Ford Expedition Custom Rear Toolbox


I got a 2015 Ford Expedition EL about 6 months ago. I absolutely love it but ever since I got it, I have had nowhere to put my tools that I usually carry with me. Most of the solutions I found were either really expensive or not practical for what I wanted. Read more to see what I came up with.

I was spoiled by my 2011 Chrysler Town & Country that I sold when I got the Expedition. It had storage EVERYWHERE. The compartments that were huge and super convenient were the ones where the middle row of seats fold down into the floor. Those compartments are where I kept my receiver hitches, socket set, disk golf discs and a bunch of other stuff for emergencies. I hardly ever folded the middle row of seats, so it worked out great.

The expedition however only has a small plastic tray in the back with an awkward divider thing and a teeny bit of space to shove some small things around the jack in the back. It wasn’t enough. I quickly got tired of my socket set sliding around in the back and the concern that if I got in a wreck I was going to get hit in the head with a loose receiver hitch and ball that was also rolling around back there.

I did some research into drawer units, but they are REALLY expensive and overkill for what I am trying to do.

I grabbed one of my free/leftover filing cabinets with the thought of building my own drawer system (this is DIY Metal Fabrication after all). The drawer rails and drawers (once cut down to size) would have worked perfectly.

To complicate matters though, the Expedition doesn’t have a flat floor like most SUV’s. There is a depression in the floor that houses the jack and weird plastic tray thing I mentioned earlier. Also with a drawer system in there, I would be unable to lower the spare tire because towards the rear of the vehicle where the jack is, there is a plug in the floor to access the crank to lower the spare. My other requirement was also not met in that I didn’t want to reduce the storage space inside the truck since we regularly fill it up for lake / road trips. In the end I decided a drawer system really wouldn’t have been a best pick.

Tearing things apart

One night after probably too much coffee… I ripped it apart (taking things apart is kind of my specialty). Sometimes you just gotta get started and improvise as you go.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Factory. Notice my receiver hitch, toolbox, and other junk that had been rolling around back there.

As a side note, the white box on top of the left fenderwell in the picture above is a well stocked first aid kit. I just used velcro strips to attach it. Since it is on the drivers side, it doesn’t block my view and hasn’t been in the way at all. It is also easy to identify and access. So far the only thing I have used out of it is a band-aid, but I should really do a separate article on emergency preparedness.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Starting Disassembly. There is A LOT of wasted space around/under that plastic tray and divider thing.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
The jack retaining stud just screws out of a threaded nutsert in the floor. The plug to the top right of it is where the crank to lower the spare tire is, so make sure whatever you do, it is still accessible!

Prototyping

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
All cleaned out. It is actually pretty big in there. The depression in the floor is maybe an extra 4″ or so.


Random side note: I was a little concerned about having Independent Rear Suspension when I got this truck since I tow a lot. When I was growing up I was always taught/believed ‘real trucks have solid rear axles’, but now understand why manufacturers made the change. This is one of the smoothest driving and quietest vehicles I have ever driven. Also, these have way more room on the inside and the seats fold flat to the floor vs older SUV’s that had solid axles in the rear where the rear set of seats didn’t go into the floor at all and there was no leg room in the 3rd row. I think most of the current model Suburban / Yukon / Expedition / Armada, etc. have changed to IRS now. Having IRS hasn’t caused any issues or even really mattered yet, guess we will see for long term tire wear.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Mocking up with some scraps. That is a 2×6 at the front and 2×4 at the rear
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Measured and cut the cross boards.

The sharpie line toward the rear was my go/no go line for closing the tailgate. It was a little further toward the front in that pocket where the latch mechanism is.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Had to notch the rear of the side boards to fit over the plastic wall pieces. Just hacked them up with a sawzall.
I don’t have much for wood working tools, I imagine a scroll saw could have made this fancy cut easily. It won’t be visible anyways, so it doesn’t need to be pretty.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Main frame mocked up!
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Cut a top out of plywood (If I bought some, I probably would have used something nicer but this was a scrap from the shop build)
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
The new box only sticks up about 1.5″ taller than what was there. This is important because I didn’t want to lose much if any storage space. I have had this thing packed floor to ceiling many times already.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Looking at it here, I decided to do a 60/40 split lid to match the seat arrangement. The cargo mat came with the truck, I decided it might be cool to include it in the build.

Adding hinges

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Mounted my hinges. Three on the small side and four on the bigger side.

Fastening down the box and lid

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Since the front of the box butts up against the seat brackets, I decided it would be easy to use a seat bolt/hole to fasten down the box. Zipped out one of the bolts and rummaged through my junk box until I found this random bracket.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Drilled some holes and banged it in the vice with a hammer. Voila!
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Drilled and installed the latches. Three on the big side and two on the small side. I pre-drilled all of my holes but still got a little crack-age in the plywood. Oh well, should be fine.

Toolbox Lighting and Door Shocks

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Looking good! Got some door shocks installed. The cargo lamp does a great job of lighting up the toolbox.


