Building an Automated Truck Topper Lift System

Building an Automated Truck Topper Lift System

Guest Writer
Guest Writer
PA Engineer

A topper lift system is what is used to extend a truck cap up into the air. It uses linear actuators to allow for the top of the lift to be raised up as far as is necessary. A truck topper lift can be used for anything from turning your truck into a camper van, to making more room for equipment and supplies, or even just to make things easier when opening the back door to remove things. This article focuses on the basics behind a truck topper lift and what you need to know!


Advantages of a Truck Topper

Increased Space

This is a fairly basic advantage but having a truck topper lift means that you will have more space available. Whether it be for transport things, having more room to manoeuvre tools.


This addition increases the convenience of loading and unloading one’s vehicle.

Increased Access

Most people are limited to getting things out of the back of their cars and trucks but having a topper lift system will allow one to retrieve items from the sides of the truck, as well as from the back.

Addition of a Camper Shell

With a truck topper lift supplying more space, one can easily turn what is a fairly normal car into a camper as in the picture below.

A DIY Topper Lift


A DIY Topper Lift

A DIY truck topper lifting kit is fairly simple, and only has a few pieces of equipment in it.


Linear Actuators

The stroke distance is highly dependent on how high you want the lift to go, but a 12v linear actuator is used ordinarily.


Remote Controls

The remote control allows the pickup topper lift to be controlled remotely. This can also mean that people can take the remote control and use the truck lift without needing to be in the vehicle.


Mounting Brackets

The mounting brackets are what the actuators are fixed to, allowing the movement of the truck topper lift to happen smoothly. The mounting brackets can change in strength depending on the linear actuators used, and the weight of the truck cap itself.


Products Needed for this Project

  • 2 x linear actuators (PA-14 model).
  • Stroke: 1" to 24" depending on where one will mount the topper and the lift height required.
  • Force: each actuator should be 150 lbs. One can try using 50 lbs actuators for higher speed if your application permits lower force units.
  • 1 x Wireless 12V DC Remote Control Kit (PA-30 or PA-31).
  • 4 x Mounting Brackets (BRK-14 model).

The above information was obtained from the most common type of similar applications. Depending on the specific design one might require different actuator models, quantity, and accessories. One can always contact our engineers to obtain additional help with your project.

The video below also demonstrates a trunk lifter in action using Progressive Automations materials.



How to Build a Truck Topper Lift


Products Needed for truck topper lift


When working on such a project, one must take special care because if it does not work one is left with a car that has effectively been sawn in half. Knowing what you are doing is key to this project and so is knowing what you want the end result to be as well.


Step One: Measure

Before picking up any tools or make any permanent changes one should take all measurements. Measurements will mean that you can plan where the linear actuators will go, and where you will cut and fit to create the homemade topper lift in the first place.

It is important to remember that the space required for the actuator will affect the size of the overall topper lift project. It is thus important to take the size of the linear actuators that will be in the truck topper lift into account along with that of the mounting brackets. These will need to fit into the space even when the topper is not extended, thus be sure to remember and include them in the measurements.


Step Two: Make a Topper

Most cars and trucks do not come with a removable topper thus it is up to the owner to make one. The work done to remove a truck cap can easily be done by a mechanic or somebody else who is knowledgeable about working with cars but can be done at home with the proper tools.

The measurements done in step one will supply a clear idea of where the topper will be. Sometimes this decision is made easier by the truck having windows that reach down to a certain level as the topper must be below them. It is also important to bear in mind what the topper shall be used for when deciding on a position. Turning your truck into a camper will require more space than simply having extra space to reach in and grab some tools from the back of your van.

When cutting the topper, remember that it needs to be kept in a straight line throughout, to make sure that the end project works in the proper manner. The 12v linear actuators that come in a normal topper kit are all the same size, so they will be unable to work properly if one does not have a straight line for them to attach to.


Step Three: Attach the Equipment

The linear actuators and mounting brackets should be installed at this stage. Before one attaches them, one must ensure that both the actuators and the brackets are the correct size and weight for the project. The mounting brackets, in particular, have to be able to withstand both the actuators moving up and down periodically over the course of however many years one is using the car, as well as the weight of the topper.

The linear actuators need to be strong enough to be able to lift the topper and hold it in position for as long as needed, as well as be able to lower it effectively into position without causing any damage to either it or the actual car.


In Summary

12-volt linear actuators are perfectly suited for jobs such as raising and lowering car toppers because of their unique structure. While there are other pieces of equipment that can offer the same motions as linear actuators, actuators have been designed specifically to allow for increased strength of materials, dexterity in operation, and longevity.

For a car topper, there are several considerations to take into account. Firstly, is the need for care. Since the topper will likely be heavy, a lifter will need to ensure that it does not cause any damage when being lowered down onto its base. Actuators can provide the assurance that this will not happen. Similarly, they also need to be able to work over a long period of time which the actuators can provide assurance for as well.