There is a certain satisfaction that comes from doing things yourself. Few things beat the pleasure of getting your hands dirty. You get to look at the results of your labour and be proud of what you have accomplished. This is especially true when you are dealing with cars and the installation of car parts. The entire process of putting something together, or installing a part, is not only a massive pay-off, but it’s also cost-effective.

In Australia, a ute tray is a necessity, like a hat or a sunscreen in the heat. And while ute accessory suppliers do offer installation services, you don’t necessarily have to pay someone to assemble the tray for you. If you are into DIY, (and as a ute driver, you probably are), then it’s possible to do your own installation.

Is it really tricky?

If this is your first tray installation, it may be a little challenging, but it is not hard. If you have ever changed a tyre in your lifetime, then you are capable of installing your own ute tray. Most ute trays come in a complete kit that is packaged in a cardboard box. The kit includes a manual that clearly explains the installation process. There are also YouTube channels that also offer tutorials, depending on the tray’s manufacturer and the make of your car.

What do you need to know?

The first thing you need to know is that ute trays come in different sizes for different trucks. A tray that can be installed on an Isuzu D-Max will not necessarily fit into a Toyota Landcruiser or a Nissan Navara. Even within models, a ute tray that can fit into an Isuzu D-max that was made before 2012 may not fit onto a D-Max that was made after 2012. The installation procedures are also completely different. This means you have to get the exact ute tray that goes with the make of your car and its year of manufacture. Some trays will allow you to switch between different trucks, but the lengths have to be exactly the same. This is however dependent on the manufacturer, and there are no guarantees that it will work as intended.

Some manufacturers add finishing to their trays before sale. This means there will be trays that are either painted or powder coated. If style is an important feature for you, ask the salesperson whether it is painted and what colour it is. Be sure to do so before your purchase, or you’ll have a surprise when you unpack the box at home, and not all suppliers allow returns or exchanges. If the ute tray comes as stock (meaning it is neither painted nor powder coated), you might need to put up a budget for the finishing yourself.

There are certain additions that can be made to your tray. Some trays, for example, come with a timber floor. The wooden floor is set on top of the usual aluminium flooring, mainly for aesthetics. Others have a timber floor without the aluminium protective cover, which is high maintenance and expensive. It also becomes weak over time from the elements and use. These are the types of ute trays you should avoid.

Depending on the manufacturer and where the tray goes, you would need to replace your fuel tank. Some installations require you to purchase and install aftermarket fuel tanks, which would require a professional to fit. This is to make sure that the fuel system in your car remains effective.

What happens if things do not go as planned?

Should your ute tray come without the installation manual, or something happens to it in transit, you can probably get a copy of your installation instructions online. The steps for installation are pretty much universal, even though few people read them. Still, when in doubt, just ask Google.