Welding DIY, Part 2: Setting up Your First Welding Truck

Here Are 4 Truck-Must-Haves You Can Make Yourself

This is a continuation from our post on setting up your first welding shop (see that post here).

When you first start your own welding business, having a welding truck is a necessity if you are going to do any portable welding. Where we live in beautiful Wyoming, having a welding truck is an absolute necessity for a welder. Many projects are done “out in the field” – where we go to the customer’s location and work on their project. There’s a reason we call it the field – more often than not (especially here), the customer’s location is out in the sticks, many miles from the nearest town, shop or welding supply store. Having not only a welder, but tool boxes, gas cylinders, torches and safety gear on that truck really makes it more of a traveling mini-shop.

With that in mind, here are 4 must-haves for setting up your first welding truck (that you can also make yourself – in your newly furnished shop!).

#1 – Custom Welding Bed

When you find that really tough, durable truck that you want as your welding truck (usually a flatbed), you will naturally want to make your custom bed for it. I mean, some folks just have a regular pickup with the standard truck bed on it , with their portable welder in the back. But in my humble opinion, that is not nearly as effective or as easy to work with; however, in a pinch, it is another option. You can also buy welding beds for trucks, but why spend all that moolah on one when you need the experience of building one, anyhow? And it’s a great way to show off your skills to potential customers when you are sitting in traffic. You know that person in the car behind you will be super jealous at your sweet ride and that you know your way around a welder. Show off!!!

As for the truck itself:

  • In our experience, welding trucks usually have duallys for the rear wheels. Just remember that when planning. That will add much needed stability, as the bed and everything on it can be super heavy! It sort of feels like you are driving a tank – a much smoother tank, but a tank nonetheless. And expect to pay higher gas/diesel bills at the fuel pump. It’s just part of the trade.

For the bed of the truck:

  • The welder usually sits right behind the cab, safely ensconced by toolboxes, cylinders and hose reels. The monster welding machines that we put on these trucks usually have their fuel cap on top, in which case, you will be climbing up on the back of your truck to fuel up the welder. Having a little step at the back is nice for this, too.

If you make your own welding bed, you can do just about anything you want (taking into consideration your state’s vehicle regulations, of course. Check with your state’s Department of Transportation on this). I have seen so many different and unique designs for welding beds just driving around town. Check out the world wide web for ideas if you are wanting some extra inspiration (see links at the bottom of this post!). Let your imagination run wild. Keep costs low by using some scrap where you can. Have fun with it!

Here are some fun extras to think about:

  • Toolboxes embedded in the sides? Sure!
  • Round tail lights or square tail lights? Whatever you want!
  • Hitch for a trailer? Why not!
  • Custom license plate holder? Go for it!
  • Your company’s logo painted, stuck on or welded somewhere on your truck? You had better!
    • Side note about this, though: If you are going to have your company name emblazoned on your vehicle, drive like a sane person. You would not believe (or maybe you would?) how many company trucks cause near accidents just in my town alone. They drive like bats out of you-know-where. Wait til the boss finds out! And if you are the boss driving like that? I would say it’s time to grow up. Be professional when you drive. Drive like you want to keep doing business in your town. Drive like your potential customers are in the vehicle next to you, because they actually might be.

#2 – Spool for Hoses

We have both kinds of spools on our trucks

You will need to have a place just for your oxygen/acetylene hoses (this could work for your welding leads, also). You can buy spools that lock in place and are very handy in keeping things tidy and safe on your work site. You can also build spools yourself! We have both on our truck – a fancy spool or two from the store and a couple of different designs that we made ourselves.

You could place the hoses and leads in tool boxes as well. We have done this in the past before we had the spools in place – just keep in mind that this is more labor intensive and messy. Making a spool is not hard…like the one below that we made, all you really need to make the spool is a piece of plate and a piece of flat bar that is bent into a triangle. We attached this to the side of the toolbox, which works well for our extension cords, but could totally work for hoses and leads if you make them wide enough.

