2024 Ford F-150's Pro Access Tailgate Is One Seriously Over-Engineered Door—And I Love It

2024 Ford F-150's Pro Access Tailgate Is One Seriously Over-Engineered Door—And I Love It photo
2024 Ford F-150's Pro Access Tailgate Is One Seriously Over-Engineered Door—And I Love It photo

It's kind of hard to improve on the simple design of a door, which has two settings: open or closed. If you flip that door sideways, then it becomes up or down, and this has been the basic formula for truck tailgates pretty much forever. As trucks have evolved, the humble tailgate has more or less stayed the same until lately, and Ford is again trying to improve on that design with its latest truck feature for the F-150, the Pro Access Tailgate, which is a tailgate with a small swing-out door built right in.

When deciding whether to go with a 2024 F-150 Tremor or Raptor (or any other F-150 model, for that matter), buyers have to determine what needs their trucks must satisfy. Being honest with yourself about typical use cases can save a lot of money, and also save F-150 owners a lot of effort considering only trucks below the top trim Raptor and Raptor R will offer the Pro Access Tailgate. I suppose the question then becomes, "how often will I be bombing in the desert versus using the bed of my truck?"

If the answer to that question points in favor of more frequent bed use, then I would recommend opting for an F-150 with the optional Pro Access Tailgate, which is genuinely a useful tool. It may not be as elegantly simple as a traditional tailgate, but Ford has designed something that makes reaching into the back of a truck much easier. When paired with a few other neat tricks on the new F-150, it ought to make for a better ownership experience overall.


Ford claims to have about a century of experience with tailgates, dating back to the late 1920s with the tailgate of the Ford Model A. That makes me wonder if Ford only realized 100 years later that the tailgate could be improved, or if something about how pickup trucks have changed (and not always for the better) has prompted reimagining their design.

If you ask me, I would say that trucks getting bigger and taller while simultaneously moving to crew cabs and smaller 5.5-foot beds as default has led to some need for a solution like the Pro Access Tailgate. Ford's own production of the fold-down tailgate step in 2006 is a tacit admission that beds were becoming harder to reach even then, so a solution was needed for more convenient ingress and egress.

Whatever solution Ford came up with also had to factor in features for people who regularly tow things, so engineers had to pay attention to the trifecta of working truck needs: easy bed access, easy hauling, and easy towing. Ford's latest approach to the old problem of struggling to reach into your bed does a pretty good job.

The door built into the Pro Access Tailgate can swing out as far as 100 degrees, but it has three stops at 37, 70, and 100 degrees. The 37-degree opening is meant to avoid trailer jacks while giving owners limited access to the bed. The 70-degree gives a wider aperture, but still makes the swing gate stick close to the jamb for places with tighter access or when parked in close quarters. And the 100-degree opening is the widest setting, yielding the most access for larger items. The door doesn't open past that, which might have something to do with preventing damage to the rest of the gate.

The detents in the tailgate's horizontal opening aren't just for style; they're there to stop the door from just swaying about and hitting things, such as the aforementioned trailer jack, or another parked car in a cramped lot. They may also keep the open door from getting in the way of owners who are reaching into the bed when loading and unloading gear.

Of course, Ford isn't the first to have reached the conclusion that a truck would benefit from a rear door for access to the bed, but it has iterated on the design enough so that it has little in common with Ram's Multifunction Tailgate. For starters, the F-150's swing gate opens from the driver's side, and Ford claims it reduces walking distance to the tailgate handle with a smaller button of its own, which is pointed out by a discreet little arrow. It's hard to find the button tucked into the tail bump, and it's also easy to miss the small arrow marker when you first start using the Pro Access Tailgate, but I would imagine its placement becomes familiar over time.

Ford says the nifty new tailgate gives an additional 19 inches of reach into the bed "compared to a conventional tailgate in the 'down' position." It also means truck owners will save themselves a bit of pain when reaching down for items in the bed, where the rails would typically shove into your underarm.

But the improvements to the new F-150's bed don't start and end with the Pro Access Tailgate, as Ford has widened the step cut-out and made the bumper deeper so that it's easier to use when climbing in and out of the bed. There's also an extra rear bumper step that buyers can option on their F-150s, which you press down on firmly to deploy. It locks into position with a satisfying tactile clunk.

Additionally, there are optional bed dividers and a tonneau cover for yet more utility. The bed divider feature uses a system of rails so owners can customize the position of the dividers however they see fit. It's meant to create a more "usable trunk" in the bed, but having dividers in there all the time would likely get in the way when you need the full flat space.

And there is additional storage space in a small box found behind either one or both rear wheel wells. These are for small items such as tie down straps, bungee cords, and work gloves, which are often just strewn about the bed and have a tendency to go misplaced. The boxes have a locking mechanism for added security. And, yes, these are readily accessible by using the Pro Access Tailgate. One box is standard across the entire lineup of the F-150, and two boxes are default on trucks that lack the Pro Power Onboard inverters (though not on trucks with an eight-foot bed).

The Pro Access Tailgate, the wider and deeper bumper, and the extra step are all great, but perhaps my favorite new feature of the F-150's bed are the small indentations that Ford has put into the inner walls. Using these indents, owners can make their own dividers by using cheaply-available wooden planks. It's a small and subtle feature, but it's brilliant.

This is Occam's razor for truck fans, because it's such a simple yet effective solution. All you do is come up with a DIY divider layout that you prefer, and then slide the 2X4s into the indents. Genius.

Unlike the Pro Access Tailgate and other accessories, the bed indents are standard equipment, meaning they're free. Of course, the new tailgate isn't mandatory, and customers can still always save cash and opt for a simpler, more traditional tailgate. The F-150's Pro Access Tailgate costs $1,620, while the retractable rear center step adds a premium of $430 to the full-size truck's MSRP. But for people who actually use their truck beds day in and day out, that $2k or so might actually be worth it.

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