Complete Guide to Replacement Tailgates: When to Replace, What to Choose & How to Install
There may not be an exterior body part of your truck that gets more abuse than the tailgate. Whether it's from the constant opening and closing, throwing long items in the back that sit on the top and hang over past the tailgate, or simply the mistake of leaving the gate open while backing into something on a job site. Most truck owners have experienced the scratches, dings, and even huge dents that cause a tailgate to look unsightly, and even reduce function.
Sometimes, your truck tailgate is in fine shape, but it restricts the functionality of your vehicle, like if you're towing a fifth wheel, or need to extend the bed slightly. Regardless of the reason for your tailgate search, Leonard Truck Accessories has the right replacement tailgate for you.
When to Replace a Tailgate
Even if you haven't sustained major damage to your tailgate, it's well-known that tailgate opening and closing hardware can be extremely finicky, and you often see bad hinges or latches on older trucks. A new replacement tailgate can offer huge improvements in ease of access to the bed.
Replacement tailgate technology has also come a long way in the last decade, with many manufacturers offering new innovations and features that you can’t find in OEM products. If you need your tailgate to have unique capabilities, then an aftermarket replacement tailgate may be the best option for you.
How to Choose a Replacement Tailgate
There’s a burgeoning market for aftermarket pickup truck tailgates, with many different styles available for different applications. When it's time to choose the best aftermarket tailgate for you, look at all of the factors that will impact your decision, like style, function, and durability. Some popular replacement tailgate options include:
- Tailgate Net. With styling cues taken from off-road racers, the tailgate net provides exceptional visibility to the rear of the vehicle, as well as being a stylish alternative to the traditional tailgate. You can even dress it up with a variety of patterns, and the holes in the net allow for enhanced airflow.
- V-Gate. If you have a fifth-wheel trailer like an RV or flatdeck for hauling work implements, a V-Gate tailgate makes hookups that much faster and more convenient. You can find a huge variety of models, including tailgates with a steel mesh, or other units with a louvered design, and either steel or composite construction. Either way, you get a tailgate with a lowered center, so that you can back your rig up to the trailer and hook up in seconds, without lowering the tailgate.
- Truck Bed Extender. The advent of the modern extended cab and club cab pickup truck designs has meant an erosion in the length of truck beds. Most new trucks have 6.5-foot or even shorter beds, greatly restricting the length of cargo that you can haul effectively. A truck bed extender allows you to utilize the full length of the tailgate and extend the effective length of the bed by almost two feet.
- Elongator Tailgate. One of the most innovative products in the pickup truck aftermarket is the Elongator Replacement Tailgate Extension, with Built-in Ramps. This design not only extends the effective length of your tailgate, but it also has built-in hinges that allow it to swing downward for loading, as well as built-in ramps that can handle your quad or other wheeled machine, tucking away within the gate when not in use. These cutting-edge tailgates cost more than other simple designs, but they serve a variety of purposes, and make loading an ATV that much easier. Plus, installation is fast and simple, requiring no special tools. They are even available with OEM integration for backup cameras, remote locking, and key fobs.
Steps to Install a Replacement Tailgate
The first step in a replacement tailgate installation is to ensure that you are purchasing the correct size tailgate for your OEM. Once you have done this and purchased your new replacement tailgate, remove the OEM tailgate. For most half-ton trucks, the process is easy.
- Open the tailgate and let it drop to the resting position.
- Disconnect any wiring harness that controls the backup camera and tailgate locks. You may need to complete this step once the tailgate has been taken off its hinges.
- Support the weight of the tailgate while disconnecting the support cables or bars on either side of the gate.
- Rotate the tailgate up about 45 degrees and pull the tailgate away from the truck at a 45-degree angle. There should be a slot where the gate slides out of the hinge on one of the sides, and you may need to rotate the tailgate up to almost vertical to release the pin on the other side. It's a good idea to have a friend help with this, to avoid dropping the tailgate.
Once you have removed the OEM tailgate, install your new replacement tailgate from Leonard Truck Accessories in the reverse process of removal. If your new tailgate requires special instructions, they will be included with the packaging.