Tailgate Wars: A Guide To The Modern Truck Tailgate

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No longer just useless flaps of metal, modern pickup truck tailgates are often packed with gadgets and gimmicks.

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Pickup trucks have been best-sellers in the USA for decades, proving that their popularity has only continued to grow, despite stiff competition from crossover SUVs. They are even more versatile in their possible configurations and powertrains than ever before, and this includes a variety of truck tailgate options, which have only grown over time. Every manufacturer of these in-demand vehicles has added innovations and new tailgate parts to try to stand out in the competitive segment. Here, we break down the new technology and mechanical features each brand brings to the table and take a look at the pros and cons of each.

The Different Types of Pickup Truck Tailgates

There are almost innumerable ways to design a tailgate, and each offers a different type of functionality beyond simple access to the truck bed. Some help to improve cargo capacity or ease of loading, while others add fancy lock systems or include built-in tools and accessories. Here is a list of the latest innovations in the field:

Pickup Truck Tailgate Ford

The Integrated Step

Ford Trucks were equipped with an integrated tailgate step as far back as 2008. This feature now takes the form of a ladder that slides out of the tailgate. The fold-out step is spring-loaded, so it flattens when stepped on to allow easy access into the cargo bed. The entire mechanism is stored inside the pickup truck's tailgate when not in use and activating or retracting it is a simple process. A tailgate step is rapidly becoming one of the most common additions to any multi-function tailgate, but lest we forget, Ford did it first.

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Tailgate Step Ford

Pros and Cons

  • Makes it easier to climb in and out of the loading bed
  • Doesn't take up any space
  • Very easy to use
  • Extra complexity means one more part to break
  • Only adds minimal benefits for the extra cost

Ford Work Surface Tailgate

Another Ford innovation for its F-150 pickup, this truck tailgate modification makes it easier to do administrative work when out on job sites. It includes such amenities as a cupholder and cellphone holder, but also functional slots for pencils, as well clamp pockets, and a built-in ruler. Any tradesman will appreciate having these tools located conveniently, as it replicates many of the items one would have in a home or business workshop. Ford has something new coming soon, which you can read about in the COMING SOON section below.

Tailgate Work Surface Ford

Pros and Cons

  • Multitude of storage options are excellent, especially the clamps
  • Side-mounted cleats work double as tie-down locations and bottle openers
  • Pairs well with the ProPower onboard generator if you want to use power tools
  • No additional loading options or ways to access the cargo bed more easily
  • Ruler markings may scuff off with time

Ram Multifunction Tailgate

Available on Ram trucks, the multifunction tailgate is designed to make accessing the cargo bed easier. It acts like a regular, bottom-hinged tailgate but it doubles up as a dual-hinged, 60/40 split tailgate. This means that the rear can be open like a set of double swing doors, bringing you much closer to the loading bed. Since it's a side-hinged tailgate, this doesn't cause any problems for any trailer attachments.

Truck Tailgate CarBuzz

Pros and Cons

  • Allows you to get much closer to the main part of the cargo bed
  • Working as both a standard and side-opening tailgate adds great versatility
  • Using a trailer doesn't restrict access to the bed thanks to swing doors
  • Doesn't add all that many extra functions to the tailgate

GMC MultiPro Tailgate

The MultiPro Tailgate is a trademark of GMC trucks like the Sierra 1500, and it has numerous functions. The drop-down tailgate can be lowered with the touch of a button, either directly or via the key fob. This is not the only truck with an automatic tailgate, though. From the lowered position, the tailgate can fold downwards to let you move in closer when loading items and the lowered flap can release a step to make accessing the cargo bed easier. It's somewhat unique as a truck with a folding tailgate in that it can fold upwards too. This creates a load stop for larger items you may need to transport. Similarly, with the tailgate in the upright position, you can fold down a smaller upper section to create a mini-tailgate that also provides a load stop. This, too, can be folded down to create a tailgate work surface. You can even have it with speakers if you so choose, which connect via Bluetooth when you want some tunes while working or even camping.

