Fixing a Pickup Truck After a Roll Over




About: I am a USMC Veteran and a Mechanic. I like fixing stuff, making stuff, and being outside.

A family friend rolled over her pickup on an icy winter road. Her liability insurance did not cover the repair or replacement of her truck, leaving her without a driveable vehicle or the funds to replace it.  Her father tracked down a replacement cab from a wrecking yard, but he had no way to replace it himself.
When I started this project I noticed that the replacement cab still had the dashboard assembly, wiring, and hvac installed. Some rodents had built a nest under the dash, making all parts questionable for use.  I chose to remove it all and reuse everything from the original cab.
The truck has a manuel transmission, the replacement cab had been pulled from a truck with an automatic transmission.  The clutch pedal had to be transfered also, and a hole had to be cut in the floor of the replacement cab to allow fitment of the transmission shifter.
Once everything was stripped from the interior of both cabs, the hood and fenders were removed.  The parking brake, hydraulic brakes, electrical, heater hoses, a/c lines, shifter linkages, and steering were disconnected from the cab.  The cab bolts were removed and the cab was raised up off the chassi, followed shortly by lowering the replacement cab onto the chassi and bolting it down.  Everything was hooked back up, the hood and fenders reinstalled, the interior components installed, fluids filled, and linkages adjusted.
After going back over everything to be sure nothing had been forgotten, the truck was started and a function test was done to assure everything was working properly before test driving the truck.

Step 1: The Replacement Cab

To do a project like this you will need a full mechanics toolbox, a vehicle hoist, a replacement cab, and a weekend.

I have seen truck cabs pulled of with a chain hoist and an A frame or sturdy tree branch, but a good vehicle hoist will save time and effort.  If you have access to one, use it.

All of the A/C, brake, and electrical parts still attached to the firewall of the replacement cab had been exposed to the elements for an undetermined amount of time, so they all came off and went into the scrap pile. The dashboard assembly had a rat nest in it, so all the interior was stripped off and put in the scrap pile.

Step 2: The Scrap Pile

Not everything in the scrap pile is in the photos, just the major stuff.  None of these parts just fall off, and removal of this many major parts does require a level of mechanical ability.  I brought in my son to help with the project and he did a great job of organizing and keeping track of all the screws and bolts we needed to put the truck back together.

Step 3: Stripping the Damaged Cab

The Damaged Cab was stripped of all the interior trim pieces, and the seats and set to the side for reuse. The steering column, dash assembly, clutch and brake pedal bracket assembly, and electrical harness were removed and set to the side as well.

The front fenders and hood were removed from the vehicle and set to the side, we did not get replacement fenders with the replacement cab.  The freon was recovered from the A/C system and the lines were disconnected from the firewall, The coolant was drained and the heater hoses were removed from the firewall.  After the A/C and heater hoses were disconnected the hvac assembly was removed from the interior of the cab.

The brake booster was unbolted from the cab and layed over, the hydraulic lines do not need to be removed or loosened, this will prevent the need to bleed the brakes later.

The chassi and engine electrical harnesses need to be disconnected from the cab and positioned out of the way.

If you want to teach someone about trucks this is a project that will show them more than any singular project.

Step 4: Swap the Cabs

Know that everything has been disconnected from the interior of the cab and from under the hood it is time to move under the truck.  Get under the truck and disconnect the parking brake cable at the cab.  Remove the cab mounting bolts and lower the truck, reposition the hoist and raise the cab up slowly.  Check frequently while raising the cab for hangups or forgotten connections.  Once the cab is up and everything is clear roll the cabless chassi out from under the cab.

If you are using a single hoist lower the damaged cab onto a pallet or flatbed trailer and get it out of the way so the replacement can can be put on the hoist. 

Roll the chassi into position under the replacement can and lower it down slowly making sure that nothing is pinched or damaged by the cab.  Adjust the cab position and bolt it down. Hook up and reassemble the truck in the reverse order of disassembly. 
Fill the fluids, charge the A/C, and double or triple check everything before starting the truck.  Function check everything, this project requires messing with everything so every button, switch, and feature has to be checked from the head to toe.

Step 5: Test Drive and Give the Truck Back

After function testing and making any needed adjustments, test drive the truck.  If it starts, drives, shifts, and stops correctly without any wierd noises or vibrations you can give the truck back.

This was a two day job, with the help of an assistant.  I have done this type of cab swap several times and this instructable is intented as more of an advisory than a highly detailed step by step. 

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    10 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 5

    Will an 03 and 05 Dakota quad cab swap easily??


    1 year ago

    What state are you in?? I have this same situation and don't know if I'm up for an 03 and 05 Dakota quad cab swap easily? Or was this change over years??


    3 years ago

    Hi, nice job on the dodge. I am going to do this cab swap on a 96 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Auto trans Cummins Diesel. Can you provide any help or tips. Thankyou.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I can provide help if needed, I have removed and installed cabs on 94-02 Cummins Dodges before. For a tip, don't forget to disconnect the Chassis electrical connector under the cab on the driver side of the frame or the ground strap on the back of the engine.


    3 years ago

    Quick Question! How did you get the VIN number off of the old cab and put it on the new cab? Or did you? I planning to attempt to replace the cab on my '99 dodge pickup and after reading this post I am confident it is possible. However, want my truck to have the same VIN number as before, so that I don't arrested for driving with a mismatched VIN/License plate. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    When I had the dash assembly removed I was able to the VIN plate by the windshield.