Trail Tested: Strengthen Your 2005-2023 Truck Bed & Add Tie Downs With These RCI Bed Stiffeners – Install Guide, Review & Overview
Bed stiffeners are a simple modification with a reasonable cost that provides long-term value for your truck. The Tacoma’s bed is made from a composite material susceptible to cracking under heavy loads and flexing during off-roading, or just overlanding in general.
Since I plan on adding additional weight and have taken my truck off-road more recently, I realized I should add them before it’s too late. It is a small price to pay for a potentially much higher cost to replace your bed if it does crack.
For more options, check out our bed stiffener buyer’s guide!
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RCI Tacoma Bed Stiffeners
Table of Contents
- 3/8″ or 1/2″ Sockets & Ratchet
- T40 &T55 Torx Bits
- Metric Box-End Wrenches (open-end can work too)
- Drill Bit Set (rated for metal)
- Black Spray Paint (optional)
Everything came boxed very well and included a hardware kit and instructions. Once you get everything separated and your tools lined up, you’re ready to move on to getting these installed.
Step 1. Remove Tail Lights
To remove the taillights, two 10mm bolts need to be removed; the very top one (as shown in the picture above) and the very bottom one.
Once that is completed, carefully pull the taillights towards you. They should pop out as they are just held in by tabs. After they are removed, carefully let them hang from the truck.
Step 2. Remove Factory Tie-Down & Bed Bolts
On each side of the bed, there is a factory tie-down and bed bolt that needs to be removed. The factory tie-downs can be removed using a T40 Torx bit, and the bed bolts with a T55.
Once you remove these, set them aside as you will need to reinstall them. The washers will go in the hole below to keep everything level.
Step 3. Mark Drilling Locations
Grab the stiffener (driver’s side pictured above) and bolt to lower part to the bed, as shown. Next, mark or punch the hole locations from the three holes on the side of the bed where you need to drill.
Note: Make sure the bed stiffener has the RCI in the corner facing outward.
Make sure you do this step carefully, as there are no do-overs.
Step 4. Drill Holes
In this step, RCI recommends you remove everything, but I decided to drill the three pilot holes with a 5/16″ or smaller drill bit with the stiffener installed. Make sure you only drill through the first layer of the bed when doing this and not the brackets behind the bed.
Once you have the pilot holes drilled, it’s time to drill the hole with your 3/8″ drill bit. I would recommend taking the stiffener off for this.
When you are done drilling the holes out, you may choose to use black spray paint to cover the exposed metallic area to prevent possible rust, but that’s optional.
Step 5. Install Top Bolt
Grab your stiffener, reinstall the OEM bolts, and line up all of the holes. Next, insert one of the 3/8″ x 1″ carriage bolts, starting with the topmost hole.
Once you run the carriage bolt through the hole, install a 3/8″ washer, a 3/8″ split washer, and then a 3/8″ hex nut, in that order. Hand-tighten that for now.
I made this an extra step because this bolt is in a very hard-to-reach area and will be the most difficult to install. It’s best to have a 9/16″ ratcheting wrench to make it easier.
Step 6. Install Two Remaining Bolts
Following similar steps to the topmost bolt, install the next two bolts. Each of them will start with a carriage bolt, washer, split washer, and then hex nut, in that order.
Hand tighten them at first, and then make sure to tighten all of the bolts using a 9/16″ wrench or socket.
Repeat steps 2-6 for opposite side.
Now, all you have to do is follow the same steps for the opposite side, and you’ll be done!
This is a pretty simple install, as long as you follow the instructions and get over the fact that you had to drill holes into the side of your bed.
It took me just a little under an hour to complete, and I couldn’t be happier with the overall result; these are high-quality stiffeners. A couple of big selling points for me, outside of protecting my bed, were that it comes with additional tie-down locations and an integrated bottle opener. Plus, my OEM bed mat will fit without any modifications to it!