A Detail Guide: How to Install a Tonneau Cover- Learn Details

Tonneau covers have gained more popularity than other truck accessories in the industry today. In fact, the covers are available in many types and models not minding the type of truck bed cover on your vehicle.

Even if you have the soft-top, hard-top, folding, Truxedo, or retractable, adding a tonneau cover will ensure many benefits. With this kind of cover, you can provide extra protection for the cargo, improve the gas mileage of your vehicle, and also enhance the style and looks of your truck.

If you are wondering how you can install this great addition to your vehicle, don't worry at all because they are easy to install. Initially, it was not so easy to install these covers, but the improvements on them have made it possible to install them without much stress.

One thing though, when you want to install the cover, make sure that you follow the instructions from the manufacturers. It can go a long way to making things very easy for you.

How to install a tonneau cover

Before you can successfully install your tonneau cover, you must first install the cover rails. Let's start from there and progress to the cover installation proper.


Part One:Installing the cover rails

Step one: Confirm cover compatibility

The first thing you have to do here is to confirm that the cover is compatible with parts like bed rails caps, bed liners, etc. if you want to get confirmation, you can check from the manufacturers but if not possible, check out the following:

If the tonneau cover does not lie above the rails but between them, that means they are not compatible.

If you have a diamond plate rail caps, it may prevent the covers from fitting or may not allow it to form a weather-tight seal.

Step two: Open your vehicle tailgate

This is the second thing you have to do. If you leave your tailgate closed, the installation process will not be smooth.

Step three: Positioning the rail

When you have opened the tailgate, fix a side rail onto the rail but make sure that it is loose. Some of the tonneaus cover available today comes with two side rails, one for the side or top of the bed rails. Then, use a spring clamp and hold a side rail flush with the front of the bed rail.  Note the following things:

If the tonneau cover you want to install didn't come with rails, it should have clamps that swing down from the under immediately you fix the cover in place.

 A retractable tonneau cover comes in a canister, and if that's the one you got, you have to position it before placing the rails. What you must do is to put the canister on the bed's rails edges next to the cab and after you have positioned it perfectly on the center, attach the rails to the canister.

Step four: Clamp the rail

This is where you will clamp the side rail to the cab with toothed clamps. Just pick one of them and fit it on the underside of the side rail which is near the cab. Ensure that the teeth of the clamp are lined up with the grooves then use your hand and tighten it. Afterward, pick your socket wrench and tighten it more.

Step five: Add shims

If there is need to add shims, do it at this point. Look underneath the rail and see if there is a between the truck. If you see any, place shims evenly so that the gap will close. However, if the gap is large, use shim brackets.

Step six: Place more clamps

Some of the installation kits for tonneau covers usually come with eight clams so that you can place four on each side. However, if you have a short bed, you only need six, placing three on each side.

Also, if you are installing a soft cover, the instruction is usually to leave this step till you finish. If you are installing a hard tonneau cover, you must not skip this step at all.

Step seven: install the second rail

At this point, follow the same process you used in installing the first rail to install the second one too.

Step eight: Adjust the two rails

Now that you have installed both rails make sure that they lie parallel to each other and also in line with the bed rails. Don't forget that if you fail to install the rail properly, the tonneau cover will not install properly. So, take your time and do it well.

Step nine: Tighten the clamps

After ensuring that the rails are aligned, complete the tightening of the front clamp with your wrench. Also, tighten other clamps that you placed.


Part Two: Installing the tonneau cover

Step Ten: Installing the rubber seals

If the tonneau cover you want to install is a weatherproof type, you should expect a rubber seal. This seal is what you will use to fill the gap existing between the cab and the cover. Before you do it, bring alcohol and wipe the area so that it can bond very well.

Then, peel off the paper on the back of the rubber seal and stick it on the cab between the side rails. Start from where the driver stays when you want to stick the seal. Afterward, cut off any excess part and discard.  

Step eleven: Additional components

At this juncture, check the installation and kit to see if there are other components you have to install. Some of the things to check are:

  • Storage Straps
  • Tension adjuster screws
  • Hinged covers
  • Hard folded covers which comes with a rod

Step twelve: Positioning the cover

To place the cover over the rails, you may need extra assistance especially if you are installing a hardcover. Place the folder or rolled cover at the end of the rails. Push it down a little so that it will fit on the rails perfectly.

Step thirteen: Unfolding or unrolling the cover

This is where you will shut the tailgate and unfold the tonneau cover carefully until it gets to the tailgate. Make sure that it stays in the rail all through its length. Adjust it a little to cover positioning so that it can stay in place.

Step fourteen: Bolt the cover

With some model, when you unfold the cover, it will snap onto the rail but if not, use the nuts and washers to tighten the cover onto the rails.

Step fifteen: Tighten all the clamps.

Check all the clamps you can see on the tonneau cover and use your wrench to tighten them securely. Also, check other points where you made adjustments to be sure that the cover is okay and wouldn't come loose.

Step sixteen: install final cover components

Some of the models today has drainage tubes which diverts rain and bump stops so that your cab will not ding when other components are opened. However, if there are other components in the kit that confuses you, contact a mechanic or reach out to the manufacturers.


Now you can install your tonneau cover without hiring a handyman or mechanic right? The steps to follow are all simple and straightforward. Just make sure that the installation kit is complete and go ahead with your DIY project.

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