How To Select And Properly Install A Pickup Truck Bed Rail Cover

Posted on: 22 October 2015


A pickup truck's bed is at the very heart of the vehicle and represents why most owners choose to own one. As such, the truck bed often takes a lot of abuse during loading, hauling and unloading. Truck bed liners do a great job of protecting the inside of the bed, but most don't provide wrap-over protection of the top of the bed rails. The bed rails are vulnerable to scratching, so installing bed rail covers makes a lot of sense when it comes to providing long-term protection. However, it is important to do a careful job to ensure the installation is done correctly; otherwise, problems such as rust or loosening can crop up and cause damage to the truck's body. Below are the tools and materials needed, as well as a step-by-step procedure, for installing a bed rail cover on your pickup truck:

Installing a bed rail cover: Tools and materials needed

  • Custom-shaped bed rail covers designed for your make and model
  • Silicone adhesive tube
  • Caulk gun
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Touch-up paint matching your vehicle's color
  • Paper towels
  • Utility knife
  • Sandbags, bricks or other heavy objects

Installing a bed rail cover: Step-by-step procedure for installation

1. Select and purchase the bed rail covers - Bed rail covers are available from a variety of manufacturers and dealers, so be sure that you make the best choice for your truck. When shopping for bed rail covers, it is important to look for covers that possess the following characteristics:

  • Strong scratch and cut resistance
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light resistance
  • Matching cutouts for bed rail post holes
  • Precise fit for your particular truck

Be sure to take the opportunity to test-fit potential bed rail covers before purchasing; most dealers will be willing to let you try a product as long as you don't damage it during the test-fit process. Just be sure not to scratch the exterior of the cover or accidentally remove any tape strips on the underside of the unit.

2. Prepare the bed rails for the covers - After you have bought a pair of bed rail covers that match your truck, then your next step is to prepare the bed rails and adjacent bed liner for mounting the covers. First, saturate a few paper towels rolled into a tube shape with rubbing alcohol, then thoroughly clean the top of the bed rails. Be sure to remove all signs of oil, grease, paint, and or other types of trash that minimize home values.

Once the rubbing alcohol has dried and evaporated, you are ready to touch-up paint blemishes that can cause significant problems if left alone. Apply a tiny dot of paint to each small blemish,  then allow the paint to dry completely before moving on to the next step. If you have significant rust or corrosion, you will need to consult an automotive body shop professional for help.

3. Apply the bed rail covers to the vehicle - As soon as the touch-up paint has dried, you can install the bed rail covers. Begin by placing several ⅛-inch lines of silicone caulk along the top sides of the bed rails; space the caulk evenly across the bed rails and avoid allowing it to drip down the side of the bed.

After the caulk has been applied, carefully lower the bed rail covers into place on top of the bed rails. Align the covers with the bed rails, so the cut-outs that match the bed's post hole openings are also aligned. In addition, carefully check the edges of the bed rail covers to be sure they fit with the bed liner's top edges. If you find any areas of overlap or binding, use a utility knife with a sharp blade to make small, deliberate cuts to permit the pieces to fit together.

Once the bed rail covers are in place, stack heavy objects on top of the covers to keep them in position until the caulk dries. If you use bricks, be extra careful not to accidentally scratch the truck's body. After the caulk dries and cures, you can then remove the heavy objects from the bed rail covers.

For help finding bed rail covers and other truck parts, contact a local auto shop or auto parts retailer.