Pickup truck owners know that having a versatile truck bed is important. A bed extender can increase cargo capacity, allowing you to haul longer items. Soft roll-up tonneau covers provide protection and security for the truck bed. But can you use both truck accessories together?
What Is A Bed Extender?
A bed extender, also called a truck bed extender or cargo extender, is an accessory that attaches to the tailgate of a pickup truck. It extends the bed length, allowing you to haul longer cargo that won’t fit inside the truck bed alone.
Bed extenders come in two main styles:
Sliding Bed Extenders
These extenders have rails that slide into brackets mounted on the truck bed. When needed, you slide the extender rails out, expanding the bed space. When not in use, the extender slides back in, nesting against the tailgate.
Folding Bed Extenders
Folding bed extenders have arms that pivot and fold out when you need more cargo room. The extender folds against the tailgate when not needed.
Both styles effectively increase bed length by 2-3 feet typically. This comes in handy for transporting ladders, pipes, boards, and other lengthy items. When collapsed, the extender doesn’t take up any extra space.
What Is A Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Cover?
A soft roll-up tonneau cover is a versatile truck bed cover. As the name suggests, it rolls up to provide an open truck bed when needed. When closed, it encloses and protects the entire bed.
Soft tonneau covers have a vinyl or fabric cover stretched over a frame. The frame typically mounts to the inside bed rails with clamps or snaps.
To open the cover, you release tailgate latches. Then you roll the cover toward the cab, like a giant sleeping bag. The attachment system allows the cover to roll up and out of the way quickly.
With the cover rolled up, you have full access to the entire bed area. To close it, you simply unroll the vinyl cover and re-secure the latches.
Roll-up covers provide many benefits compared to open truck beds:
- Weather protection from rain, snow, and debris
- Enhanced security by concealing cargo
- Improved fuel economy with less wind drag
- Ability to lock tailgate and cover
Why Would You Want To Use Both?
People use bed extenders to increase cargo capacity when needed. Soft roll-up tonneau covers allow quick access and total bed coverage when secured. Using both gives truck owners flexibility:
More Cargo Room When Required
The bed extender provides additional length whenever you need to carry long cargo. For example, you can transport a ladder, kayak, or lumber that exceeds the short bed length. Remove the extender when not hauling oversize items.
Weather Protection For Extended Loads
The soft tonneau cover encloses longer cargo hauled with the bed extender. It provides protection from rain and road debris that could otherwise blow in.
Versatility and Convenience
Having both accessories allows you to take advantage of either one when needed. Keep the tonneau cover rolled up for quick access to the bed. Or deploy the extender for increased hauling abilities.
For maximum truck bed utility, some owners opt to install both accessories. But will they actually work together?
Can A Bed Extender Be Used With A Roll-Up Tonneau?
The good news is that most soft roll-up tonneau covers can accommodate a bed extender. There are a few factors to consider:
Truck Bed Size
The extender needs to be the proper size for the truck bed length. A long bed extender may not work on a short bed truck, for example.
Verify the expanded extender length works for your truck box size. Also check that the extender mounting brackets properly fit your truck.
Tonneau Cover Style
Some tonneau covers have snaps or clamps that may interfere with extender brackets. Check for potential clearance issues between the extender mounts and cover attachment points.
Side-to-side rolling covers tend to have better compatibility than front-to-back rollers. Make sure the cover can fully open and close with the extender installed.
Rear Tailgate Clearance
The extender needs to rest flush against the tailgate when collapsed. If it sticks out too far, the cover won’t close properly.
Look for potential interference between the folded extender and your truck’s tailgate design. The extender style that folds in half typically leaves less of a gap.
Bed Extender Weight Capacity
When expanded, the bed extender increases leverage on the tailgate. Make sure to stay within the recommended weight capacity for your extender.
Overloading an extender could put too much stress on the tailgate. This includes the tonneau cover weight too.
Tips For Using A Bed Extender With A Roll-Up Cover
With the right combo, you can safely use both truck accessories together. Here are some tips:
- Fully close the tonneau cover before extending the bed. Make sure no fabric is pinched under the extender.
- Check that the extender rests centered and secure against the tailgate. Watch for gaps at the sides that could allow in dust or moisture.
- Make sure your cargo is evenly distributed between the truck bed and extender. Too much weight on the extender alone can be hazardous.
- Stick to the weight limits recommended by the extender manufacturer to avoid equipment damage.
- Use tie-down straps to securely fasten cargo hauled on the extender. This prevents load shift or loss over bumps.
- Roll up the tonneau cover to access cargo in the main bed. But keep it closed when only using the extender for optimal weather protection.
