How to Install Tri-Fold Tonneau Covers

What Are Tonneau Covers?

Tonneau covers are one of the best ways to protect your bed and items that it is carrying. Tonneau covers can be made out of several different materials, including hard plastic tonneaus which snap over the bed, tri-fold soft covers which roll up into themselves when not in use, and even fabric tonneau covers that simply stretch across the top to hold them down. Whichever style you choose will depend on what kind of performance you desire from your cover.

What’s the Purpose of Tonneau Covers?

Fleets and those with work trucks need to maximize cargo space as much as possible, so one of the best ways to do that is by installing tri-fold tonneau covers. These truck bed cover attachments fold into three sections on top of your truck bed and then close securely using a latch system. When you want access to the entire length of the truck bed, you can simply open up all three sections and gain an open view inside your content area. Once installed properly, these polyester doors attach with tension springs for extra support and security. You’ll be able to haul things quickly without having to worry about protecting your goods from outside weather conditions or prying eyes.

Tonneau covers come in different types:

One-Piece Solid 

Soft roll-up

Hard folding

Soft folding

Retractable

One-Piece Solid: The one-piece solid tonneau cover is the most expensive, and provides full bed access. However, they do not seal as tightly as other types of covers because it does not pull tight to the bed. They do look very nice and work well for people with larger trucks that need more cargo space. This type of tonneau cover is also available with a tri-folding feature so it can be rolled up when needed.

Soft Roll-Up: A soft roll-up tonneau cover has a soft plastic material over a metal frame that rolls up like window blinds or window shades. It closes at either end by folding down into two hoops at the front and back of your bed. The hoops are then latched, or pinned into place. Soft Roll-up tonneau covers will seal tightly around the bed because they pull tight to it, but do not have a sturdy feel because of their lack of structure. Also, since the material is soft it may wear over time creating tears that allow water in when driving in bad weather. This type of cover does provide full access to the bed.

Hard folding: Hard folding tonneau covers are fastened to specially built mounting brackets attached to each side of your truck’s bed. They snap together at the front and back ends above the cab, sealing tightly for maximum protection against rain, snow, dirt, hail, or other debris. This type of tonneau cover is available in soft roll-up form as well.

Soft folding: A soft-folding tonneau cover has a hard plastic shell with internal support ribs that look like an accordion when folded down on top of the truck’s bed. When you need to open up your truck for cargo, you simply pull up on a handle and drop it forward onto the front of your bed. Some soft-folding tonneau covers have a lock so they can be locked in place for security, but others simply rely on friction to hold them in place.

Retractable: A retractable tonneau cover has hard plastic panels that pull across the width of your truck bed and slide along a rail mounted on top of it. The cover is retracted by either manual or automatic means, usually with the flip of a switch.

What you will need?

1. Tape Measure – not an optional item since it measures your truck’s bed accurately

2. Drill and bits – for drilling holes in the tonneau cover brackets and maybe the side panels of your truck 

3. A saw or jigsaw – unless you want to cut metal with your teeth 4. Phillips head screwdriver 

5. Socket wrench

6. Allen wrench

7. Ratchet 

8. Pliers 

9. Pencil/pen 

10. (Optional) Tape 

11. (Optional) Tow strap 

12. (Optional) Car ramps 

13. (Optional) Floor Jack 

14. (Optional) Chalk 

15. (Optional) Woodblocks 

16. (Optional) Truck ramps 

17. (Optional) Two-by-fours 

18. Bolt cutters

1. Measure the length, width, and height of your truck bed to determine how much material you will need to cover it. Get the exact measurements rather than estimating them if at all possible because that will make for a more accurate fit. If you are cutting by hand, do so with extra care, making allowances for the thin plastic panels of the tonneau cover. Use your jigsaw or saw with slower speeds on harder plastics – higher speeds will melt thin plastics instead of cutting cleanly through them creating thin strings which may rip when finished or leave rough edges that look unsightly in the sun or rain.

2. Mark holes for each side panel of the tonneau cover, lining them up with pre-existing holes or notches in the brackets that hold them. Make sure you have enough room to slip the mounting bolts through the bracket holes and still have them tighten securely against both sides of your truck bed without having too many extra threads protruding into its interior that could catch on something and cause damage. If you are installing a hard folding tonneau cover then consider also marking holes for fastening it to existing screws along the roofline above your truck’s cab if they exist. Do NOT drill any holes yet!

3. Drill pilot holes where you made your marks using a drill bit smaller than the screw heads so as not to crack or strip out either plastic panels or metal brackets.

4. Screw side panels into place using their included hardware, usually with Allen or Phillips head screws that tighten with an Allen wrench or screwdriver.

