How is a Tonneau Cover installed on a Truck?

If you own a truck, then you might already have a clue about how precious an investment the tonneau cover for your vehicle can be. This cover does a fantastic job at protecting your truck bed as well as your cargo. Experts also claim it improves your vehicle’s aerodynamics and fuel economy.

That said, if you just got your truck a new tonneau cover but you got stuck at the installation stage, this guide will walk you through the correct procedure for properly setting up the cover on your truck.

Before you install your tonneau cover…

Before you get down to installing your tonneau cover, it’s worth mentioning that these covers come in various types. We can categorize them into two main groups: hard and soft covers.

The soft tonneau covers are generally easier to install than hard covers. They don’t require additional tools and attach to your truck using temporary or semi-permanent hand-tightened clamps. Most soft covers will take you approx. 20-30 minutes to install on your truck.

Hard covers, on the other hand, take time to install. You might even seek a professional installer for hard tonneau covers like hinged and folding models. If you decide to do it yourself, you’ll need an extra hand since these covers are heavier and need extra care when handling them so they don’t damage your truck.

How to install a tonneau cover on your truck?

This guide will take you through the basic steps of installing semi-permanent clamping tonneau covers—this encompasses the hard roll-up, soft folding, and hard folding covers—since they’re the most installed cover across the states.

Assuming you have already opened your package and checked that all the necessary installation hardware is included, follow these steps to set up the cover on your truck.
PS: For this job, you’ll need basic tools like a screwdriver, socket wrench, etc.

Step 1: Attach the rails to your truck bed

Grab the rails that come with your tonneau cover package and attach them to your truck bed. If you’re using over the bed rail liner, you may need to cut notches in it for your clamps to easily poke through.

Align your tonneau cover rails and tighten all the mounting hardware until it’s holding the rails in place loosely. Recheck that the position and alignment of the rails are okay and then use a socket wrench to tighten the mounting hardware fully.

Step 2: Install any tailgate/cab-side seals provided

If your cover comes with seals for use on the tailgate and along the bulkhead of your truck, you should install them in this step.

But don’t just put them into place. Some prior preparation is key to helping the seal stick correctly. Wipe down the surfaces where the seals go with alcohol and give them time to dry (this improves the stickability of the seals).

Peel off the backing of the seal, then lay it down, and press it into place. Ensure you keep it straight. And remember to cut off the excess seal to prevent water from going through your new cover.

Step 3: Install the tonneau cover into place

With the rails in place on your truck bed, now place your tonneau cover atop them. If you oriented your rails correctly, the cover should perfectly fall into place, without any problems.

If the cover doesn’t fit snugly, remove it and make the necessary adjustments to the rails until your cover sits flush and appears aligned on all the sides.

Once the cover sits perfectly into place, use the screws on the rail to tension it to the correct tightness (not too taut, not too lax).

Some covers also come with bolts for fastening them into the rails. if that’s the case for your cover, be sure to fasten the bolts to the rails. If your cover uses clamps or levers, use them to fasten it onto your truck bed.

If you’re installing a retractable cover, you’ll need to feed its canister into the rails rather than attaching it to the top. You’ll also need an extra pair of hands to easily set it in place.

Step 4: Install any extra components

Depending on the type of tonneau covers you’re installing, you’ll also need to set up a few extra components to complete the installation. These extras include tubes for draining water, stops to absorb impacts, and protect your truck bed bulkhead from damage.

Some covers might also require you to install extras like prop rods, storage straps, and tension screws. These parts usually don’t require a lot of effort to attach as some snap into place while others screw into the side rails.

Just make sure you install all the included components that come with your cover in this step as each of them plays a role in your truck cover functionality.

Step 5: Finishing up

The last step is all about inspecting your work to ensure everything is alright. Inspect all the sealing surfaces for any visible gaps or bulging.

If you find out that your cover doesn’t sit flush on the gasket without compressing it excessively, adjust the rail position accordingly.
Shut the tailgate and unfold/unroll your truck cover to see if it fits. 

Ensure that any snapping buttons or locking clamps get activated on contact or in the right position. Now open your cover once it fits correctly and test that all its mechanisms work correctly, including handles, levers, and so on.

Once you have tested everything and all components perform as they should, your work is done!

Final verdict

So, these are key steps for installing a tonneau cover on your truck. This is a DIY task and will take less than 30 minutes of your time. Having an extra pair of hands will make the job even easier for you.

If for any reason, you find yourself completely stuck in the installation process, we advise you to get a professional to complete the job for you. In addition to the basic steps we have outlined above, make sure you consult your cover’s user manual for more specific installation instructions for your cover.

Eric Hubner
 

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