Ultimate Guide to Tonneau Covers

One of the most popular accessories for a pickup truck is a tonneau cover. In addition to adding to the style of your truck, they reduce wind drag, improve fuel economy, provide security, and more. This ultimate guide to tonneau covers will explain the different types of tonneau covers and offer advice on how to find the best one based on your budget and needs. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about these great accessories.

Ultimate guide art
We are an affiliate

We hope that you enjoy the products that we are recommending. We have done our best to ensure that we only recommend quality products. We may earn a small commission if you purchase using the links on this page. Thank you very much for using our links.

Why Are They Called Tonneau Covers?

Tonneau name originTonneau is a French word that means “barrel” or “cask.” Back in the early 20th century, car manufacturers made cars with different features, including a tonneau cover. It covered the back seat, which was usually a rounded compartment that was similar to a barrel. They protected the rear seat when it wasn’t being used. The tonneau cover was later used by race car drivers to reduce the wind drag. Tonneau covers are used on pickup trucks today for these reasons and more.

When the tonneau cover fits your truck correctly, it will reduce wind drag and thereby help improve your fuel economy. Some manufacturers claim that it will improve fuel economy by as much as 10%. Although truck beds are no longer shaped like a barrel, the name stuck, and they are used to cover the bed of your pickup.

Are Tonneau Covers Universal?

Tonneau covers are not universal. They are made specifically to fit a particular make and model of truck. When you buy them from a third-party retailer, they can help you find a tonneau cover that fits your truck as long as they know the make, model, and year of your truck. There are custom pre-fitted tonneau covers for your truck as long as you look for the right one.

Are Hard Or Soft Covers Better?

There are two different types of tonneau covers, which are hard folding and soft covers. The hard folding tonneau covers are made with larger sections that can fold back onto each other. They usually have three sections, and although they can be soft, they are often hard.

Hard panel folding covers can be removed, but they are very bulky and heavy, so they are difficult to remove. They provide greater security, and they look great too.

Soft covers can be foldable, but they also come in a roll-up style. They are the most common and most affordable style of roll-up covers. They are usually made with vinyl and have aluminum slats on the bottom. They are popular because they are lightweight and the easiest to remove and install.

There are a few other types, including a retractable hardcover that can be locked in different positions and a one-piece, which is a hardcover that rests on top of the truck bed.

The important thing is to find a tonneau cover that is the right size for your truck bed, no matter which type you choose.

Are Tonneau Covers Easy to Install?

Some tonneau covers are easier to install than others, and they are becoming even easier to install because they are so popular. They are the most popular accessory for trucks, and they come in so many styles. They are making it easier for people to install any type, including the hard cover tonneaus.

Some tonneau covers use temporary clamps. They attach with clamps and latches, and they don’t require any tools. You simply place this type on the bed, and then you latch it at the front of your truck. Then, you simply unroll it or unfold it. Make sure the tailgate is down and then you can latch it at the back of the truck as well.

Another type of tonneau cover will attach with semi-permanent clamping. They connect by way of rails that connect to clamps that you need to bolt onto the truck. This is not too labor intensive, but you need to make sure that you have the right tools to install it.

Retractable tonneau covers attach similar to semi-permanent clamping, but they will have the tonneau cover in a separate canister, and it will need to be fed into the rails. You have to lay down the rails, and then you can attach the canister. This is more involved than the first two types of installation, but it is still not too hard.

The hinged lid cover is a solid hard cover that opens with shocks that are connected to the interior rails. You will need people to help you lift this cover onto the bed because it is very heavy. However, once it is in place, it is not hard to install.

It has become much easier to install tonneau covers because they are such a popular accessory. You need to make sure that you read the manufacturers guide to install your tonneau cover correctly. You will always install the rails that come with the cover first, and then make sure that the tonneau cover is lined up perfectly before you finish the job.

Are Tonneau Covers Car Wash Safe?

Tonneau in carwashGenerally speaking, tonneau covers are car wash safe. It is important to remember that there are a lot of different tonneau cover manufacturers, and you need to verify that your tonneau cover can go through the carwash safely. However, most of the time, they can.

You should avoid going through the carwash that includes wax or a silicone treatment because it could void your tonneau cover warranty. Many manufacturers also claim that soft tonneau covers can go through the carwash, but you may want to use your judgment. If you plan to go through a carwash, make sure that your cover is secured correctly so that it doesn’t become damaged.

If you have a partially closed cover, you cannot go through the carwash. Even though most tonneau covers are rated to handle weather, the underside is not. It won’t be able to handle the harsh water of a carwash.

