Copyright © Kenneth Payne All International Rights
By Ken Payne
This article describes the installation of a framed tonneau cover, with an
opening hatch style lift on the back 2/3rds of the cover. The cover is
supplied by A.A. Best. A.A. Best
supplies tonneau covers, convertable tops, carpet, headliners, etc. After
a minor delay, due to our mistake (we thought we ordered the wrong size),
we got to work installing the cover.
Tonneau covers come in many styles, from hard covers, roll-away vinyl covered
aluminum, simple snap on covers, framed covers, lift covers and more. Some
provide style and others security. The cover we installed is a snap-on
framed cover with a lift. This cover provided a useful twist, the lift
is at the 2/3rds point rather than at the front of the frame.
FTE had 3 trucks to choose from for
this installation, a 1967 F100, a 1979 F150 Supercab and a 2000 Ranger
Supercab XLT. Since the 1967 is undergoing restoration and the 1979 is a
working truck, the choice was simple: the 2000 Ranger.
The first thing we did was get out the
parts and compared them to the packing list. All the parts were there so
our next move was to lay out the frame pieces to make sure we had the right
size (as noted earlier, there was some confusion as to whether we had the
correct unit shipped). Sure enough, we had the right size.
Next, the instruction sheet. It was one page, with no illustrations, one
sentence per step and it left us guessing more than once. Frankly, it
needed work and we were disappointed, especially since the parts looked
The first step was to take a square nut and slide into the grove on the
front side frame, one for each side.
Then we placed the foam padding on the corner pieces. This was pretty
straight forward, simply peal off the paper back and stick. After this
push a corner piece onto the front of each front side rail. We noticed
that some of the corners were a little harder to install than others. Our
suggestion is to keep a rubber mallot handy to help push them in place
without scratching or otherwise damaging them. Once you have the corner
in place, tighten down the holding screw. Hold the corner tightly
in place while doing this! The holding screws are pointed screws which
seat into the soft aluminum frame as you tighten them. If you make mistake,
it will be difficult to align the corner because the screw point will want
to screw into the same spot. Our guess is that flat bolts would make
installation more fool-proof.
Repeat the procedure for all four
corners on the front section. Make sure you have a table big enough
for this section or a clean workspace on the floor covered with cloth
to avoid damaging the frame rails. Although the corner pieces can be
installed by a single person, we suggest you get some help holding them
firmly in place while tightening. Another suggestion is to keep the
frame on the table or floor during the procedure to avoid twisting the
Take the cover and snap it into place on the front frame then tie it into
place. We were pleasantly surprised with the frame snap pieces. Not only
do they slide back and forth making installation easier, there are also
extra pieces should you ever need them. Lay the frame on the truck and line
it up. For the Ranger, the frame was approximately 9/16" from the side
edges of the inside of the bed sides.
Once you're satisfied that the frame placement is square, use the four
provided clamps to clamp the frame down. Do not tighten them too much as
you'll want to adjust them as you go because the tightening process may
cause them to move slightly out of square.
The Ranger has a reinforcement buldge in the sidewall near the front of
the bed and a hole on the underside next to it so its not possible to
space the clamps equally as shown in the photo.
Slide four nuts into the back side of the hinge frame.
Then attach a corner piece to each back end of the hinge rail, slide on
the safety straps and then attach the side rails.
Then slide 5 nuts into each back side rail.
Attach the back rail.
Attach the reinforment brackets to the nuts your slid into the rails.
Measure the spots you wish to place the tensioning ribs and then tighten
down a lock bolt into one of the nuts you slid into the rails.
Attach the spring loaded tensioning ribs at the locations you tightened
down the nuts in the previous step.
Attach the front gas strut brackets. The further forward you attach it,
the higher you can lift the hatch.
Attach the gas struts to the front brackets. Note the safety strap we
Slide the other halves of the safety straps onto the gas struts. Then attach
the rear strut brackets to the bed and then attach the rear end of the
struts to these brackets.
Snap the cover into place, and you're done (make sure you connect the
safety straps when the cover is closed.
Click here and here
for images of the completed cover.
Overall, we were pleased with the results. The cover looks really good and
the 2/3rds positioning for the lift makes it equally functional. Once we
got past the thin instruction sheet, the installation was fairly straight forward.
The cover fits snug, squarely and isn't flimsy once put together. The vinyl
top is thick and lined with reinforcing fabric. We took it out for a drive
and it stayed snug the entire time, even over speed bumps.
We give this product 9 points out of ten. Had the instructions been better
and corner bolts used instead of bolt/screws we would have given it a ten.
This product is a recommended buy for anyone looking to add a good looking,
high quality, functional tonneau cover to their truck. You can visit
A.A. Best at their web site, http://aabestco.com/.