The cargo lamp lights it up nicely when the lid is up. I converted the whole truck to LED shortly after I got it. I tend to leave the doors open often when I am working on stuff and didn’t want to wear the battery down or get stranded with a dead battery. There is no way to turn off the dome lights and they stay on for around 10 minutes every time one of the doors is opened.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
I also added LED puddle lights. My goal was to get the voltage draw while the truck was off as low as possible. The fact that it looks cool is just a bonus 😉

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Pulled it back out again to add some weatherstripping in the areas that would contact the floor. This is both to keep it quiet and make up for some irregularities (stampings, bumps, brackets) in the floor.

Fastening the box down

No point in building the box if the box ejected itself in a wreck or something. I decided to fasten it down pretty good. In addition to the seat bolt, I also have four other bolts holding it down.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
There were a couple of plugs in the rear where the body mount bolts are. After taking them out, there was quite a bit of clear space beneath where I could tell there were no wires, fuel lines, or anything interfering. Drilled two 3/8″ holes and put some 1/4″ nutserts in them.

What is a RivetNut / Nutsert tool and how do I use it?

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
All fastened down. These two holes are the only things I have modified on the actual truck with this project. It probably would have been fine without but a little overkill doesn’t hurt. If I ever do go back to stock these would be hidden under carpet and nobody would know or care that they are there. The cool thing about nutserts is that they have a great factory looking appearance.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
This view is from the inside of the box looking towards the rear. I re-used the two bolts that were holding down the latch for the factory plastic cover thing. The two angle brackets are just hardware store wood brackets.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Pic of the bracket and seat mount bolt. This thing isn’t going anywhere.
It is kind of tight in there so my Sharpie marks are super special while I was marking the bracket so I could take the box out and screw the bracket on.

Working on the details and door shocks

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Sliced up my cargo mat with some tin snips to match the split floor. Fastened to the lid using the tiny black screws that came with my hinges since I used my own beefier screws on the hinges themselves.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Cargo mat all fastened down!

I had never used them before, but these toggle latches are really cool. To adjust how tight they latch, all you do is twist the head. I thought about trying to find locking ones but that would have been overkill since the box will be inside of a locked truck anyways. I would call my truck tools my ‘tier 2’ tools. They are the duplicate / old / retired tools from the shop that have already paid their due or were cheap to begin with.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Right side up!
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Left side up! This is the part where I discovered one shock was not quite enough to hold up the big side with the added weight of the cargo mat.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
I had to of course throw my tools in there to test it out. I will eventually use some toolbox liner or something but for now a rubber backed carpet rug stolen from the house works just fine.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
While messing around on top of the box I noticed it flexed a little while I was crawling around on it. Fixed both the flexing issue and door staying up issue by adding another crossmember and two more shocks. The crossmember is a random 2×4 from my scrap pile that somebody had ripped down to ~2×2.5. So it wasn’t quite as wide as a normal 2×4.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Fully loaded toolbox. I am super happy with it. Everything that I wanted to put in there fit with some room to spare.

I forgot to take a picture of them but on each side of the box at the front and the rear (total of 4, one at each corner), I bolted on some tie downs. This will give me a hefty place to strap down to.

What do I keep in my truck toolbox?

I try to keep tools and supplies with me that I know would get me out of ‘most’ situations without being ridiculous or excessive. Here is a high level list of my typical inventory:

  • Disc golf discs
  • Socket set
  • Lots of ratcheting tie down straps and some bungee cords
  • Hand tools (screw driver, flat head, hammer, knife, pliers, etc.)
  • Reflective rain repellant jacket
  • Jumper cables / emergency kit
  • Tow strap
  • Tire plug kit
  • First aid kit
  • Umbrella
  • Gloves
  • Sometimes a battery powered drill with drill bits and a bit set
  • A couple of flashlights and spare batteries (The free harbor freight flashlights are great for this)
  • Extra bottles of water
  • Usually a couple of moving blankets or old quilts / comforters

I try not to go crazy or add a lot of weight. I do have enough tools on hand though to make most minor household / roadside repairs away from home. There are also enough supplies for the family to have water, warmth, and medical attention if an emergency happened since this is our roadtrip vehicle.

Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
View from inside with the seats folded. This gap is here in the factory configuration, there is just a flap that covers it. I will eventually add my own flap or might just take the factory one and attach it on here somehow.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
Seats up, the gap is pretty small and mostly obscured by the lip on the cargo mat.
Ford Expedition Rear SUV Storage Toolbox Compartment Drawer Trunk
All done for now!

I will eventually finish this up by painting/carpeting it and making a flap that covers the gap to the seats. I am super happy with it the way it is now though.

I had initially wanted to build this out of metal but all of my metalworking gear is buried since I am still working on the shop. I didn’t buy any materials for this project other than hinges, latches, and door shocks. The rest of it was all scraps from the shop build.

In all actuality this could have been a lot nicer and more compact if it was built out of MDF similar to how a subwoofer box is built instead of 2×4’s. My excuses for that right now is that wood is expensive and I don’t have a table or track saw so the cuts would have looked like crap. Really my point here is that it doesn’t matter, use what you have and make something that makes your life more efficient or easier.

Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

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