The idea of a drop down rear door table in a 4WD is nothing new. Every wagon owning man and his dog has come up with some solution to preparing his lunch on the back door during a quick track side break. As far as I’m aware, a rear door table is one of the only things that can’t be bought off the shelf to suit your vehicle; you’ve gotta put your own brains and DIY skills to the test for this one!
My idea behind building a drop down table for my Nissan Patrol is that it should be as light as possible and not too bulky, I would be even happier if it doesn’t look too out of place and I may even trim it to suit the interior of the vehicle someday. The original door card on my vehicle got damaged and went missing long ago, so I opted to make a new one with something easy to clean. Kind of like the splash back in your kitchen.
I started by giving the door a good clean up. Years of accumulated red dust and mud, and whole lot of Butyl tape (the sticky black goop that holds the plastic sheet on) is what I had to contend with. Also, now is the time to think now about whether you would like to have a light above your table for knocking together those late night snacks. You could run a wire through the body of your door before you screw it all together and mount something like an SCA Strip Light inside the door frame like I did.
You might also have a few cavities inside your door; perfect for hiding those rarely needed spare parts! I managed to fit a full set of radiator hoses and some spare wheel bearings in the door before I screwed my new galvanised door trim in place. I haven’t designed them to be instantly accessible, if I’ve busted a wheel bearing in the middle of nowhere I’ve got a much bigger job ahead than 10 minutes to unscrew the panel! Just be sure nothing you stick in there fouls on the door mechanism or it might end up stuck closed forever!
A piece of galvanized sheet metal forms the new door skin at a cost of $30. It’s best to measure, cut and repeat in small amounts to get the best fit. Screws to hold it in place allow access to any spare parts you’ve hidden, and a bit of foam tape between the sheet metal and the door will help to stop any rattles. Be wary of and wiring that runs within the door, you don’t want to hit that and turn a simple job into a stressful one!
What the actual table is made from is a matter of choice. Most people use plywood, but that’s too thick and bulky for my liking. A trip to the salvage yard turned up a 3mm thick piece of aluminium in just about the perfect size. It flexes a little and won’t take as much weight as plywood without bowing; but this is a small food prep table not a work bench. Three hinges at the bottom of the table allow it to…well, hinge. They are a couple of dollars each at the local hardware store. I attached the hinges to the table using pop rivets, and screwed them into the car door using screws with a low profile head to allow my hinged to close fully.
Now you just need to limit how far the table drops and support it. A small chain is a popular option, but if you hadn’t guessed it already; I hate rattles. Grab some wire rope from the same hardware store you got the hinges and some crimp on joiners to tie it all up. These can be crimped with a pair of SCA Locking Pliers if you have tough hands.
The last step is finding a way to hold the table up when not in use. Elastic toggles like those used on ute tonneau covers is the way to go. Again they will prevent rattles and with the small mass of the table it will hold quite tight. Unfortunately they only come in packs of way more than you will need, but you can find the Tuff Tonneaus Rope Buttons and Tuff Tonneaus Bunji Cords at Supercheap Auto.
And there you have it! Nobody ever complained about too many tables to put things down on, and you’ve just added probably the handiest mod to your vehicle possible for under $100!
G’day! I’m Alex Garner. When I’m not working part time in store, I live and breathe 4wding, camping and everything outdoor adventure. If you want to discover the greatest campsites, drive the greatest tracks and read more reviews on the best gear (like you have just done here); you can find all this and more at www.intentsoffroad.com