With the truck back in my hands on Monday, I was able to schedule it for the A.R.E Z-Series bed shell installation at Custom Camper in Lake City, Georgia, on Wednesday, 9 January.
That meant I had two days to get the truck ready for the installation, so my late afternoon and most of the evening on Monday was spent getting the tonneau cover and it’s weather seals off the truck (easier said than done, it was a 2-hour project in and of itself), then applying RTV Sealant to the bed rail caps in an effort to make sure water can’t migrate under the caps and then into the bed and it’s contents. I saw this with the bed cover despite the addition of the weather seal around the top of the bed rail cap, where the water made its way past the unsealed gaps at the header and under the bed rail cap. I didn’t realize just how much water had gotten in there until the truck came back after sitting at Toyota for a week and found the nylon bag with my jumper cables, etc. covered in mold spots after drawing water up from the BedRug. What a mess.
Anyway, as I said, the first step was pulling the bed rail covers and header off so I could remove all of the adhesive left by the “temporary” weather stripping. It took a good 2 hours of rubbing the adhesive off after softening it up with a heat gun, followed by several passes to remove the last bits of adhesive using a cotton rag soaked with Goo-Gone.
Once that was done I was able to put down a long bead of RTV sealant on the back-side of the bed rail before flipping it over and re-installing it on the truck. In theory, I should have the entire perimeter of the bed rail cap sealed to the top of the truck bed and no water should be able to migrate under the cap and into the bed.
It was Tuesday afternoon before I could finish-up by sealing the header strip and I want to be sure the silicone was fully cured before the shell goes on for maximum water resistance. I will confess, I wasn’t as worried about having a tidy-look to my sealant application since most of it would be hidden from view by the shell once it was installed. However, my Uncle Rae taught me long ago that any job worth doing is worth doing well, even if no one else will ever see it. So, I’d say that I achieved that goal… yet to be proven when the truck goes through it’s first torrential rain storm at interstate speeds without letting water in past my silicone sealant. I’ll have to trust that the Folks at Custom Camper knew how to get a good, weather-tight seal between the bottom edge of the shell and the tops of the bed rail caps.
On the following Wednesday morning, I left the house for Custom Campers at 8:25am, encountering the usual traffic in the usual spots and arrived at 10:30am, 30 minutes ahead of my appointment. They began working on the truck at 11:00am and had it done by 12:45pm; great folks!
The truck looked great with the shell, inside and out, but I did detect some handling changes from the added weight on the back wheels. It served as a reminder that I needed to get the truck into Butler Tire for a 4-wheel alignment so I went ahead and made that appointment using the Tacoma’s hands-free systems: what a great feature! Wayne suggested Thursday at 10:00am would be a good time to come in to the shop so that’s the plan.
I arrived back at home around 1:40pm and Debbie met me in the driveway with an enthusiastic two thumbs-up. Yes, indeed, it finally looked like “our truck” instead of a truck we’d borrowed from someone else. After grabbing a little lunch I headed back out to take care of a few things now that the truck was at home with the shell, including the removal of the three A.R.E. logo’s and the Custom Camper decal from the shell: a couple were on the back glass with logo’s on each side of the shell.
Next up was seeing if the tandem bicycle would fit in the back of the truck with the rear wheel still on the bike. As expected, it came up a little short. But, that’s not a big deal, as we had the same issue when we bought the Erickson tandem back in 1998 when I still had my 1989 Toyota “truck,” the fore-runner of the Tacoma.
So, I’ll have to fabricate a new fixture to hold the tandem upright without it’s wheels that’s tailor-made for the Tacoma given that the covered shell is not nearly as tall as the ’89 Toyota or ’06 Tundra were. No, I’ll need a low-profile fixture this time around.
After thinking on the fixture design for a bit, I turned my attention to the triplet and confirmed the Tacoma could easily accommodate the 9-foot long span between the front fork and center of the rear wheel in much the same way that we carried the triplet on the Tundra. I’ll need to narrow the width of the Yakima rack I put on top of the truck for the triplet, but that’s about it. So, again… we should be good-to-go with our long bikes and the Tacoma, which is the real reason we have a truck with a shell instead of an SUV or a small wagon.
With the important stuff out of the way, I grabbed a few “Hero shots” of the truck for the weekly journal and my blogs and then pulled it into the garage so Debbie could get her car out and run a few errands.