Did you know that a truck bed isn’t connected to the cabin at all? This fact might leave you scratching your head. How is the truck bed supposed to be rigid if it isn’t tied to the rest of the truck? It connects to the frame underneath in a pretty clever and simple way.
The bed is connected through a number of threaded bolts that go through the bed and into the structural frame of the truck. The bed will then sit right on top of the metal framework of the pickup. This design gives a ton of durability and robustness to the truck as a whole — especially in the unfortunate event of an accident.
If you need to remove, replace, or upgrade your truck bed, you’ll first need to understand how the bed is connected. In this piece, I’ll tell you how a truck bed is attached to the frame, and how to remove your current bed.
Defining a Truck Bed
Just in case you didn’t know, the truck bed is the open part of a truck at the rear. It’s positioned behind the cab (where people sit in the truck), and it’s one of the reasons why pickups are so popular in the first place.
If you’ve ever bought lumber and thrown it in your pickup, you put it in the bed.
Some people put a cap on the bed which encloses the space. Even so, it’s still a truck bed and it gets mounted the same way.
What the Frame Is
Every vehicle on the road has a frame. The frame is a strong skeleton that holds your car together. If you look at it from an engineer’s perspective, the framework is the most critical piece.
The frame controls everything from how fast you can safely go, how well you take a corner, and even whether or not your car doors close.
Without a robust frame, a car will be undrivable. Every time you accelerate, brake, get in your vehicle, or turn, your frame is keeping everything solid. Otherwise, your car will wobble around and probably crash pretty quickly.
Speaking of crashing, the frame can also be thanked for your safety during a crash. Since it’s the strongest part of a vehicle, most of the force is transferred through the frame. Without it, the force would be transferred through the cabin and the driver, which is very bad news.
One of the reasons why repairing a car after an accident is so expensive is because of the frame. The moment a frame gets bent or damaged, professional welders need to get involved. This process is tedious and very expensive.
How Truck Frames Work
Even though every vehicle has a frame, the body of a vehicle is different between vehicle options. Cars typically use a “unibody” design while bigger SUVs and trucks opt for “body-on-frame”.
With a unibody vehicle, the body and frame are a single piece. The entirety acts as a cage for a driver. This option is a lot less expensive for manufacturers, and it’s also much more flimsy. In an accident, a unibody vehicle will perform much worse than a body-on-frame vehicle.
A body-on-frame vehicle takes the body and frame and separates the two. The frame is completely assembled, then the body is dropped on top of it. A series of mounting bolts will rigidly connect the two.
This makes a truck’s frame much more rigid. It also opens the door for off-roading, since this frame offers a higher ride height, more flexibility, more durability, and the ability for tires to be at different heights as you pass over mud and rocks.
How a Truck Bed is Attached to the Frame
If you spend some time fully disassembling a truck, you might be surprised. The frame is obviously a single assembly, but the truck body is two pieces.
The cab and truck bed are completely separate. You can remove just the truck bed and keep the rest of the vehicle intact (more on this later).
Let’s look specifically at the bed. The best way to understand how it attaches is to look at one that’s already been detached (like going on eBay and searching for a used truck bed for sale).
As long as the taillights and tailgate are attached, you won’t see any bolt holes along the side or rear of a truck bed. This makes sense because you’re not fastening anything to the side or from the rear of your truck.
The front might have some positional indicators, but there will likely not be anything attaching it to the truck’s cabin.
The real magic happens at the bottom of a bed. You’ll probably see some structural rails on the underside of a truck. You’ll also find a series of threaded holes and areas for wiring to run through.
Here’s how it works: bolts will be driven from the bottom of the framework upwards into the truck bed. This will tightly secure the bed to the frame. You won’t drive anything from the top of the bed, mostly because there’s a liner in the way. From the bottom, you get direct access to all the structural pieces.
After removing a truck bed, your truck will still function fully. The difference will be that you’ll have a flatbed-like appearance and a lot of systems will be exposed (like your fuel tank, exhaust line, and drivetrain).
This also means that the truck bed is sitting directly on the framework. Structurally, this is the best position if you want to keep everything rigid.
Why Does the Truck Bed Attachment Matter?
There are a few reasons why you might need to know how a truck bed is attached. One reason is just out of curiosity (or maybe a bet with a friend). If that’s the case, I hope you enjoyed the answer.
You might also need to know in case you need to remove, swap, or replace your truck bed. If that’s the case, simply knowing how it’s attached won’t give you everything you need to know.
Instead, you’ll need to understand how to remove and replace a truck bed. If that’s the case, keep reading. I have a thorough guide coming up.
Tools Used to Remove a Truck Bed
When you go to remove your truck bed, you really only need a handful of tools.
Most of the bolts will be hex head bolts. That means that they can be removed with either a socket and ratchet wrench or a power tool. In this case, I would probably use a power tool instead since these bolts tend to be pretty long with plenty of threads. It will take a lot longer to loosen them with a handheld ratchet.
The Process of Removing a Truck Bed
For those of you curious, here’s a full guide for removing a truck bed. I’m not going to specifically say how to put on a new truck bed, but it’s the exact same process in reverse order.
This process will give you the opportunity to put on a new truck bed or fit your truck with something completely different like a manufactured flatbed.
Start By Exploring the Underside
Before you loosen any bolts, you need to understand how your bed is connected. This involves crawling under your truck with a flashlight and camera and working through the installation process.
A lot of trucks will connect the bumper, hitch, and truck bed to the frame via some rails. The rails give manufacturers the flexibility to create a more rugged design for your truck.
The downside is that you’ll need to find all the bolts before you understand the sequence that you should remove things.