Multipro Tailgate CarBuzz

Pros and Cons

  • Two-level load stops allow you to safely stow longer items at different heights
  • Multiple ways to make it easier to access the cargo bed
  • Bluetooth-linked speakers are available
  • Incompatible with trailer hitches, since the fold-down step get dented
  • The electrical components are not easy to fix when problems arise
  • Fragile when loading heavy items like bikes - truck tailgate cover recommended

Chevrolet Multi-Flex Tailgate

Several Chevy trucks are available with a Multi-Flex Tailgate, including both light- and heavy-duty versions of the Silverado. This functions almost identically to the MultiPro Tailgate, which is unsurprising since the two brands are corporate cousins. This means it is a split truck tailgate that can fold up or down in six positions to create ways of accessing the cargo bed or supply different loading options with the load stops.

Multiflex Tailgate Chevrolet

Pros and Cons

  • Fold-down sections with built-in step make it easier to work around the cargo bed
  • Load stops on both the lower and upper flap enable two-tier loading options
  • Can't be used when a trailer hitch is attached
  • Electronics make repairs a little complicated
  • Can be damaged when loading heavy items like quad bikes

Honda Dual-Action Tailgate

A relatively simple innovation for the Honda Ridgeline, this does exactly what it implies. The Dual-Action Tailgate can fold down in a regular way, but it also functions as a side-opening tailgate. These features are accessible via separate handles, one in the traditional location and another on the underside of the tailgate. The side-hinged functionality means you can get closer to the cargo bed when loading heavier items rather than sliding them over. However, opening the gate sideways does also grant you access to an extra storage compartment beneath the cargo bed floor.

Drop-Down Tailgate Honda
Dual-Action Tailgate Honda

Pros and Cons

  • Lets you get closer to the cargo bed without having to lean over the tailgate
  • Grants access to the bed even when trailering
  • The extra storage compartment is a great place for tools
  • Very simple upgrade with limited additional features
  • Single-piece tailgate design awkward in tight spots for side-hinged use

Coming Soon

Ford has lagged behind its competitors in terms of offering a multifunction tailgate, but that's about to change. A recent patent filing shows that the automaker is just about ready to unveil its new design, which has a swing door located in the center of the tailgate. This will give users easier access to most of the cargo bed. However, don't fear that this might mean the loss of the useful integrated step. Ford has retained its traditional step while adding a supplementary step in the load sill, so regardless of in which manner you open the tailgate, there's always a step for you to use. Furthermore, it will come with multiple configurations to suit your specific needs.

The Rivian R1T is also in line to get a unique take on the tailgate step according to recent patent filings, with the middle section of the opened tailgate lowering to create a step into the load box. While some of these concepts are not groundbreaking, we expect to see more and more new technologies in the years to come. Tailgates will become the next frontier for pickup truck innovation.

60-40 Split Tailgate CarBuzz
Hinged Tailgate CarBuzz

FAQs

What is a pickup truck tailgate?

At the back of every pickup truck, the tailgate is a simple flap that lowers and lifts to grant access to or secure the load box, or assist in the loading of larger and heavier items.

What is a MultiPro tailgate?

GMC's MultiPro tailgate is essentially two tailgates in one. The main section is hinged normally, while the second, smaller gate is hinged within that. Along with some built-in electronics and bed steps, this adds a whole lot of functionality to the tailgate.

What are the six functions of the GMC tailgate?

The MultiPro tailgate from GMC adds numerous functions to the otherwise workday piece of equipment. These include:

  • Standard tailgate opening with power operation via the keyfob
  • A built-in load stop in the main part of the tailgate
  • Folds down to make it easier to access the bed
  • A full-width step to climb into the bed
  • An inner-gate load stop for stowing large items higher up
  • Inner-gate work surface for working on your laptop or doing paperwork

How much weight can a truck tailgate hold?

Most manufacturers supply either no official rating or a very conservative one when it comes to their tailgates. However, the cables used in modern tailgates have very high tensile strength, so with proper construction, around 500 pounds should be tolerable. Still, it is always best to check with the manufacturer to be absolutely sure. Multifunction tailgates can also be easily damaged when loading heavy items like motorbikes, so proper loading and protective measures are important.

Is the Chevrolet Midgate a tailgate?

Technically, the midgate seen in the old Chevrolet Avalanche and in the 2024 Silverado EV is not a tailgate. However, it does increase the size and versatility of the load box. In its newest iteration, the Multi-Flex Midgate folds into the cabin in a 60/40-split, allowing one of the back seats to be retained, but an extra-long section of load space to be revealed for greater storage capacity.

The Chevy Multiflex tailgate is a cool Silverado Truck feature
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