5 DIY Headache Rack Plans You Can Make Today (with Pictures)
If you haul heavy loads in your truck, you already know what a headache rack is. If you don’t: it’s a metal bulkhead that fits across the back window of a pickup. Headache racks offer an extra layer of protection in case heavy cargo comes loose due to an impact or sudden stop — without them, flying objects could break the window and injure the driver and passengers.
There are other benefits, too. Headache racks shade the inside of your cabin and keep it cool. They’re also great for mounting other accessories like rear lights. Unfortunately, aftermarket headache racks are too often flimsy, untrustworthy, overpriced, or all three.
These free plans will teach you how to build a headache rack. A word of caution, though. Headache racks aren’t as popular among DIY enthusiasts as, say, shoe organizers, so these plans are a bit rougher around the edges than our usual fare. Just trust your skills and your fellow crafters, and you should be able to fill in the gaps all right.
The 5 DIY Headache Rack Plans You Can Make Today
1. Frontier Headache Rack by DIY Attempt
We thought we’d start with DIY (Attempt), since we appreciate how honest they are about their project win rate. That said, this Alaska-style headache rack isn’t an attempt — it’s a full-on success.
The rack starts with a base that fits in your truck’s bed, then adds everything else on top of the first bar. It’s strong, useful, and harmonizes well with the look of any truck.
- Welding torch
- Steel chop saw
- Pipe bender
- Paint brush
- 1½” angle iron
- Square tubing
- Round tubing
- Black paint
2. DIY Headache Rack by YourMechanic
YourMechanic offers a straightforward, detailed guide to building a DIY headache rack than can handle almost any commercial load. This plan starts with the very first measurements, and goes all the way through to installation in 19 steps (some optional).
We advise following all the recommendations in here, especially the warning about installing the rack with at least an inch of clearance from the window.
- Ratchet with sockets
- Steel chop saw
- Tape measure
- 30 feet of 2″ x ¼” square steel tubing
- (21) ½”x 4″ x ½” steel plates
- 8½” x 3″ grade 8 bolts with lock washers
3. Homemade DIY Headache Rack by Powerstroke
UNDERCOVER_73 on the Powerstroke forums built his own headache rack for the first time, and it looks like it went OK. This plan provides a complete list of tools and supplies, but the rest of it is conveyed entirely through pictures, so reconstructing his work is definitely an expert-level project. If you’re up for the challenge, use this guide to learn how to build a headache rack of your own.
- Reciprocating saw
- Measuring tape
- Ratchet kit
- ¼” steel
- Box tubing
- ⅛” steel
- ¼” angle iron
- Grade 8 Bolts
- Black spray paint
4. DIY Headache Rack by rparcels
Reddit’s r/DIY community is a hotbed of fantastic design ideas. One of our favorites happens to be this homemade headache rack by user rparcels. You can check out his post above, or go directly to the project album on Imgur.
This rack was made to fit a 2010 GMC Canyon, but it’s easy to adjust the measurements to fit your own truck. It protects your back window with four sturdy bars connected by smaller struts.
- Chop saw with metal-cutting blade
- Angle grinder
- Stick welder
- Drill press
- 2″ x 2″ square metal channels
- 5″ x 0.5″ metal bars
- Flat metal plates
5. DIY Headache Rack by WikiHow
We can’t credit an author for this headache rack design from WikiHow, because the people that worked on it preferred to stay anonymous. But we don’t need to know their names to know their metalwork is sound.
This design is one of the easiest, clearest plans for building and installing a headache rack we’ve ever seen; out of the whole list, it’s the one we’d suggest for beginners. It’s designed for a 1991 Ford, but can be altered for your own truck if you measure your rear window first.
- Chop saw
- 25 feet of 1½” square tubing
- 2 feet of ¼” x 1½” sheet metal
Featured Image Credit: Erik Mclean, Unsplash