Building A DIY Single-Drawer System For Your 5th Gen 4Runner: Materials List and Assembly Plan
In my opinion, drawer systems are one of the most conflicting mods for the 4runner. On one hand, they provide an awesome way to keep all of your gear organized while also providing easy access to all of it. On the other, they can really weigh down the rear of your rig, especially if you don’t have upgraded coils. In addition, they take up a significant amount of vertical space in your trunk which can be burdensome if you ever need to transport larger items.
I believe the solution to this dilemma is a single drawer system that’s secured at either side of your trunk. This allows you to have an ample amount of storage and organization while also retaining the ability to take it out when you need the entire trunk area. Dobinsons does make a single drawer system that looks awesome but also costs $760 before shipping. There are also a ton of assembly plans on the internet for DIY drawer systems for the 5th Gen 4Runner, but they’re all for the full width of the trunk. They also all seem to be fairly labor-intensive and still, very heavy. If you just search “drawer” on Trail4Runner.com you will find a ton of DIY projects for drawers. Again, none of these projects interested me as they are all full-width.
I’m just a casual weekend warrior, so I couldn’t justify the weight or cost of prebuilt systems. Fortunately, I do have several wood-working tools at my disposal for a DIY option.
This single drawer system is a fairly basic design, but it gets the job done and won’t break the bank. In total, this project cost around $150 in materials and has an empty weight of 60lbs.
What You’ll Need
- Table Saw
- Jig Saw
- Power Drill
- #6 Countersink Bit (or regular drill bit)
- 1/4″ Drill Bit
- 1-3/8″ Forstner Bit
- 24″ Wood Clamps (x3)
- Rafter Square Tool
- 1/4″-20 x 1″ Zinc Plated Hex Bolt (x12)
- 1/4″-20 Zinc Plated Nut (x12)
- 1/4″ Washers Zinc Plated Flat Washers
- 1-1/2″ Steel Ring Anchor Point (x6 Rings)
- #6 1″ Wood Screws
- #8 1/4″ Wood Screws
- 30″ Heavy Duty Locking Drawer Slides
- M6 Heavy Duty Turnbuckle (x2)
- 4′ X 8′ Sheet Wood Of Your Choice (I used 1/2″ particleboard that I had laying around)
Step 1. Wood Cuts To Make
This is a diagram of the woodcuts made from a 4′ X 8′ sheet of wood. I did my best to keep all cuts within one sheet to keep costs down. The cost of wood can add up quickly, especially depending on the type. I would recommend using wood that is at least 1/2″ in thickness for strength.
Step 2. Assemble Outer Drawer Housing
I decided to assemble the outer drawer housing first and make the inner drawer fit afterward. You can always trim down the inner drawer to size, but cannot add to the outer housing after the cuts have already been made.
The side and back panels will install on top of the bottom panel, not to the sides of it. I used my 24″ wood clamps and rafter square tool to hold the panels together. Then, I used a #6 countersink drill bit to predrill holes for the wood screws. A countersink drill bit isn’t necessary as there are no clearance issues for raised screw heads. You can use a regular drill bit if that’s what you have available.
The number of screws to use is up to you, I ended up using 4 on each side and the housing seemed plenty sturdy.
With the bottom and sides of the outer housing assembled, you can test fit the top panel. Do not install the top panel just yet, as you’ll need to install the drawer slides and inner drawer first. I ended up using a slightly thicker piece of wood that I had laying around for the top panel for added strength to strap items to or sit on. This wasn’t necessary, however, so feel free to use the same wood that you had cut earlier.
Step 3. Test Fitment
Place the outer drawer housing in your trunk for test fitment and to mark where to install the tie-down hardware. I loosely placed the turnbuckles in their mounting positions and marked where the tie-down points would be. There is some leeway in terms of placement here, as the turnbuckles have a fair amount of adjustability.
Install the tie-down points with a 1/4″ drill bit for the bolt hole and then install the bolt. The nut and flat washer should be on the inside face of the panels. Flat washers would not fit on the outside face with the tie-down plate, but I think it should be plenty strong, still.
