Headache Racks

Updated Apr 14, 2014

Rockin’ Racks

Custom and customizable cab-protecting barriers for those seeking function with form

by Larry D. Walton

Form and function come together in many of the headache racks we’ve spotted in our recent travels.

Cab protectors in general are designed to prevent expensive cab damage (and worse) by stopping the intrusion of objects in motion that want to stay in motion, to paraphrase my high-school physics teacher.

Ranch Hand makes three levels of headache racks: light duty, rack and Hauler, which is seen here. The Hauler comes equipped with lights, but the window cutout is optional. It must be installed with Ranch Hand’s short or long bed rails. Ranch Hand; ranchhand.com; (800)366-9712

Cab damage can occur during the loading of the bed, like an employee tossing a piece of rebar or wood into the bed, or from the load shifting under hard braking or impact that allows it to continue on its path according to the laws of motion.

If the cargo has enough mass and the stopping of the pickup is sufficiently abrupt, something’s coming into the cab to do some damage unless appropriate protection is in place.

Landscapers often cringe at the sight of their guys throwing prunings, pipes, hand tools and hardscape scraps into their pickups.

That sound of breaking glass means you just spent a quick $1,000 or more just to replace the rear window. So much for that day’s profit.

This new look by Backbone features their skull screen design, powder coat with beveled high lights, and rogue red tie down knuckles. Backbone also offers their VBack, which is a rack for the back of the truck bed that can be moved forward on their bed rails. Backbone; getbackbone.com; (877)992-2252

Headache racks, like the cage on my hockey helmet, are designed to protect something near and dear to us from taking the impact. This is the function part of the equation.

The form part of the equation is how some headache racks add style to a pickup. This makes the rolling corporate calling card have more impact on clients.

Creative cab-protector designers now integrate form and function using CNC plasma and water-jet cutters with high-end results, while designing optional upgrades that serve valuable functions on and off the jobsite.

Southwest Fabricators builds this heavy duty headache rack with Texas size barbed wire in the window openings. You can have them round one up for you with a powder coat color of your choosing. Southwest Fabricators; southwestfabricators.com; 800-815-4348

Powder-coated steel, aluminum (brushed, powder coated, shaved or polished), and stainless steel are quickly replacing painted steel that tends to rust and crack. Styles range from Spartan to space-age.

Choices don’t end with metal types or style lines. You can get a number of different options including slider window cut-outs, built-in LED turn/tail/backup lights, work lights, antenna brackets, load light brackets, rope cleats, rope hooks, vertical “ears” and flag holders on your new headache racks.

In addition to features on the rack itself, consider some other components that make a good compliment to a cab protector.

Highway Products can accommodate most of your headache rack needs. This project was ordered by a law enforcement agency so the light platform was custom built to their needs. Other features include slider window opening, cargo lights and additional brake turn signal lights.

Highway Products makes a very cool looking powder-coated finish, which is “shaved” to expose the highpoints of the aluminum diamond plate. You can order a headache rack and transfer tank with toolbox all matched in this two-tone shaved diamond plate look.

Another item to consider matching to the cab protector is a rear rack so cargo such as pipe, ladders and form boards can be carried overhead.

Backbone makes their VBack, which matches their headache rack and can be positioned anywhere along the bedrails. Highway Products and Spyder Industries also make rear racks to match their headache racks.

This post-and-rail unit by Backrack demostrates a number of ways to mount lights on their racks. They also make a wire screen unit for better window protection. Backrack; backrack.ca;

Some headache rack manufacturer and retailer websites make it easy to accessorize.

For example, Spyder Industries lets you drag and drop your headache rack choice into the shopping cart and a list pops up that allows you to select options including angle horns, eye hooks, brake/turn LEDs, rear facing lamps and strobe light mounts depending on the model. Each upgrade has clearly listed prices next to it.

Many headache rack manufacturers sell their products only through distributors. Protech, for example, can be found on West Coast Off Road’s site, westcoastoffroad.com. When you order a Protech cab rack, you can use the site to choose from twenty-one different upgrades to add to the rack to make it what you want.

This “spyder” web with opening for window rack by Spyder Industries features a beveled design with framed spider web and openings for brake light and slider window. It can be customized with angle horns, eye hooks, brake/turn LED’s, rear facing lamps and strobe light mounts. Spyder Industries; spyderindustries.com;

West Coast Off Road also offers a variety of stainless steel models by Action ­Accessories with the American eagle and flag, or bull elk or flame designs.

Most areas of the country have custom fabrication shops that can build a rack to order. A fab shop that says they build headache racks can usually show you samples of their work.

With today’s computer controlled CNC plasma or water jet cutters, designs are limited only by imagination and budget.

Spyder Industries makes this basic version Econo-Rack with their distinctive spyder web pattern. It includes integrated horns for overhead loads and eye hooks. Spyder Industries; spyderindustries.com;(877) 665-6705

When it comes to cab protection, run-of-the-mill will work for some of your trucks, but there are times when function needs a little form to make a personal and/or corporate statement.

You can express your passion for hunting with this buck design by Spyder. They also have an elk head design as well. Spyder Industries; spyderindustries.com; (877) 665-6705


This chrome-plated, round-tube rack by Go Industries features stainless steel louvers and Go Industries two-dimensional mounting system with both vertical and horizontal bed rail bolts. The unit is also available with split window configuration. Go Industries; goindustries.com; (800)527-4345