Truck Upgrades: When to DIY and When to Call a Professional

7 min readJun 10, 2024


Installing accessories and replacing some factory components can turn an ordinary pickup truck into a high-performing vehicle that meets all your needs. However, you must know when to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself (DIY) or leave it to a professional to ensure precise installation when you plan to have aftermarket accessories and modifications.

Installing Accessories Without Technical Experience

It is possible to install a few truck accessories without technical experience. Aftermarket accessory manufacturers design their products with the average consumer in mind. They provide clear instructions (some with illustrations) and the necessary tools for installation. You can install most pickup truck accessories with minimal effort, as they do not require special skills.

However, more complex upgrades, such as performance enhancements and electrical modifications, may require a certain level of technical knowledge and experience. Assessing your capabilities for complex mods and upgrades is crucial. Improper installation can lead to serious consequences, costing much money to fix and jeopardizing your vehicle’s safety.

Deciding when to DIY

Deciding when to DIY may depend on several factors, including your technical skills, the complexity of the accessory, and the tools you have available. Here’s how you can determine when to take the DIY route:

Simplicity of the Upgrade

There’s no need for a mechanic’s help if the instructions are easy to follow and the installation process is straightforward. Some accessories, such as floor mats, dashboard covers, and seat covers, usually fall into this category.

Personal Interest and Time

DIY can be rewarding, especially if you have the time to devote to a project and enjoy working on your truck. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps you to learn more about your vehicle.

Availability of Resources

Online tutorials and forums can greatly help if you want to take the DIY route. You can find ample resources that can walk you through the installation process. It is also a good way to practice your skills and use the tools you already have in your garage.

Cost Considerations

Installing the truck accessories in your garage can save you money on labor costs. If you have some technical knowledge and experience tweaking some parts of your vehicle, installing the accessories yourself is a cost-effective option, especially when working with a tight budget.

Easy-to-install Truck Accessories

Several truck accessories are designed for easy installation and can be handled by most truck owners. Here are a few examples:

Dashboard Covers

This accessory helps protect the truck’s dash from harmful UV rays. It is also good for covering cracks or damage caused by wear. The dashboard cover makes the dashboard look refreshed and improves the interior’s appearance.

Seat Covers

The seat covers can easily be slipped over your existing seats, giving your interior a new look. They can also protect the factory upholstery from spills, dirt, and other potential damages.

Floor Mats and Liners

Dirt and spills can ruin the factory flooring of your truck’s cab. Floor mats and liners are easy-to-install accessories that shield the interior flooring from damage. The mats lay flat on the floor to prevent dirt and liquids. The liners offer a more precise fit and have deeper grooves to contain moisture from seeping through the carpeting.

Tonneau Covers

Truck owners can install certain styles of tonneau covers using simple tools. Folding and rolling-style bed covers are easy to install, taking only a few minutes to complete the installation process, and do not require complicated tools. Electrical-powered tonneau covers may need professional installation due to their intricate wirings.

Bed Liners and Mats

These accessories are similar to what floor liners and mats do for the vehicle. Mats lay flat on the truck bed’s surface to prevent scratches and moisture that may cause corrosion. Although bed mats are easier to install than liners, they can only give minimal protection. Drop-in and spray-on bed liners offer enhanced protection but require more effort for installation. Washing and buffing are needed to prepare the truck bed’s surface before you can install the liner.

Cargo Organizers

Various cargo organizers are available for pickup trucks. They are typically secured with simple straps or clips and can be placed in the truck bed or cab to keep items neat.


Installing a toolbox allows you to secure and organize your tools, small items, and other equipment. They’re not the typical handy ones you can lift with just one arm. Truck bed toolboxes come in side-mount and cross-bed options. Some toolboxes have locks, which allow you to secure your valuables.

Tailgate Assist

Opening and closing the tailgate can sometimes be scary, especially if you have kids. The tailgate may slam due to its weight, causing accidents. Adding a tailgate assist is a good way to dampen the tailgate smoothly when opening it to access the bed. It can be installed with basic tools, and no drilling is required.