I planned on installing the drawer on the passenger side, so I placed one tie-down point in the center rear of the housing and another towards the front of the right side. This places them in close proximity to the tie-down points that are installed in the 4runner’s trunk.
Step 4. Install Drawer Slides To Outer Housing
These heavy-duty drawer slides are stout; I believe the pair weighs around 11lbs. I opted to get a pair that can lock in the closed or open positions. The 30″ pair extends its full length and supports 250lbs. In all honesty, the wood drawers will likely fail from weight before the drawer slides do. There is a slightly cheaper option that does not lock open and closed. However, the cost savings was marginal so I decided against them.
The taller side of the drawer slides will install on the outer housing using 1/2″ wood screws. I lined up the front edge of the outside slide plate with the front edge of the outer drawer housing.
There are several pairs of holes cut out in the drawer slides where the screws should be installed.
With the drawer slides installed on the outer housing, place the inner drawer bottom between them to double-check the width. The cut dimensions from earlier should leave you with a little extra material to trim off if needed. The fit should end up being snug, but not too tight.
Step 5. Assemble Inner Drawer
The inner drawer side and back panels will install on top of the inner bottom panel, not on the sides of it. This was why we test fit the bottom panel for fitment between the drawer slides earlier. Assemble the panels using the wood clamps and screws in the same way as the outer housing.
The front panel will require a cutout for the drawer slide latch to be made before installing it. I placed the front panel on top of the latch to mark the width needed for the cutout. I then marked an approximate height for the cutout and used a jigsaw. it took a couple of test fits and trimming until I was happy with the fitment.
The front panel dimensions were designed to fit slightly recessed between the top and bottom panels of the outer housing.
In lieu of a traditional grab handle, I opted to just drill grab holes in the front panel. I used a 1-3/8 Forstner bit (the largest in my set) to drill 3 slightly overlapping holes to contour to my fingers.
Step 6. Install Drawer Slides To Inner Drawer
I used some scrap 1/4″ thick wood panels to prop the inner drawer up from the bottom of the outer housing. This allows for a small gap for the inner drawer to slide freely over the bottom of the outer housing once finished. Otherwise, you would be dragging the inner drawer on the outer housing.
Once propped up, line up the front edge of the inner drawer slide track with the front of the inner drawer side panel. Start with installing the front-most 1/2″ wood screws in the drawer slide’s inside track and work your way back by incrementally pulling the drawer out.
Step 7. Install Tie-Down Points To Outer Top Panel & Finish Assembly
This is the final stretch! Install as many or no tie-down points to the outer housing top panel if desired. I decided to install 1 on each corner to strap things down in the future. I used the same tie-down points and hardware here as for the turnbuckles on the sides. Once you’re finished installing any tie-down points to the top panel, secure it to the outer housing with #6 wood screws to complete the entire assembly.
Step 8. Secure Drawer To Trunk Tie-Down Points
Place the now fully assembled drawer in the trunk on the side of your choice. I had to prop up the drawer with a couple of 2x4s to clear the lip of my all-weather cargo liner. Without them, the drawer is blocked from opening by this lip.
Use the turnbuckles to secure the drawer’s tie-down points to the ones in the 4runner. They don’t need to be overly tightened, just enough so the drawer can’t slide around.
While I admit my craftsmanship isn’t the best, I am stoked with how this drawer system turned out! I tested the strength by putting 50lbs of cast-iron plates to the very front of the drawer at the locked, open position. Fortunately, nothing broke and the drawer didn’t budge at all. With that, I am confident that this drawer system has ample strength to carry our camping gear and supplies.
There are tons of options regarding finishing touches to this drawer system. I plan on sanding it down and painting it black, but I’ve seen many others overlay inexpensive outdoor carpet to the exterior. I may also add a false-top to fit on the inside of the drawer to use as a table, the possibilities are endless.
Although the project may require a moderate amount of knowledge in terms of woodworking tools, the concept and materials are fairly simple. Again, I wanted a drawer that was simple and light enough to remove should I need to use the entire cargo area. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this DIY drawer system!