For instance, you might have a bumper and hitch that are in the way of the truck bed’s mounting holes. Or, the bed might rest on part of the frame that’s connected to the bumper.
The good news is that the bolts will be relatively easy to track down. You’re looking to remove the bed which will be connected to the frame and frame rails. When you’re under your truck, you should be looking for a metal box tube which is your frame. The next step is to just trace the frame and look for every bolt.
Personally, I like to take pictures of the bolts that I care about. For one, it helps me identify what I need to remove. The bigger benefit is that it is a good reminder of what bolts you need to reinstall afterward.
The saving grace is that you can always put a bolt back in or take out another one as you go along and take out a wrong one or miss one — it’s not the end of the world if you mess up here.
Since every truck is a little different, this first step is critical. Without knowing what you’re dealing with, you won’t be able to successfully remove a truck bed. I should also mention that this requires a little trial and error. There might be a bolt hidden somewhere that you won’t notice until the bed doesn’t come off in a future step.
While you’re crawling under your truck, take a second to unplug everything. There will be wires that connect to your rear blinkers, tail lights, and any ancillary lights back there. You probably also have a wire near your hitch for plugging in a trailer.
Out of habit, I always disconnect my car’s battery before unplugging wires. This is a good way to avoid shorting a wire or shocking yourself by grabbing exposed wires you didn’t notice.
If you have colorful tape, it might come in handy. Put a piece of tape on the wire and another one near where the wire connects to.
Most of the connection points will be towards the rear of the truck’s underside.
Take Out the Taillights
Before you start moving around heavy things, you should pop out your taillights. If you leave them in, they’re likely to fall out as you remove the truck bed. Once they fall, they can shatter and just add another headache to this process.
If you open the tailgate and look on either side, you should notice some fasteners. These keep the taillights in position.
Remove these fasteners and you’ll be able to pop your taillights out pretty easily. Don’t bother using a pry to wedge them out because then you’ll run the risk of scratching your truck.
Check the Fuel Cap
With your taillights in a safe place, it’s time to pop open the fuel access. Swing open the door as if you’re about to fuel up at a gas station. Look around the actual cap and see if there are fasteners tying the bed into the framework in this area.
If you see any fasteners, you’ll need to remove them. Otherwise, the bed will pull on the fuel tank in this area and can lead to some big problems.
Remove the Bumper
The next component to work on is the bumper. There’s a good chance that the bumper will interfere with your truck body at some level.
You might get lost as you’re tracing pieces of reinforced metal along the underside of your truck. I’d suggest starting at the bumper and working your way back. I wouldn’t be surprised if your bumper framework is supporting at least part of your truck bed.
In other words, the bumper is getting in the way. If you tried to lift the truck bed right now, it won’t budge without the bumper getting removed.
Track down the handful of bolts that are fastening the bumper to the frame. Once removed, you can step to the rear of your truck.
Bumpers can be handled with just one person. Get a good grip on it with both hands and it should slide straight backward. You might need to jostle the bumper and rock it a little to get it free before pulling it off.
Jack Up the Bed to Remove the Hitch
The next order of business is to remove the hitch. For reference, this is the assembly that you’ll use to tow a trailer or boat.
Since hitches are used to haul heavy equipment, there are a number of fasteners connecting a hitch to a truck’s frame.
In addition, there’s a good chance that the bed is resting on some of the hitch’s support frame. Again, you’ll need to remove this before the bed will go anywhere.
A quick way to remove your hitch is to start jacking up the truck bed. A standard jack will work.
Position the jack on a sturdy part of your truck’s bed and start jacking it up. Once it’s high enough, you can carefully wiggle the hitch assembly free and pull it straight back. A hitch can be quite heavy, so make sure you have a good grip on it before removing the hitch.
Also, be very careful of your jack as you’re doing this. It doesn’t take much to accidentally kick your jack and send your bed crashing down.
Remove All the Bed Fasteners
Some of the fasteners that get connected to your bed are hidden behind your hitch and bumper. Since these pieces are gone now, you can spend some time finding and removing all the fasteners that go into your truck’s bed.
These can be hidden anywhere, so make sure you really search for them. A flashlight will help a lot.
Be sure to keep all the fasteners handy for when you go to reinstall the next truck bed.
Lift it Away
Now you’re ready to get rid of your current truck bed. One of the best ways to do this that I’ve seen is to use a single section of scaffolding.
Your truck bed should come with some lifting eyes that are structurally sound. These eyes are little loops that can be used to successfully lift your bed up.
If you have a piece of scaffolding, you can build it around your truck. Use a rail high up, some straps (preferably ratchet straps), and/or a carabiner to connect to the hooks of your truck bed.
For easier removal, I’d recommend using the Steck Manufacturing 35885 Bed Lifter. It can be used along with an engine hoise to easily remove the bed from the chassis of the pickup truck.
Tighten the straps to pull the truck bed straight up. Continue doing this until your bed is lifted from your truck’s frame.
Now, hop in the truck and just drive away. As I mentioned earlier, your truck will still operate perfectly even if the bed is removed. After driving away, your truck bed will be floating in the air, supported by the scaffold.
Loosen the straps and drop the bed to the ground. If you’re putting on a new truck bed, you can use the same structure and reverse the process by lifting the bed high into the air, backing your truck into the area, then slowly lowering the bed.
As you can see, pickups are built to be tough and rugged. Since the truck bed is connected directly to the framework using a bunch of heavy-duty bolts, the bed can hold a lot of weight and take a beating. If you want to learn more about your pickup, explore the rest of my site. I also have a list of truck products that can greatly benefit you.