There are certain concerns that you need to consider before you decide to go through a carwash with your tonneau cover. The friction from the spinning brushes can damage a soft cover. Make sure that you have a high-quality cover that can handle it if you are going to go through the carwash.

In addition, your tonneau cover can be damaged by the dryer fans. If your tonneau cover isn’t secured, they can rip the cover off the back of your truck. You need to consider all of these factors when you want to go through the carwash. Even though a lot of covers can safely go through the carwash, you need to be careful.

Are Tonneau Covers Waterproof?

Most people want to know if tonneau covers are waterproof. The answer isn’t simple. Most tonneau covers are made so that as long as they are installed correctly, they will keep water out of your truck. Tonneau covers are not 100% waterproof because you might get some water inside during a rainstorm. It is also important to understand that different types of tonneau covers have different levels of waterproofing.

A one-piece hard cover is the most watertight of tonneau covers. You could get a little water inside near the hinges, but it will keep most of the water out. Several types of tonneau cover offer some water resistance. These include retractable tonneau covers, hard roll-up covers, and hard folding covers. The soft folding tonneau and the soft roll-up tonneau covers offer decent water resistance, but less so than the hard covers.

The old style snap tonneau covers offer low water resistance. They are convenient and are easy to put on and take off, but the trade-off is that they will not keep water out. A tonneau cover can keep most of the water out of your truck bed, but they are not waterproof, and they will not keep all of the water out.

Can Tonneau Covers Be Locked?

One of the benefits of having a tonneau cover is being able to store things securely in the back of your truck. It’s nice to be able to hide your belongings, but you need to know that they are safe. Many tonneau covers come with their own locking mechanism, but some do not have one.

There are different types of tonneau cover locks, and some are simpler than others. The types of locking mechanisms on tonneaus include the following:

  • Pull-cable release
  • Latch clamp
  • Rotary latch
  • Spring-loaded speed clamp
  • Trigger latch
  • Key lock
  • Electromagnetic brakes

Key in lockThe pull-cable release goes on hard folding covers and aluminum tonneau covers that have a vinyl roll up. You pull the cable to open this kind of cover. You can’t lock the cover, but if you lock the tailgate, nobody can access the pull to release the cover.

The latch clamps are usually used with soft vinyl covers. They are also on the inside, and you need to lock your tailgate. If your tailgate is locked, you can’t access the clamp.

Rotary latches are also used with soft tonneau covers. As long as you have a lock on your tailgate, you can lock this kind as well. The spring-loaded speed clamp will also lock if your tailgate is locked. It is the same thing for the trigger latch, which is located on the inside.

There are some tonneau covers that come with key locks. This includes the hard one-piece covers and retractable covers. If you use the key lock, you will depress a button that releases the latches, and all of the latches will disengage if you turn the key in a particular direction. You will still need a tailgate that locks for the retractable tonneau, but if you have a hard one-piece cover, you do not need to lock your tailgate.

The electromagnetic brakes are only used on electric tonneau covers. They open and close automatically when you push the button. However, you still need to have a locking tailgate if you want the most security.

The reality is that you will need a locking tailgate to secure the bed of your truck unless you have a one-piece hard cover with a lock. Even then, it is always a good idea to lock your tailgate.

Can You Stand on a Tonneau Cover?

People sometimes want to know if they can stand on their tonneau covers. Obviously, you cannot stand on a soft cover. It isn’t designed to hold your weight, and even if you get away with it once, it will put unnecessary strain on your tonneau cover.

If you have a hard cover, you can stand on it. Many are designed to hold up to 250 pounds, so they are capable of holding your weight. However, it is not a good idea to stand on your tonneau cover. They really are designed to cover the bed of your truck, and they aren’t meant to be stood upon.

Final Words

Tonneau covers are one of the most popular accessories for pickup trucks. They have evolved over the years, and they are much easier to install than they used to be. They come in a number of different styles, and they can be made of hard or soft materials.

They can be one-piece or they can fold. They can roll up into a canister, or they can be soft and tie down. There are a lot of different choices, and you can get the one that is best for your needs.

If you are looking to keep valuables inside of the bed of your truck, you will want to make sure that your tailgate locks. There are a few tonneau covers that have their own lock, but most of them have release mechanisms that can’t be accessed as long as you lock your tailgate.

Tonneau covers are not watertight, and some will let more water in than others. If you get a hard one-piece tonneau cover, it will keep close to 99% of the water out. However, don’t leave anything inside of the bed that will be ruined if it gets wet. You can use this information to choose the tonneau cover that is best for your needs.