. Prior to starting on the DECKED Drawer System install, we took a pressure washer to the bed of our Silverado in an attempt to remove the years of gunk and grime. A good sweeping with a stiff-bristled brush is typically all newer (cleaner) trucks need.
DECKED ships each of its drawer systems anywhere in the contiguous United States for free. Because of their size, the DECKED drawer systems are required to ship by freight, meaning if you live somewhere that can’t be reached by semi it’s likely better to purchase through a local dealer than direct from DECKED. No matter how you get your drawer system, it will come nested neatly and safely inside a large box, with any accessories that were ordered included as well.
Organization is pretty outstanding from DECKED, with each part’s hardware being packaged individually and clearly labeled. Before starting any project we like to gather all of the hardware and lay it out to be sure we have everything we need and that it’s quickly accessible.
One of the first things worth noting is that although the DECKED drawer system is generally water- and weather-resistant, the four corner “ammo cans” are not. If you’re installing the DECKED drawer system inside a van or in a truck with a bed cover this step is less of an issue. However, for those of us with open pickup beds, it’s important to enlarge these drain holes (some models have no holes from the factory at all).
Mods for Water Control
DECKED recommends expanding the drain holes to ½-inch, which can be done with either a straight drill bit or with a step bit. This will not only allow water to drain but will also serve as a way to prevent small rocks and other trail debris from blocking the drains.
These corner “ammo cans” serve an important purpose for the DECKED drawer system. They provide the attachment points for the outer C-channel drawer track, the outer edge support for the top deck, and are also the attachment point for securing the whole system to the pickup bed. Yeah, they are kind of a big deal. As such, each of the bins has its intended location molded into the bottom for easy locating.
The DECKED drawer system is able to handle up to 2,000 pounds on its deck (evenly distributed, of course). This is thanks in part to the steel ribbing that is molded into the underside of the top deck structure. These steel ribs also serve as the mounting points for the accessory Core Trax 1000 tie-down track system, but more on that later.
Decked really does try hard to keep the elements out of your drawers. For pickup applications, the center rib that joins the two upper deck halves and each of the deck pieces will come with a gasket preinstalled. It’s important to ensure that these gaskets aren’t damaged and that they are lying flat. The gaskets should also have a smooth texture, like neoprene. If they don’t, it’s advised to contact DECKED for the newer gasket set.
Even the bolts have gaskets to help keep water at bay (well, some of them, anyway). DECKED uses these rubber gaskets on the bolts that attach the top deck to the “ammo cans.” The bolts that attach the top deck to the center rib use only a washer since an internal gasket is already in place. It’s the little details.
Power Tools or Elbow Grease?
This one is a bit, well, controversial. Working on trucks as much as we do causes us to tend toward the easiest and quickest methods. DECKED is very clear in the instructions that power tools are not supposed to be employed when assembling the drawer system. In fact, the fasteners only need to be tightened to 27 in-lbs (you read that right—inch-pounds). However, they also recognize that people will ignore this and still use power tools, like we did. So, it’s advised to keep drill chucks on their lightest settings, or, if you’re using a small impact like us, run it on the lightest setting and stop as soon as the bolt snugs. DECKED includes two extra threaded inserts in case you get a bit too spunky. These won’t replace those in the center rib, however, so be extra careful there.
The first half of the DECKED drawer system can be assembled outside of the truck. Then, with the help of a willing buddy, it gets lifted into the bed. Next, the second half of the top deck is bolted to the corner “ammo cans” and then lifted in. The final job of bolting the deck to the center rib is completed from inside the truck bed.
With the main structure of the drawer system in place, attention can be turned to preparing the drawers. Each of the drawers can hold up to 200 pounds of gear, and doing so requires that the guide wheels be stout. Giving extra support to the rear wheels are these angled steel pieces that get bolted into the upper corners of the drawers.
The drawer guide wheels are constructed from tough urethane and feature sealed bearings, which means they are not only silent in operation but will also glide like a greased pig for many years to come. The rear wheels, shown here, attach to the steel corner support and are tightened with a 7/32-inch hex wrench to 90 in-lbs (basically hand-tight).
The Hardest Part
The most frustrating step of installing the DECKED drawer system, especially for the fat-fingered like us, is securing the cab-side J-hooks. These hooks attach to the factory-installed truck bed tie-down hooks, and secure the drawer system through the corner “ammo cans.” The rears hook a certain way, and the attachment is done blind. Really though, the fact that this is the hardest part is a testament to how easy assembly of a DECKED drawer system really is.
More of the small details that make the DECKED drawer system feel premium are these closure caps for the inside of the “ammo cans.” These caps close off the holes that are left open to attach the J-hooks. Without the caps, the cans would be useless as storage compartments, but with them they can be loaded up with small stuff like tie down straps or even trailer-hitch shanks. We love the small details.
