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As the first automaker to offer a factory-built pickup to consumers, Ford is famous for truck innovation. Indeed, the company has been innovating the truck tailgate since the Model A. However, a 1980 F-Series redesign meant to simplify owners’ lives inadvertently made stealing Ford tailgates easier for criminals.  

Thieves took advantage of Ford trucks’ removable tailgates in the ’80s

1987 Ford F-150 SuperCab pickup truck
1987 Ford F-150 SuperCab | Ford Motor Company

The removable Ford truck tailgate promised more effortless loading and unloading of heavy cargo into the truck bed. Heavy loads placed on the tailgate could bend it, and situating the load beyond the tailgate was awkward. So, for 1980 F-Series styleside trucks, Ford made the tailgate easy to remove without any tools to simplify the process. 

Unfortunately, thieves took advantage of the removable design, resulting in a rash of stolen F-Series tailgates throughout the 1980s. Ford redesigned them in 1987 to thwart criminal activity. Ultimately, the company made locking tailgates standard F-Series equipment in 1997. 

Criminals still steal tailgates and other parts

A 2024 Ford F-150 with its tailgate down
2024 Ford F-150 | Ford Motor Company

However, not even standard locking mechanisms prevent tailgate thefts because thieves still steal tailgates. Trucks are also easy targets for catalytic converter thefts because they sit higher off the ground. Though F-Series tailgates remain prime targets, some Toyota pickups have two catalytic converters, making them popular prey for criminals.

Parking your truck in a secured garage is the best way to prevent thieves from ripping you off. If a garage isn’t an option, consider installing motion-activated lighting around your parking area or a motion alarm on your truck. Backing your pickup into a parking spot with the tailgate near a physical barrier reduces the risk of theft. In addition, installing aftermarket locks and anti-theft devices on tailgates and catalytic converters could help. 

The 2024 Ford F-150 is the first to offer the Pro Access Tailgate and Stolen Vehicle Services

Ford’s new tailgate tech, the Pro Access Tailgate, is available on the 2024 Ford F-150. It operates like a conventional tailgate but also has a portion that swings open like a door. 

The tailgate’s center section hinges on the passenger side and has a latch handle on the driver’s side. Internal door detents hold it open at 37, 70, and 100 degrees to allow hands-free access to the truck bed. The detents help prevent the door from swinging wider than desired to avoid damage to the tailgate or other vehicles. 

Additionally, Ford recently announced the 2024 F-150 is the first to offer Stolen Vehicle Services (SVS). The optional security package sends a notification to the FordPass app when it detects suspicious activity. For example, you’ll receive notifications if someone bumps your vehicle, jacks it up, or attempts to tow it away. There are also alerts for opening locked doors without a key, presumably including the tailgate. 

It’s safe to assume thieves will learn the best methods to steal Ford’s new Pro Access Tailgates, as they have with previous designs. The best advice for truck owners trying to protect their tailgates is to make it harder for thieves to take them. Parking inside a garage or in a well-lit area and keeping the tailgate locked are the most straightforward methods.