Ford Patents Two Ideas for Stuck Truck With Turning Tank and Ladder

You know that awful feeling when you’re out on a dune or rocky feature and you get your truck, maybe a Ford F-150, stuck. Try as hard as you can, you can’t get out of it because your tires don’t have enough traction or the incline is too steep. How about a situation where you need maximum turns that a sharp steering wheel makes impossible? Ford may come to the rescue with two interesting patents on its cloud-downloadable “tank loop” strategy, and an integrated “sand ladder” that can be integrated into your step bar or—in the case of the Bronco—into the doors.

First discovered by Motor Authority, the two patents are a great way to get Ford (or any truck or SUV, really) out of a bad situation. Sand ladders, in particular, are the easiest to turn into a reality for the entire Ford truck lineup while tank turns may be a bit more difficult. It’s not as simple as locking the brake calipers so the vehicle can make sharp turns.

Tank Turn Truck

This is as literal as a four-wheeled truck, as the patent describes a tank rotation system that makes the vehicle rotate on its center axis. Unlike the turn brakes on the Bronco and Rivian versions of the spinning truck trick, Ford’s patented tank turn will not only move each axle in the opposite direction (ie: front axle backwards, rear axle forward), but also apply brakes and disassemble the suspension. on the opposite corner depending on which way you want to turn. Turning left, the front right and rear left brakes are applied while the suspension is lowered while moving the front wheels backwards and rear wheels forward. Turning to the right affects the front left and right rear corners but the wheels move in the same direction.

Why isn’t this easy to implement, even though Ford describes the update both over the air and with a physical download? The only real way to actively load and unload suspension angles is with airbags, as Ford shows in the example image. The scheme we can see working is lifting the corners you don’t want to disassemble, i.e.: if you want to disassemble the front right and rear left, you increase the pocket pressure in the front left and rear right corners to apply more vehicle weight in those corners.

It’s also possible to do this with a coil spring vehicle, but you’ll need something like the KW hydraulic lift system, which places the hydraulic cylinder between the coil spring and the bottom spring. After all, that system needs to be installed to perform that loading action. The airbag system makes a bit more sense as you can add an extra bag to the rear leaf springs on the truck with those installed, but you’ll have to do something similar with the front coil springs (unheard of in the aftermarket) or replace the coils with airbags entirely.

The next major hurdle is driving the axle in the opposite direction. Unless you add some sort of selectable reverse gear at the front axle input or at the front driveshaft output on the transfer box, the wheels cannot be moved in opposite directions at the same time. Again, something like this is technically feasible to install (while requiring a shorter driveshaft), but we’re not really aware of any aftermarket solutions that can be adopted right now, not even for Atlas transfer cases or similar twin-stick transfer cases. Yet the use case described by Ford in the patent states that, “Some vehicles such as, for example, automobiles, are equipped with electric motors rather than traditional combustion engines.” Obviously, this is meant for the Ford Lightning and future electric trucks, if the feature becomes a reality, at all.

Stair Climbing

A more realistic patent for all of Ford’s off-road vehicles is its sand ladder system. A sand ladder is a very useful item, but storing it can be a PITA in a truck or SUV full of camping gear. While there are aftermarket sand ladder carriers that attach to the body or roof, Ford details more useful mounting points. Someone will use it as a step to help get into the vehicle cabin. It would be long enough to reach all four doors or an extension would be added for the rear door.

Ford also shows two ways to install the rocker panel step brackets. One way is with a locking latch and a C-channel catch. The hook will be operated to release half of the ladder while the other side will rest on the catch. Once released, you can lift and slide the ladder to use.

Others use hardware that is captured with a keyhole, such as how many wall brackets you have in your home. You’ll loosen the fasteners with a large spacer or washer and slide them from the smaller hole to the larger keyhole that was drilled into the sand ladder. This allows you to lift the ladder up and out and without worrying about losing loose hardware by sticking to the step bracket. When you’re done, you make sure the fasteners are positioned to fit through the large opening, set the ladder down on the bracket, reposition the fasteners to the smaller side, and tighten to secure them for use as another step.

The large Blue Oval also demonstrates another way to make a sand ladder apart from being used as a rocking ladder. One image shows a shorter ladder stashed under the hood of what looks like a Raptor. Another pair shows a smaller and shorter ladder tucked away in the front grille or lower bumper opening with a single ladder. Depending on which opening you use, additional openings and even holes in the bumper will need to be added to make up for the reduced openings that the sand ladder will create. Additional images show a narrow ladder mounted to the tailgate while the final image shows this ladder mounted to a tube door in the four-door Bronco image.

Remember, It’s Just a Patent

As we often say with patents from any manufacturer, this is not an indication that this part or feature is coming soon. Still, we’d be surprised if the tank changes didn’t end with the Ford F-150 Lightning. It’s almost set to do so and an OTA update can get all the modules working as intended and add a virtual switch to the infotainment screen. If they did now, at the time of the original writing, they would have beaten Rivian to a tank turn punch for not having implemented their version on the R1T. We also see an easy argument that a step-style sand ladder can be made easily, especially using the keyholes and captured fasteners detailed in the patent for it. Either way, Ford has a few ideas coming up to make off-roading easier for their truck owners and we can’t wait to make the most of them all.

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