Utes are great workhorses, but the heavy tailgates can sometimes create a problem. Scott Heiman takes a look at a potential solution — a tailgate strut assist system
The origins of the humble ute are hotly contested. Ford would claim that its 1934 Coupe Utility, created at Fishermans Bend in Victoria, marked the genesis of this style of rugged utility vehicle. Others would contend that the 1948 FX Holden was the trailblazer. In fact, both claims would be wrong. The Oldsmobile utility, built in the US in 1903 beats them both to the title of the first commercially produced ute.
Regardless of whose production line generated the first examples of this iconic model, you’d be hard pressed to deny that Australia is the spiritual home of the ute. Utes have featured in the top ten selling cars in this country every month for as many years as you might care to count. And last year, Australia’s top four selling 4x4s in Australia were utes, with seven utes in the top ten! So, it’s no wonder you see them being driven everywhere across this great brown land as the tow-tug of choice for adventurers far and wide.
The only trouble is that ute tailgates weigh approximately 20kg depending on the vehicle and variant. That’s about the same as a jerry can of fuel. And that can be a limiting factor when you’re trying to get a little help from the smaller members of your crew. Because tailgates can easily drop and slam, causing injury.
So, it’s great to find an Australian made solution to a problem that’s been around for as long as utes themselves. Designed to take out 75% of the weight of a standard tailgate, Grunt 4x4’s ‘slow down, easy up’ tailgate strut assist system is available to suit the most popular utes on the market.
This tailgate system is simple enough to install in your back shed and rugged enough to last the course. To install, you’ll need a socket set, screwdriver and, depending on your rig, you may need to drill a couple of holes. For the Hilux, we also needed the help of a small forearm to reach inside the tailgate’s side panels to hold a couple of nuts while we fixed the strut’s bottom bolts. While Grunt 4x4 is not the only manufacturer of tailgate struts, its market differentiator is its rivet head locking system and sturdy stainless-steel construction, which comes with a one-year replacement guarantee.
Once the struts are fixed, life around the rear of the ute suddenly gets a whole lot easier and safer. To lower the tail, simply release the rear latches and the downward strut helps lower the tailgate gently. The other strut assists on the way back up. Use a big finger, or a small hand – either way, it’s easy as.
Which means you may now have a new question to ask your ute’s occupants when you roll up to camp. ‘Who’s turn is it to unpack?’