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> Six Questions to Ask When Buying a Tonneau Cover

Six Questions to Ask When Buying a Tonneau Cover

Tonneau covers are an essential upgrade for anyone who wants to increase their truck bed's security and protect their cargo from the elements. Also referred to as a truck bed cover, a tonneau cover can singlehandedly transform your truck bed. In this Q and A we'll answer the most commonly asked questions people have when shopping for a tonneau cover.

What is the main purpose of adding a tonneau cover?

Will a tonneau cover fit with a bed liner?

Are tonneau covers compatible with other bed accessories?

How should the height of a truck impact cover choice?

How difficult is installation?

Do tonneau covers require maintenance?


1. What is the main purpose of adding a tonneau cover?

Image of a Tacoma equipped with a tonneau cover
Tonneau covers offer protection both the elements and theft.

There are two primary reasons people add tonneau covers to their truck beds: security and weather protection. A tonneau cover will keep the cargo in your bed both protected from mother nature and safe from prying eyes and sticky fingers. Depending on what kind of cover you decide to install, your bed could become more secure than your cab.

Aside from security and weather protection, there are other benefits to adding a tonneau cover. Certain covers can be painted, making them an essential addition to a show truck. Other covers can be equipped with rack systems to carry anything from ladders to kayaks. Whether your truck serves as a mobile workstation or an off-road warrior, adding a tonneau cover can transform your truck bed and greatly increase its versatility.








Image of a truck equipped with a Bedrug bed liner
Bedrug produces bed liners that will fit with any tonneau cover you can find.

2. Will a tonneau cover fit if I have a bed liner installed?


A bed liner can either sit under your bed rails or reach up over the rails to provide additional protection. Under-the-rail bed liners present no issue for most tonneau cover designs, though some retractable covers may require some trimming of the liner at the bulkhead. Over-the-rail bed liners cover the lip of the bed which the majority of tonneau covers use as a fastening point. While the liner can be kept in place, it will need to be notched in those areas where the clamps for the tonneau cover attach in order to ensure a secure installation.




3. Are tonneau covers compatible with other bed accessories?

The short answer in most cases is yes, but your choice of both brand and style of cover will be impacted if you want to use certain bed accessories. Here are some of the most popular bed accessories and how installing a tonneau cover will affect their use and fitment.

Tie Down Rings

Image of bullring tiedowns
Bullring tiedowns are compatible with many tonneau covers.
These items install into the stake hole pockets of a truck bed to provide an anchor point for cargo straps and ropes. A high profile tonneau cover such as a soft tri-fold will sit over these pockets, making them inaccessible. If you want to keep access to these holes, choose a low profile cover such as the roll up covers made by Ionic or a BAKflip folding cover.







Utility Track Systems

Image of a truck equipped with a utility track system
Utility track systems (sometimes called cargo management systems) require different hardware for a tonneau cover to attach.
Many modern trucks come from the factory equipped with a utility track system. This system consists of rails built into the bed with sliding cargo cleats. While there's no consistent degree of impact to the functionality of a cargo management system from cover to cover and truck to truck, the general rule of thumb is that the use of this system will be impeded once a cover is installed. In some cases, the cargo cleats will need to be fixed in place or completely removed.











Bed Extenders

Image of a truck equipped with an AMP Research bed extender
A bed extender from AMP Research.
Aftermarket bed extenders such as those made by AMP Research have an optional hardware kit which makes them compatible with a tonneau cover. If you already have an AMP bed extender and you're installing a tonneau cover, you'll need to order this kit at the same time. If you have an original equipment bed extender such as the ones offered on some Nissan Frontiers, certain covers will interfere with its operation.






Truck Racks

Image of a truck equipped with a rack system
Rack systems are compatible with a limited number of tonneau covers.
Like tie down rings, truck racks usually require access to your stake hole pockets in order to install. Additionally, the cross bars from a truck rack can impede the use of a folding cover. For this reason, many truck racks will only work with low profile retractable or roll up covers and even then some modification may be required during installation.








Headache Racks

Image of a truck equipped with a headache rack
With the right adapter, many tonneau covers will work with headache racks.
Some headache rack manufacturers offer adapters that will allow them to work with a variety of tonneau covers. If you have a headache rack or you're purchasing one at the same time as a tonneau cover, check with the rack manufacturer to see if the adapter is available before deciding on a cover for your truck.








 


4. Should the height of a truck impact cover choice?

Image of a lifted truck
If your truck is lifted, a retractable cover may be the easiest cover for you to operate.

Today's pickup trucks sit higher than any past models and aftermarket lift kits can add as much as eight inches to that height. If your truck sits high, it's worth taking that height into consideration when choosing a cover. Retractable covers, especially electric models, are very popular on taller trucks thanks to their relative ease of use compared to folding and one piece hinged covers. If you prefer a more affordable option, a soft roll-up cover is lightweight and easy to use as well, making it a great choice for a lifted truck.











5. How difficult is installation?

Image of a truck equipped with a soft tonneau cover
Soft tonneau covers are among the easiest to install.

The difficulty of installation varies from one cover design to another. A soft tri-fold can be installed in less than ten minutes with no tools required while covers that require rails to be installed separately first can take between 45 minutes to an hour with basic hand tools. The majority of tonneau covers use bolt on or hand tightened clamps that require no drilling. A few brands do require some minor drilling on the tailgate for installation. Additionally, some stepside truck beds will require drilling for any cover at all to be installed since they don't have bed rails for clamps to fasten to.









6. Do tonneau covers require maintenance?

Image of Pro-Tex tonneau protectant
Clean and protect your tonneau cover by using a protectant such as Pro-Tex.

Most tonneau covers do not require any maintenance besides cleaning with soap and water. For a vinyl tonneau, a UV protectant such as Extang Tonno Tonic should be used from time to time to keep the cover in good shape . The only tonneau covers that require routine mechanical maintenance are retractable tonneau covers which should have their rails lubricated occasionally to ensure ease of movement. ReTrax and GatorTrax retractable tonneau covers are exceptions to this rule as they include sealed ball bearings and require no maintenance.


Do you have a question that wasn’t covered here? Contact our expert staff today. We have the knowledge and experience to help you choose the best cover for your truck and answer all of your questions.