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Jeep Wrangler JK DIY Tailgate Table (with blueprints)

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We all have a tendency to mostly share only our successes on the internet, whether it's Facebook or a 4x4 forum... But we're all human and in reality sometimes things don't quite work out as planned. With that mind, I figured I'd go ahead and post my 1st attempt at a JK fold-down tailgate table.







So there are a bunch of tables already available, from super-expensive to somewhat reasonable in cost - so why DIY? Honestly the cost wasn't a big factor. Mainly I just enjoy working on these sorts of projects - and well, I think all of the existing ones are ugly (except for the Offroad Trail Tools Tray Table, but it is no longer made)!


My design goals were:


  1. Keep the cost at or below the middle of range that pre-made tables are going for (about $225)
  2. More aesthetically pleasing than all the currently available pre-made ones.
  3. Very rigid/sturdy and be able to lock in the down position as well as when folded-up.
  4. Require no permanent mods to the Jeep (i.e. no drilling holes).
  5. No rattles.
  6. Design something that anyone could easily copy for themselves (keep it simple and require minimal fab skills).

Beyond that, it should do everything all the commercial ones do, at least as good as they do if not better. The only common feature I wasn't interested in was the MOLLE attachments. Mine is going to be used mainly as a kitchen table where spills might occur - it isn't meant to be a storage system.





I used King Starboard for a backsplash and for the table itself... it's similar to a poly kitchen cutting board, but cuts more like wood. It's often used in the marine industry and is sometimes referred to as boat lumber (Seaboard is another brand). It's weatherproof and even FDA approved as a food prep surface.




I ordered the parts pre-cut from Tap Plastics, with the routed (smooth) edges and 1/2" rounded corner options. This was due to my design goal of having everything easy to replicate without requiring good fab skills or special tools.




I still had to drill all the holes and route out one notch in the backsplash. You could probably use a jig-saw to cut the notch if you didn't have a router. The notch with the large hole is for the factory wiring (and my CB/ham antenna cables) to route through.


The backsplash serves multiple purposes. It allowed me to fasten to the tailgate using plastic screw grommets in the factory holes (so no drilling in the Jeep), and then mount the hinges and anything else at any location. It also acts as a true backsplash... The tailgate is full of holes that I could see filling with boiled-over food or other junk at some point if I didn't cover them up.




You can see the little plastic clips already placed in 2 rows of the factory holes in the photo above. The thinnest clips I could find (here...) where still a little too thick for the top row holes, so I had to use a dremmel to thin them down just a bit. I later found that one of the table manufactures sells their grommets separately, so I'd probably purchase those if I had to do it over (here...).


Since I only used 1/4" Starboard for the backsplash, there wasn't enough thickness to screw anything to it. Instead, I used t-nuts on the back to attach everything to it. They are usually used in wood, but the Starboard was soft enough to work with them.




Below you can see the nearly finished backsplash screwed in place, ready to attach the table part. The black square on it is a fold out cup-holder (another one was added to the right side later).




Here's a close-up of the stainless steel marine hinges I used. They lock down and have some clips to hold them in the up position. They're actually meant to be inverted and used for a lift-up seat or table. I bought one to test with first in order to make sure they would hold a 90 degree angle when used upside-down like this.




The hinges are relatively expensive at over $30 each, but one of my goals was to have a table that locked in the "down" position so it couldn't be bumped and send plates flying. The fact these have clips to hold them closed also made me think I wouldn't need any other sort of clasp when the table was up, so the cost seemed reasonable. FYI, there are a couple cheaper brands on Amazon/eBay, but some reviews indicated they had poor tolerances (which might cause rattles), and one brand does not have the hold-closed clips at all.



The (almost) Final Product


The completed first attempt came out looking pretty nice at least, so check off that goal! The cost was under $200, so that goal was also met. It doesn't rattle, and overall the design is easy to replicate, though it needs some improvements before I post blueprints.






So where's the "fail"? Well, I guess the issues really are minor (getting to those). However I really thought that I had planned out the entire thing in my mind and on the computer well enough that I could deliver everything in a single try. Perhaps the real lesson here is in humility.





The Setbacks


The Starboard is quite a bit more flexible than ABS which I was originally going to use, so the 3/8" thinness of the table and the wide span means that it sags a bit (look in the shadow in the photo below).




The second issue was that I got greedy on maximizing width and went past the natural line in the tailgate which extended it wider than where the factory holes are by nearly 2 inches... this meant that the far outside edge isn't well supported. The backsplash can therefore bow out and the hinge will wiggle quite a bit, further adding to the issue of overall sturdiness.




