A locking tonneau cover provides one of the most secure methods of securing a pickup truck’s bed. Although thieves can break into one, having it installed makes it much tougher for them to reach items in the pickup truck’s bed.
The Reason to Use Tonneau Covers
Pickup truck owners lament leaving items in their open truck bed since it invites theft, yet the whole point of the truck beds remains toting things you need around town. The solution to the problem remains simple – enclose the truck bed with a mechanism that locks.
A tonneau cover does this by covering the entire bed, while a lock box encloses items stored in the bed at the cab end of the pickup truck. These boxes typically take the space that sits just beneath the sliding window at the rear of the truck’s cab.
Tonneau Cover Defined
The term tonneau cover refers to a truck bed lid that either clamp onto the truck or installs with the use of hinges and screws. The type that uses clamps the truck owner can completely remove to load and unload the truck’s bed. The hinged type only opens partially.
Both types cover the truck bed completely, protecting it from the elements and thieves. The clamp-installed tonneau covers may or may not feature a locking system at the tailgate, but the hinged type invariably does.
This type of cover also protects the bed liner from damage and dirt, so you need to clean the truck bed less frequently. Think of it as part safe, part dustcover for your truck bed.
Styles of Tonneau Covers
Four common types or styles of tonneau covers pervade the market. These include tri-fold, roll-up, snap, or hinge.
The term tri-fold tonneau cover refers to a folding, three-section bed cover that typically opens at both the cab end and tail end of the truck’s bed. It remains closed at the middle section. Constructed of heavy vinyl, it takes up a low profile on the truck.
The term roll-up tonneau cover refers to a thinner, more flexible cover type that rolls open and closed. This lets you expose as much of the truck’s bed as needed for loading and unloading.
The term snap tonneau cover refers to the lightest weight covers, crafted of the canvas. These snap onto the truck’s trim and tailgate, which lets the truck owner open it from many areas to access the payload.
The term hinged tonneau cover refers to the heaviest and hardiest covers made of hard resin or plastic that attach to the cab’s back with a hinged mount. The lid raises partially at an angle for loading and unloading, but you can’t open it completely.
Until a person sees one of these, they think I am making it up. The term retractable tonneau cover refers to a cover that functions in a similar manner to a retractable awning. It comes with a remote control that you point at your truck bed, click the button, and Zap! Your truck bed’s cover retracts.
This comes in handy when carrying a ton of shopping bags, whether from groceries or holiday shopping. It also offers a great way to outdo your buddies who think they have The Coolest Truck.
Beyond Styles – Variations and Customization of Tonneau Covers
When I shop for any vehicle accessory, I first consider security and safety, but next comes the color. Although many tonneau covers come in basic black, these handy accessories also come in a wide array of colors.
Most auto parts stores that sell them order them to fit the vehicle and offer the customer the option of choosing their favorite color or a color that matches the truck.
Some firms, such as Real Truck, custom make a fiberglass tonneau cover that precisely matches the truck paint color. This offers the pickup owner a sophisticated look that makes the bed cover seem as if it came as a part of the vehicle from its manufacturer.
Sizes of Tonneau Covers
Just like shopping for clothes, since pickup trucks come in different sizes, so do tonneau covers. I’m not talking about small, medium, and large. In this case, tonneau cover sizes match the bed measurements.
The material you choose affects sizing, too. A truck owner might find a roll-up cover that’s trim to fit, but if they cut it wrong, it won’t fit.
Fiberglass covers actually come a little larger than the truck bed because when they’re installed, the lip of the cover overlaps the tailgate of the truck. Most fiberglass designs come with a lock on them.
Once the lip of the cover comes down over the tailgate, even if the tailgate doesn’t lock, the tonneau cover’s lock ensures that a thief can’t open the tailgate.
If I go into Auto Zone or Napa Auto Parts, I’ll need the measurements of the truck bed. However, by ordering online, I can avoid the tape measure. Most auto parts or aftermarket accessory stores offer a drop-down list of model years and manufacturers.
This means I’d only need to know that my buddy owns a 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 with the longer bed to find the tonneau cover for that truck. Incidentally, it would measure six feet and six inches (6’ 6”) long instead of the standard truck design of five and a half feet (5’ 6”) in length.
Note, that I said standard. Chevy doesn’t make a standard truck bed. The venerable American automaker adds a little extra space for free; it builds trucks with five feet eight inches (5’ 8”) in length truck beds.
Some heavy-duty and work truck beds never come close to that standard sizing. Take for example the 2017 Dodge Ram 2500. Dodge designed it with a six feet four inches (6’ 4”) in length truck bed.
So, if I want to surprise someone with a terrific gift that will extend the usefulness of their truck and help them protect their tools, I need to know the size of the truck bed or I need the make, model, and model year of the truck before I shop.
Choosing Your Tonneau Cover
Now, I know I can get a tonneau cover in any color and in materials from ABS plastic to fiberglass to canvas. Which one gets bought?
The use of the truck decides everything for me. I consider what the truck gets used for and the access needs. For a frequently loaded and unloaded truck that will carry construction equipment, my choices tend toward the fiberglass or the tri-fold.
I want to get to the tools stored in the bed quickly. Another benefit of these types of openings comes from lumber accessibility. I can easily extract 2” x 4”s measuring six feet in length. If I open the tailgate, I can still transport those measuring eight feet in length.
While a rollup type or a snap cover would provide the easiest access, they wouldn’t offer a locking mechanism that certainly kept out thieves. That means the tools wouldn’t stay safe and someone could steal my lumber!
Conversely, if I’m just adding the cover to enhance the beauty of the truck and keep the bed liner clean, the snap or rollup type works great. If the most valuable items transported include the portable grill for tailgating at football games, then I don’t need the fiberglass.
Some designs offer little extras like UV protection. These offer that “sunglasses for a pickup” kind of feature. Of course, the truck won’t get a sunburn, but the UV protection helps keep the items you store in your truck bed from fading.
Many tonneau covers use canvas or mesh, and these don’t offer the same level of UV protection that an ABS composite with the UV coating does. The UV coating also keeps the tonneau cover from fading in color.