DIY stationary spool – don’t be afraid of paint scratches, either 🙂

If you just have a basic pickup truck and are really wanting a cool set up that I just found out about, check out this website – https://www.alumareel.net/. They have some really amazing configurations for the welder, the spools and a place for your bottles, all on a removable skid that sits in a regular pickup truck box.

#3 – Bottle Racks & Other Storage Options

We covered bottle racks and carts in the previous post, but having a special rack or spot on your welding truck bed for bottles/cylinders is crucial. You will need a way to secure the bottles as you travel. Under no circumstances do you want to just toss them in the back of your regular truck bed and let them roll around back there like a missile waiting to go off. That is a really bad idea!

One way to store oxygen and argon cylinders that seems to be pretty common for welding trucks is standing upright, directly behind the cab of the truck on one side, with the bottom of the bottle resting in a custom designed well that is open on one end for ease in changing out bottles. A long bolt and triangle piece of rubber or metal can be used to keep them secured in place; some folks also use chains to secure them. *Note, acetylene bottles can ONLY be stored upright, never lying on their sides, which is why you will often see welding trucks with both types of storage.

Oxygen and argon can be stored on their sides

As mentioned, another option for bottle storage is to lay the bottles on their side in a long box across the back, or in an open rack just for this purpose. I have seen this done very effectively and might just prefer this option. On one of our truck beds, we have the oxygen and argon laying in a box, so the valves and regulators on the bottles are protected. The hoses run up through the box and one of the spools sits atop that box for the hoses.

#4 – Headache Rack

I realize that not all welding trucks have headache racks. However, they can be a really important part of your welding truck and can have multiple benefits. A headache rack forms a framework of protection around your truck bed and equipment. I have seen them made from small square tube and some grating up to 2 1/2 inch pipe. In my opinion, beefier is better.

A headache rack does the following for your truck & equipment:

  • Similar to a roll cage, it can protect from vehicle accidents where the truck might roll.
  • It can also help protect from falling rock, material or equipment at the job site or during the drive. Some of our work is done on mine sites or construction sites, where there are heavy machines rumbling by. I’m not saying a headache rack will magically protect you in every case, but it certainly can’t hurt to have one.
  • It works as a great place to secure pipe, angle, tube or plate that you might be hauling from your local metal store. Just remember to observe your state DOT’s flagging requirements for anything that might stick out past the bumper of your truck.
  • Often, headache racks will include a plate or grating that covers the back window of the truck. This protects the driver and passenger from anything that could potentially come through the back window.

Headache racks come in a variety of designs. Pick one that will suit your taste, budget and most importantly, one that you can do yourself! This is also another place to show off your amazing welding skillz, so creativity is good!

Some other items to consider

A few smaller things to consider having on your truck bed –

  • A bench vise (you will want to secure this down to the bed – they can mysteriously “disappear” otherwise)
  • A large hammer. We store ours in a tube welded to the back of one of the tool boxes.
  • Spare tire, jack and tire iron. Really, all vehicles should have this, right?
  • Fire extinguisher & first aid kit (usually required by law – check OSHA and MSHA regs).
  • If you do any work on a mine or a large construction site, you may be required to have a buggy whip on your truck so larger vehicles can see you.
  • Backup alarm – usually also required by law for heavy duty work vehicles.
  • The list could go on for pages, but you get the idea. As you do more jobs out in the field, you will find items to add to your truck bed that you find a necessity.

In conclusion, whatever you decide to do for your first welding truck bed, have fun with it! Don’t want to build one from scratch? You can always buy an old welding truck or bed from someone and modify it to your liking. If you have an idea that hasn’t been mentioned here, do it! Just be the safe and law-abiding citizens I know you all to be. If you need ideas on where to start, this is where Pinterest, Google, or Facebook groups dedicated to welding might come in handy. Also, find out from veteran welders what is the easiest and most efficient setup and go from there. Below are some links to get you started:

GWInc.

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