5. Drill holes through the brackets of your tonneau cover, unless you are installing a Lund Genesis Tri-Fold in which case just remove one pin and lift the front edge until ready to mount it (see below)

6. Position mounting bracket(s) on each side of your truck bed according to where they will snap together at the front and rear edges above the cab (too low and they may interfere with opening/closing your tailgate; too high and they may not line up evenly across both sides), then mark pilot holes for fastening them using the same drill bit size you used to make the holes through the tonneau cover brackets.

7. Insert bolts, thread them partway down until they are secure but still leave enough room for nuts attached to their other ends that will tighten against your truck bed once bolt heads are level with or below it.

8. Attach each side panel to its respective mounting bracket(s) using the included hardware, taking care not to overtighten screws as this can crack plastic panels and strip out threads on metal brackets.

9. Snap tonneau cover onto both sets of fastening arms and you’re finished!

10. (Optional) Install any optional accessories such as a tailgate lock that comes with many of today’s tonneaus or snap-on ball mounts that allow you to keep a ball mount in place on your truck’s drop gate while the bed cover is closed.

11. (Optional) If you have an older hard tonneau cover and don’t want to put more holes through your truck bed than necessary, consider using a tow strap or two-by-four blocks of wood to carry it up and down if needed. Since new hard leather tonneaus come with all mounting hardware included, this will save you from having to drill additional holes into the metal brackets of the tonneau cover itself by attaching another set at its front edge just out of reach that can be raised and lowered by hooking one end onto your truck’s tailgate handle and pulling until firmly attached then guiding it up or down into place.

12. (Optional) To avoid losing screws, washers, and nuts inside your truck bed, use a few heavy-duty magnets (look for them in any hardware store or around your house; door stops are one common source) to hold them together with the bolt tip during assembly. Be sure they’ll attract one another strong enough to support the weight of whatever you’re holding before snapping them onto the end of an inserted screwdriver bit – failure can cause anything from bruised fingers to stripped out fender wells if it all comes tumbling down on you while you’re working!

13. (Optional) Make sure you have plenty of room to work when removing or folding up your hardcover or soft tri-fold. Both require enough space for you to get out of your truck, so if you park in a garage or driveway with high sides you may want to wait until it’s clear.

Inspecting and Maintaining Your New Tonneau Cover

The best time to inspect your new tonneau cover is after you’ve installed it but before winter hits. If the weather permits, check for loose screws and make sure that all panels are secure and lined up correctly on both ends. Make sure there’s no water pooling inside when exposed to rain or snow; if there is, tighten down any exposed fasteners (those not hidden by plastic panels) with an Allen Wrench (or equivalent). Pull back velcro tape at any seams and check for rips or tears. To avoid having your bed wrinkle during cold weather, make sure you keep it covered until any snow or ice melts off; wait even longer if at all possible since an avalanche of the white stuff will cause the tonneau cover to collapse inward and wrinkle any panels that are exposed (not a problem with tri-fold covers).

If the weather is too harsh for exterior inspections, check for loose screws on the inside of your truck’s tailgate before folding down your new tonneau. If everything seems in place but you still aren’t happy with how it looks, call up customer service and ask them what they can do to help (or mail it back if not satisfied for some reason). Most reputable companies will send you replacement parts if you still think you’re missing something and the tonneau cover is less than a year old – don’t be too proud to just ask!

If your truck bed gets exposed to lots of salt during the winter, open up any hidden fasteners and clean them down with a rag soaked in some light solvent. Spray or drip a generous amount onto a fresh cloth or sponge and wipe down all plastic panels. If you hear squeaking when opening the tailgate after folding it back up, use some form of wicking lubricant (WD-40 tends to attract too much dirt) on the hood’s hinge/lock area as well around where its rubber bumpers meet metal mounts inside your truck’s bed. You can also take off those rubber bumpers from inside the bed and wipe them down with a cloth soaked in wicking lubricant as well to keep them from squeaking again – do not use any kind of spray-on or drip-on lube on those rubber bumpers or else they’ll lose their ability to grip and hold your tonneau cover down.

Owner’s manuals for new hardcovers will often include info about storing it during the summer months; soft tri-folds may come with such instructions but if not be sure to do it yourself (it’s an easy process). Clean and dry off any dirt/mud/debris before folding up your new truck bed cover, then lay it out somewhere flat (like your garage floor) under something heavy enough to keep it from blowing away (a shelf is too unsteady; you need something like a workbench or at least your motorcycle). If full sunlight hits your tri-fold while it’s not in use, the sun will eventually warp any panels that are exposed to it (both sides of my truck bed cover got warped slightly despite being folded up and out of full sunlight for over a year – this may have been because I kept it under a shelf though). Anyway, this warping isn’t reversible once it’s done but you can avoid your hardcover getting all buckled up by storing it somewhere shaded whenever possible.

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