A.R.E. Tonneau and DCU Installed on 2017 Nissan Titan XD Cummins
Two-Two-Two Tops Are Better Than One
You finally bought the truck of your dreams. Soon after, you began wondering about how to protect your tools or how to hide the family luggage. We contacted A.R.E. Accessories for examples of its excellent DCU (Deluxe Commercial Unit) truck cap as well as its LSII tonneau cover painted to match our Cummins-equipped Nissan Titan XD’s Forged Copper metallic paint. We don’t know which bedcover you’ll need, but both options are a win-win.
Here’s the step-by-step process as well as what to look for in an installer; A.R.E. caps are only available from dealers. Why no DIY instructions? First, installation can be a bit tricky, particularly when hooking up the lighting. Second, tops like our DCU are huge, needing the help of a forklift to place. Regardless, A.R.E. transports all tops to its dealers on specially equipped A.R.E. trucks. In mid-Michigan, A Advanced Truck Caps & Accessories is the place to go for caps and lids. It’s a family dealership that’s been in the business for more than 40 years—these folks know caps and tonneaus. Advanced began as a constructor of aluminum truck campers. When that crashed in the oil crisis, the company switched from maker to installer. It’s been an A.R.E. dealer for a decade. Why? “A.R.E. is a premium line, making great products that fit,” says co-owner Bill Loveall. “And it’s financially solid, so it’ll be in business to offer support and service.”
Advanced has installed tops, tonneaus, and caps onto “anything with a box on it,” so we asked about choices in truck lids. “Fiberglass has good looks, and with trucks costing more than $40,000 and up into the $60k range, people want a top that truly complements and enhances their trucks. A.R.E. custom-paints its tops in a state-of-art paint shop,” Ron Frazee, the other owner, tells us.
Before we started our first (and more complex) installation of the DCU top, we asked about that product group, which was meant for trades. A.R.E. selected it as a basic unit that could have been accessorized in hundreds of ways. As the buyer, you can configure a DCU with options including three different door styles, three window styles, tool bins with dividers, insulation, fold-down shelves, extra interior lights, light- or heavy-duty ladder racks—and that’s just the beginning. Our cap had minimal accessories: a hydraulic assist for the side panels, rope lighting under the back door, and one side bin.
A.R.E. offers rack and box options as well: racks for ladders and pipes and inset boxes for tools, plumbers’ products, saws, and construction materials. “There’s even an installable exterior rack [supplied by Kargo Master] that will hold materials right up to the load rating of the truck,” Ron says. “Most construction companies, if they're working out of the truck every day, have a DCU.” That’s not all, either. Ron says there are fiberglass caps with doors in the sides that come with internal skeletons designed to carry up to 550 pounds. They’re stylish and more costly. “Some contractors go for style, some stick with heavy-duty, commercial-grade tops. The DCU is more versatile,” he continues. If you don’t believe him, consider this: The Michigan State Police bought a black DCU for its bomb squad.
The next install was the LSII Series tonneau. As the tonneau weighs about 100 pounds, positioning it requires two people. On each installation, we were able to keep the factory-supplied Nissan Utili-Track rails thanks to specialized clamps supplied by A.R.E. When we dropped the LSII on, it fit as if custom-made for this truck—which it was. “Once upon a time, a 6.5-foot Dodge or Chevy took the same cap,” Bill explains. “We could stock white caps and put a blue stripe on it for a blue truck, a red stripe for a red truck. Now they’re Corvette colors! Look at your Titan. Every truck is unique, and the paintjobs are insane. One of the best things about A.R.E. is its ability to match OE paint.”
Ron and Bill note that wiring systems on modern trucks can be touchy, which is why they prefer to get power for the lights direct from the battery. If you think installing a top is simple, Bill mentions that if you unplug the camera of a ’17 Ford with all-around view to fit a walk-in cap door, you’ll have to visit the dealer to get the backup camera to work.
For these pros, an average installation takes about an hour for any A.R.E. lid. Keep in mind, you must allow several weeks for delivery, as every creation (including our Forged Copper tonneau and the precisely fit DCU) is custom ordered. Sizes for every product are different; every order is a custom product. Our installed DCU cost about $1,800 and the tonneau came in at around $1,200. Advanced does many that are $2,500 to $3,000. Once you start checking the order boxes, it adds up quickly. “We remind our customers that A.R.E. has a lifetime warranty against the paint fading or peeling, and it stands behind its product,” Bill says.
Before we drove off Ron told us, “What's fun is that we meet fun people. Everyone is different, and our goal is to make sure you leave our door with a smile—we want it to be Christmas.”
BOLT Locks Equal Safe StorageOur tonneau cover and the DCU had an extra layer of safety to prevent theft in the form of a BOLT cylinder lock coupled with sturdy locking bolts. It is definitely not one of the cheesy locks like you see on your toolbox. Simple in concept, the BOLT lock uses the vehicle key (the same key you’d use to lock the tailgate or open the door manually) to lock the lid or door.
BOLT lock cylinders are made by Strattec, a supplier to the Big Three and other OEs, so they are high quality, corrosion-resistant, and as pickproof as possible. BOLT ships each lock mechanism as a blank. The first time the BOLT lock is used, the owner simply inserts an ignition or door lock key into the tumbler, and spring-loaded rods match its contours. The first time the key is rotated, the position of these plate tumblers is permanently set to that key.
We like the convenience of having a single key to operate every lock on our truck, so we’re planning to add one of BOLT’s receiver locks and a coupler pin lock to our tow package for when we’re not using the gooseneck.
Photos courtesy of BOLT and STRATTEC