- Remove the extender when not needed to avoid blocking rear view visibility.
- Install a mud flap behind the rear tires if using the extender frequently. This reduces road debris thrown on the rolled-up cover.
What Tonneau Covers Typically Work With Extenders?
The most common compatible soft tonneau covers include:
Roll-Up Vinyl Covers
These feature vinyl material stretched over aluminum slats. The cover rolls up toward the cab for full bed access.Popular brands like Truxedo, Extang, and Access offer roll-up covers that work with extenders.
Folding Vinyl Covers
These have a vinyl surface mounted on hinged aluminum panels. They fold accordion-style toward the cab. Leading manufacturers like Pace Edwards offer folding covers compatible with extenders.
Roll-Up Retractable Covers
These heavy-duty covers retract on a canister or spool at the front of the bed. High-end versions from Retrax, Bak Industries, and Truck Covers USA work with extenders.
Budget-friendly covers from companies like Tyger Auto use a tarp-like vinyl cover. It rolls up and secures with snaps instead of hinges. Most snap covers accommodate extenders if properly fitted to the bed.
In most cases, soft fabric and vinyl roll-up covers work fine with bed extenders. But what about other tonneau types?
Are All Tonneau Covers Bed Extender Compatible?
While flexible soft covers have the widest compatibility, some other types can also work:
- Aluminum roll-ups – These are similar to vinyl covers but have solid aluminum slats. They can often accommodate extenders if checked for clearance issues.
- Retractable hardcovers – Upgraded versions with vinyl-covered panels retract out of the way for full access. They typically work with extenders.
- Folding hardcovers – Multiple folding aluminum panels can fold forward. But the panels may not fold smoothly with an extender installed.
- Hinged hardcovers – A one-piece hinged lid is convenient but may not fully open/close with an extender.
- Toolbox tonneaus – Mounted tool storage limits extender use. But some may allow access to the extender mounts.
The least compatible option is a traditional one-piece hard tonneau lid. The extender would block complete lid closure. Soft covers remain the best match for smooth operation.
Example Truck Models and Compatible Extender/Tonneau Combos
To give you a better idea, here are some example truck makes/models with compatible bed extender and soft tonneau combinations:
Ford F-150 Short Bed
- Extang Tri-Fold Tonneau
- Amp Research Bed Xtender
Toyota Tacoma Short Bed
- Roll-N-Lock Retractable Tonneau
- Dee Zee Tailgate Extender
Chevy Silverado Standard Bed
- Truxedo Sentry CT Roll-Up
- Bulldog Extend-A-Truck
Ram 1500 Short Bed
- Access Roll-Up
- MaxxHaul Bed Extender
GMC Sierra Short Bed
- UnderCover Flex Retractable
- BedSlide Tailgate Extender
Nissan Titan Short Bed
- BakFlip Hard Folding Tonneau
- CCI Aluminum Tri-Fold Tonneau
- Steel Tailgate Extender
As you can see, there are many reliable brands to choose from. Do some measuring and research to ensure the extender and tonneau cover properly fit your truck model before purchasing.
Expert Tips for Finding the Right Combo
Here are some pro tips when shopping for compatible bed extender and roll-up tonneau pairs:
- Carefully measure your truck bed length and tailgate dimensions.
- Read product specs and sizing guides to find models made to fit your truck.
- Look for weatherproof vinyl or fabric roll-up covers without rigid panels.
- Opt for a folding or sliding rail-style extender over models that pivot out.
- Seek out soft covers and extenders from the same brand for optimal compatibility.
- Check product reviews and forum discussions related to your truck make and model.
- Contact manufacturers to ask about compatibility for the accessories you’re considering.
Taking the time to ensure proper sizing, style, and fit will allow you to utilize both accessories to their full potential.
The Bottom Line
The ability to have both enclosed cargo protection and an expanded bed for longer items is handy for truck owners.
In most cases, soft vinyl roll-up tonneau covers can successfully pair up with bed extenders. But hinged hard covers may pose clearance issues.
To safely use a bed extender with a roll-up tonneau cover:
- Verify the extender properly fits your truck model
- Choose a soft cover style that rolls up easily
- Check for any hardware interference or gaps when mounted
- Distribute weight evenly and tie-down oversize cargo
- Stick to the recommended weight limits
With the right accessories, you can transport longer cargo securely. Then easily access the full covered bed just by rolling up the tonneau when needed.
The versatility of both accessories makes trucks more functional all year round. With some informed shopping, you can enjoy the advantages of a truck bed extender and soft roll-up tonneau cover working perfectly together.