When should you seek help from a Mechanic or a Professional?

Due to the potential risks and the complexity of the installation process, some mods are better left to the expertise of professionals.

Electrical Upgrades

For some truck owners who do not have the technical skills, installing new lighting systems, sound systems, or other electrical components can be tricky. Incorrect wiring can cause short circuits, battery drain, or even cause fires. Professionals are proficient in ensuring these installations are done safely.

Performance Enhancements

Mods like exhaust systems, engine tuning, or turbochargers can significantly improve pickup truck performance. However, installation is not a breeze for those who do not have the know-how. Mechanics can ensure these upgrades are installed correctly, and the vehicle is tuned properly for optimal performance.

Brake and Suspension Systems

The suspension and brake systems are crucial for the safety and handling of the vehicle. Improper installation may lead to poor performance and increased accident risk. Professionals have the expertise and necessary tools to install the components safely.

Warranty Considerations

Some upgrades can void the vehicle’s warranty if not installed by a certified professional. Always check the terms and conditions of the warranty before starting the upgrades or modifications.

Expertise Required

Certain truck accessories and upgrades require professional installation due to their complexity and the precision needed for proper setup. Here are a few examples:

Engine Mods

Adding a supercharger or turbocharger and making other engine changes are considered complex modifications. Professional expertise is required to prevent engine problems. Incorrect installation of engine mods can also damage the vehicle, leading to expensive repairs.

Lift Kits

Installing a lift kit involves tweaking the truck’s suspension components. Hiring a mechanic assures you the suspension upgrades will be done correctly to guarantee safe handling and avoid alignment issues.

Sound Systems

Amplifiers, subwoofers, and other high-end sound systems require precise wiring installation. Sometimes, installation involves disconnecting other interior panels to fix the wirings. Hiring a professional to install the sound system prevents short circuits and other issues.

Lighting Systems

It involves fixing the complicated wiring when upgrading the HID or LED headlights, light bars, and other lighting systems. Since it requires mounting and intricate wirings, it is best handled by a professional.

Tires and Wheels

Changing the tires is not really that difficult. However, if you plan on upsizing the wheels and changing the type of tires, seeking help from a professional ensures you get the proper size for your vehicle. Some shops offer free mounting or tire balancing when you purchase from their tire and wheel packages.

Brake Upgrades

One of the most important parts of any vehicle is the brakes. High-performance brake systems require precise installation to ensure they work properly and safely. Any mistakes during the installation may have serious safety implications for your pickup truck.

Backup Camera and Navigation System

Some backup cameras and GPS devices can be installed without professional help. However, a GPS navigation system with fancier features and a hefty price may require a professional’s expertise. Connecting the wires could take a couple of hours and may require pulling wires through other parts of the truck’s interior.

Benefits of Adding Accessories to Pickup Trucks

Aside from functionality, adding accessories enhances various aspects of the truck. Here are some key benefits:

Increased Utility: Bed liners, toolboxes, cargo management products, and other accessories can increase the truck’s utility. These add-ons let you protect your cargo area, carry more stuff, and even improve the towing capacity.

Enhanced Safety: Upgrades such as advanced braking systems, better lighting, rearview cameras, and other accessories can enhance the truck’s safety and reduce the risk of accidents.

Improved Performance: Various accessories, such as cold air intakes, exhaust systems, and suspension upgrades, can boost pickup truck performance. These mods can increase horsepower, improve fuel efficiency, and give a smoother ride.

Aesthetic Appeal: Custom wheels, paint jobs, and interior modifications can make your truck stand out. Customizing your vehicle makes it look good and reflects your style and personality.

Resale Value: Quality upgrades allow you to retain a good resale value for your truck. Potential buyers often look for vehicles with cool features and add-ons, making your truck more appealing on the market.

Enthusiastic DIYers can install a wide range of truck accessories, but it is crucial to recognize the complexity of the task and your skill level. You can accomplish simple upgrades without spending on labor costs, but more complex mods must be entrusted to professionals. Understanding when to DIY and when to seek an expert’s help guarantees that truck upgrades are done safely and effectively.




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