Color us surprised when we opened our DECKED shipping box to find that one of the drawer handles had already been installed. Turns out, that’s a thing that DECKED is doing for its customers now. We’ve done enough DECKED drawer installs to know how the handles go together, but for the uninitiated this can be a daunting task. Thankfully, the instructions provided are very detailed and there’s even a YouTube video to aid in the task. Maybe by the time you get your drawer set DECKED will just install both handles … hint, hint …
Speaking of drawers, each of the drawers receives this weatherstripping piece on the front edge. It’s important that the raised lip faces inward; if it’s reversed, the weatherstrip will act as a funnel instead, giving water a free pass to your gear.
Each of the drawers has a hole in the front for—you guessed it—a lock. However, since most modern pickups have locking tailgates, DECKED does not include a lock with the standard kit. A rubber plug is provided to seal the hole.
Upping the Security of DECKED Drawers
However, if your truck is older, like our 2002 Silverado 2500HD, and didn’t come from the factory with a locking tailgate, DECKED offers a matched set of locks and keys that at the time of publishing costs $50, not much for the peace of mind locking drawers provide.
Installing the locks is a straightforward task. First, a metal brace needs to be screwed to the inside of the drawer in the location shown. Since the drawers are essentially plastic (don’t hurt us, we know they are actually HDPE) the screws can be installed with a Phillips driver and a touch of downward pressure. If we’ve learned anything so far, overtightening is bad.
Next, the lock body can be installed. Pay attention to the small tab on the back, as it needs to face up (we won’t make that mistake twice). The lock install is finished by first threading the locking nut onto the lock barrel. Then the lock cylinder gets inserted into the barrel, and finally the latch is screwed on. Just like that, you have locking drawers.
If you’re going to install locks, it can be done either during the installation, as we did, or at any point after. To finish the drawer install, we needed to slide the drawers fully in and attach the front guide wheels to the axles on the center rib. Pro tip: If you shove one of the “ammo can” lids under the drawer, it will lift it just high enough to be able to easily get the wheel in and secured.
The DECKED drawer system install is finished by bolting in the front torsion brace (the long black bar under the drawers), the ruler trim piece, and, of course, the bottle opener.
You’d be impressed to find out just how often the ruler trim piece comes in handy. Not only does it measure up to 34 inches, it also has a grip of handy conversions and a guide to bolt and screw diameters.
To get you started on your way to epic organization, each DECKED drawer system comes with both the smaller DECKED Crossbox and larger D-Box in Desert Tan.
Pick Your Color
Not a huge fan of the Desert Tan color? No worries—DECKED has you covered. Both the Crossbox and D-Box can be had in blue as well. The Crossbox comes with a lift-out toolbox organizer, and the D-Box comes with a pair of movable internal dividers. Both can be purchased separately as well if you want more.
Also included with the DECKED drawer system are a pair of DECKED Drawerganizers. These Drawerganizers are removable, and if you love them so much you’d like bigger ones, DECKED sells the Double Drawerganizer that fits in the same spot but is—you guessed it—twice the size.
Finally, a pair of dividers is included with the drawer system as well. Between the dividers, the Drawerganizers, the Crossbox, and the D-Box, DECKED has you set-up pretty well right out of the gate.
A question we’ve gotten from a few people that have seen our DECKED drawer system is about what you do with the drawer space that doesn’t pull out. Well, it seems that the fine folks at DECKED have thought of that very scenario. The D-Box slides almost perfectly into the space at the rear of the drawer and features a nifty handle in the box’s base that’s perfect for retrieving it from this space. Boom, problem solved.
The full assembly and install of the DECKED drawer system in our 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD took about 4 hours and included recycling the box and pallet. We did it in our driveway with basic hand tools and only needed help to move the two large pieces into the bed. The directions from DECKED are so good that we’re confident it could be assembled even more quickly (you know, without stopping for pictures and such).
Core Trax 1000 Tie-Down Kit
For added versatility, DECKED offers the Core Trax 1000 tie down kit for its drawer systems. The tracks are constructed of 6061-T6 aluminum and powdercoated steel and are custom designed to align with the steel tubes in the DECKED drawer system’s subframe. The kit has a pull-out rating of 500 pounds and comes with four stainless steel attachment loops.
Remember those steel rails that are molded to the underside of the deck? These dimples in the topside of the deck indicate where there’s a steel rail and where it’s safe to attach the Core Trax rail.
The Core Trax rails need to be placed in the two wider grooves on the deck of the drawer system. They will not fit in any of the other, narrower groves. The rails for our full-size shortbed (6.5-foot bed length) measure 58 inches long and can be oriented toward either the cab side or tailgate side of the drawer system.
The Core Trax kit comes with high-quality self-tapping screws for installation. You’ll want to start out with a 5/32-inch pilot hole, making sure to only drill through the top of the steel rail (a ½-inch drill stop will come in handy for this), and then you can run the screws in using a #3 Phillips bit. Note: If you try to use a standard #2 Phillips bit, the screws will strip, and you will have a bad day.
Each kit comes with four spring-loaded stainless steel attachment loops. These loops can be placed at 1-inch increments along the track. If you need more (who doesn’t) they can be ordered from DECKED.
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DECKED Truck Bed Drawer System Install for Our Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Overland Project
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