This bowing out of the backsplash also means that the driver's side hinge doesn't close well. If I slam the tailgate hard, the table will actually fold open! I could easily fix that with some magnetic clasps, but it would miss the entire point of these hinges.


Rigidity and simplicity were both major goals that I have to call a miss. You can also see the one extra hole in the backsplash that I mistakenly drilled in the last photo (above). That alone would annoy me forever if I left things as they are!


I could fix the backsplash bowing out and therefore the "staying closed" issue and address some of the rigidity by drilling a hole in the tailgate and attaching the backsplash better on the far end. Again though, that would violate a design goal (no permanent mods to the Jeep).







I was able to use the table several times on our recent Big Bear trip as-is. Most folks would probably just make the fixes I mentioned above, or even leave it alone. However, I'm often a perfectionist, so I'll make this a learning experience and try again. I'll re-use the hinges, cup holders, etc., but get new plastic and make some dimensional changes at the very least.


Having to do it twice will of course blow the budget goal too - but perhaps the final design and blueprints will be useable to others. Stay tuned for the next iteration!



UPDATE: i posted the final plans for a V2 that overcomes all the issues i mentioned here (without needing to drill any holes in the Jeep), and includes a slide-out for more surface area: https://offroadpassport.com/forum/showpost.php?p=47883&postcount=18



Edited by theksmith
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Wow! Great design to attempt to meet some pretty strict requirements.


I would never have thought about installing a backsplash on a DIY build. I like the it and the hinges. The hinges make my SS cables seem kinda crude. :o


The pocket, cup holder, and wine bottle holder are really cool. Where did you source them?


Nice write up!

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Nice job as always, minor tweaks are acceptable to any initial design so don't go beating yourself up.

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thanks guys - yeah i didn't mean to come off too negative. i just had done a lot of planning/designing on this and so i was bummed when it didn't work out quite perfect.


i have a couple other projects in the works right now, so the updated version will have to wait a month or so. the main changes will be to use ABS for the backsplash and shorten the entire thing so that the driver side hinge is mounted with one screw into one of the plastic screw grommets and directly below another one. not sure if i'm going to do a slide-out, in which case i can re-use the main table piece (just shorten it), or if not then i'll need a thicker piece for that in either ABS or Starboard again.


Jim, nearly everything was from Amazon...


- cup holder (same one on both sides, sturdy enough for the wine bottle): http://amzn.to/2axB0g9

- pocket: http://amzn.to/2akoHFy

- all the stainless steel screws, T-nuts, etc. came from http://boltdepot.com

- oh, and i needed thicker (#10) screws to hold well in the plastic clips (the auto parts stores around me only had the standard #8): http://amzn.to/2awwWJD

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I like it. I don't know where you find the time for your projects. I've heard from a lot of women that you are a perfectionist.

  • Haha 1

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it's been over 6 months since the table got created/installed and i have to say that my original complaints seem pretty minor considering it's holding up great and is used constantly.




in fact, it's become such an indispensable accessory that i'll likely never have any reason to remove it. with that in mind, i fixed one of the previous issues. the outer-most hinge was a little wobbly because i mounted it to far past any tailgate anchor points (and it was only mounted to the backsplash which could flex). i went ahead and drilled one hole in the tailgate for that hinge's top bolt and put in a nut-sert. now everything is rock solid.




i'm glad i went with all stainless steel hardware and the Starboard plastic. after any trip where it has gotten all dusty or otherwise nasty, i just wash it off at the car wash along with the rest of the Jeep. no worries of rust or warped wood.




the only other real issue was using too thin of Starboard for the table piece, so it sagged a little in the middle. this hasn't created any real problems, just an OCD issue. i've sat my entire Pelican case of tools/part (~65lbs) on it a few times without it breaking or sagging any further!


instead of replacing with thicker or different material, i'm working on a slide-out extension like the Trailgater and Front Runner one have. i think the aluminum Z-channel that i'm using will stiffen the entire table enough to eliminate the sag.



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That the Front Runner cargo shelf you have in the back of your Jeep as well?

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A little OCD combined with a creative mind leads to some really ingenious solutions.

Using the aluminum channel to stiffen the shelf: cheap fix.

Making it do double duty to add a slide out: priceless!

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Speaking of OCD-ness, I want to correct the title of this thread...

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That the Front Runner cargo shelf you have in the back of your Jeep as well?



yes, got it from a friend used for a great price. also a very useful accessory!

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