Installation Guide for Folding Tonneau Covers

Folding Tonneau covers are one of the smartest investments a truck owner can make in his or her vehicle; providing increased aerodynamics, protection for valuables in the truck bed and a great-looking, streamlined profile. Of course, none of these characteristics are possible without a proper installation, and even though most manufacturers have pre-fabricated their designs to assure a perfect fit on your vehicle, it is possible to hit a snag here and there in the installation process. In this guide, we are going to break down the process step-by-step; from the tools you need to making the final adjustments to avoid these simple mistakes so your new Tonneau cover fits securely over your truck bed.

This article covers general installation guidelines for the following types of Tonneau covers:
  • Folding Hard Tonneau covers

Pre-Installation Steps

Step 1:  Before starting the actual installation process, open the manual that came with the Folding Tonneau cover and take an inventory of all the parts in the box; this should include the folding cover, 6 to 8 clamps, 2 rails, 1 or 2 wind seal rails, the required mounting hardware and shims if needed.


Of course, parts will vary according to bed size and type of Tonneau cover. If any parts are missing, refer to the customer service number also listed in the manual.  Most manufacturers will ship the parts you need directly to you at no cost. If the parts list matches what is in the box, you are ready to move to step 2.

Step 2: Remove any debris and wash the inside as well as the sides of the truck bed with a mild soap and cold water. Everything should be clean and dry before installing the Folding Tonneau cover.

Step 3:  Take the box with all the parts out to the vehicle and place it on the open tailgate; this will help keep everything together and give you a convenient place to put extra parts as well as tools if you do not have a table or bench close by.

Step 4: Some Folding Tonneau covers such as the Extang Solid FoldExtang Encore orGenesis Tri-Fold Lund Tonneau Cover, come pre-assembled and require only an allen wrench to install, which is included in the box. In this case, follow the quick and easy steps outlined in their product manual. Most Tonneau covers however, install with basic hand tools that almost everyone has around the house - a tape measure and an adjustable wrench.  Gather these and place them in the box where you can access them easily.  For some Folding Tonneau covers, additional tools such as a socket wrench,  drill and sheet metal drill bit may be needed. Be sure to check the Tonneau cover manual for the exact tools necessary to properly install the cover.

Installation Steps

Folding Tonneau Cover

Always read the instruction manual before starting the installation to check for any additional tools, parts or modifications that may be required to properly install the retractable Tonneau cover. In addition, some Tonneau covers include electrical components that may require a second person to help run the wire or parts too heavy to lift unaccompanied.

Step 1: Take out the wind seal rails from the box, remove the protective film from the underside and place them on the truck bed rail.

Step 2: Some manufacturer's pre-assemble their wind seal rails for your convenience.  If this is the case, skip to step 3. If not, you will need to put together the socket head bolts and protective washers through each slotted hole in the rail. It is recommended that an adhesive such as locktite be used to keep the bolts secure, as they may work their way loose over time and travel.

Step 3: Open the pocket covers at the end of the each wind seal rail with a flathead screwdriver and insert the bolt assembly of the wind seal rail into the exposed holes on the rails of the truck bed. Remove the backing paper on the spacer blocks. Keeping the rails aligned straight with the truck bed, place a spacer inside each pocket along the edge.

Step 4: Once the wind seal rails are aligned flush with the truck bed rails, tighten the bolts until surface contact between the wind seal rail and truck bed rail is made. Then, tighten each bolt lightly until they can no longer be turned with your finger.

Step 5: Place the folding Tonneau cover between the wind seal rails at the front of the truck bed near the window. Release the straps and carefully unfold the the first two folds of the cover between the rails. Align the cover so that it is even with the rest of the truck bed and that the seals of the rails and the cover are spaced evenly.

Step 6: Without moving the placement of the Tonneau cover, fold back the front panel and attach the hinge brackets to the sections of the cover. Insert the included socket screws into each hinge and tighten them. Repeat this process for the middle and rear sections of the Tonneau cover as well.

Step 7: On some Folding Tonneau covers, the clamps to secure the cover frame to the inner lip of the bed frame are already attached.  If this is the case, fold the cover back into one-piece to the front of the truck and slide them into place, either twisting or pulling the handle to fasten them.  Repeat this with each section all the way to the rear and proceed to step 8.

Note: For some truck beds, striker clamps are required to affix the folder Tonneau cover frame to the truck bed. If your Folding Tonneau cover is one of these, you will need to drill into inside lip of the truck bed with the sheet metal bit and secure the clamp with rivets with a pneumatic rivet gun. Only if you have experience using this equipment should you attempt this, as there exists the potential to do some serious damage to your truck. Otherwise, you will need to consult with a mechanic shop or a friend whom knows how to perform this.

Step 8: If the clamps are not already attached, start with the cover folded at the front of the truck, place the clamps over the truck bed inner lip and the Tonneau cover frame on each side of the bed (this area should be labeled). Insert a shim between the truck bed inner frame and the clamp surface and hand tighten until the bolt reaches the shim. Check the shim for alignment and finish tightening the clamp with a socket wrench. Repeat this step with each section until you have reached the rear of the truck bed.

Step 9: With the cover completely closed, open the tailgate and slide the latches or clamps underneath the folding cover out to the bed wall.  Make sure the cover closes securely and gently push the tailgate into the closed position as well - though the space between the Folding Tonneau cover frame and the tailgate will vary by manufacturer, be sure it opens and closes with ?minimal ?resistance.

Note: If the tailgate is hard to push into the closed position, look to make sure the Tonneau cover is still centered over the truck bed. This can be fixed simply by loosening the clamps and readjusting the alignment.  If this does not solve the problem, consult with a professional installer for help.

You have now complete the process for installing a Folding Tonneau cover to your truck bed. For more information about troubleshooting, maintenance or missing parts, contact the manufacturer or dealer from where the Tonneau cover was purchased.

For more updates and helpful articles on Tonneau covers, as well as a variety of truck, SUV and ATV accessories, check back on 4 Wheel Online regularly, as well as our Facebook page and blog.

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Posted on January 16th, 2013
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