Pickup truck owners know that the open bed leaves cargo exposed and vulnerable. A simple solution is adding a tonneau cover, but how well do tonneau covers actually protect cargo from weather, shifting, and theft? Let’s explore what features provide the best protection.
How Does A Tonneau Cover Protect Cargo From Weather Damage?
Driving in rain, snow, or extreme heat can damage unprotected cargo. Tonneau covers form a barrier against the elements to different degrees:
Do all tonneau covers offer weather protection?
Not exactly. Roll-up vinyl tonneaus are affordable but allow moisture through the snaps and provide minimal insulation against heat and cold. Hard folding and retractable tonneaus better keep weather out of the bed. Fully sealed hard covers offer the most complete protection from rain, snow, tree sap, and other hazards.
What special features help repel water?
Look for marine grade vinyl coated in UV protectant on soft tonneaus. On hard covers, rubber seals around the perimeter and between panels prevent moisture entry. Some even have drain tubes to eject collected water. Weather stripping on the tailgate edge is also important.
How do tonneaus maintain favorable cargo temperatures?
The insulated aluminum or fiberglass panels of hard covers act as a thermal barrier. Retractable tonneaus with vinyl surfaces also provide some insulation when fully closed. Heated tonneaus take it a step further with embedded heating elements to melt snow and prevent ice buildup.
Can tonneau covers survive extreme weather conditions?
Quality tonneau covers are designed to handle intense heat, cold, and precipitation. For example, UnderCover Flex withstands temperatures from -40 F to 140 F. The thick ABS thermoplastic construction also resists denting from hail. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s care guidelines.
Do Tonneau Covers Prevent Cargo From Shifting During Driving?
Loose cargo sliding around the truck bed can cause damage. Here is how different tonneau covers help keep contents stable:
How do soft roll-up and folding covers secure cargo?
Simple vinyl covers minimize, but do not prevent, cargo shifting. Folding covers are marginally better with panels that cover the gaps between bed ribs. For best results, also use a bed mat or cargo net.
What features make hard tonneau covers most effective?
The solid panels of hard covers evenly distribute force across cargo to limit movement. Retractable designs provide the same stable surface when fully closed. Some even have quilted panel undersides or mats to further reduce friction.
Should I get a cover with cargo tie downs?
Integrated tie-down points are very convenient for securing especially heavy or irregular loads in transit. Soft roll-up tonneaus usually include straps; hard covers offer anchored D-rings. This keeps everything locked tightly in position.
How can I organize and contain smaller items?
Consider accessories like divider kits to create storage compartments, preventing goods from intermingling. There’s also the option of getting a truck bed toolbox to safely consolidate and organize smaller objects inside.
Do Tonneau Covers Deter Theft of Truck Bed Contents?
Unfortunately, pickup truck beds are highly vulnerable to break-ins. But the right tonneau cover can significantly improve security:
How does a basic vinyl tonneau impact theft risk?
Simple snap-close vinyl covers can be easily cut or removed. They keep honest people honest but provide minimal theft deterrence. However, it’s still better than an open bed.
Are folding tonneau covers more secure?
Folding covers with side-to-side latches are reasonably secure. Some models like the UnderCover Flex have specialized keyed locks to prevent unauthorized opening. This provides a level of protection against theft, but determined thieves can still gain entry.
Which tonneau covers are most secure?
Fully locking hard covers are very tough to breach without causing damage. Retractable covers also have heavy-duty locks to keep them tightly closed over cargo. To further bolster security, some use dual locks on both the cover and tailgate.
Should I get a special lock for my tailgate?
Yes, installing a tailgate lock is a good idea regardless of tonneau cover type. It prevents easy access through the lowered gate. Combination and key-based locks are available to pair with your existing tailgate release.
What about truck bed camera systems?
For maximum cargo monitoring, adding backup cameras or full truck bed camera kits enables keeping an eye on things. This can deter potential thieves and help identify them if a break-in still occurs.
What Special Tonneau Features Provide Extra Cargo Protection?
Beyond the basics, some additional tonneau cover features help safeguard cargo:
How does a truck bed liner help?
A spray-on liner or bed mat provides a non-abrasive surface. This prevents your cargo from getting scraped up. It also helps minimize vibration and slippage for delicate goods.
Should I get a heated tonneau cover?
Heated covers protect cargo from snow and ice accumulation in cold climates. The electric heating elements keep the panels clear and dry. Just make sure to get a model rated for outdoor use.
What are some accessories to better safeguard cargo?
Consider handy options like fence or divider kits to create smaller cargo compartments. Rubber mats are another good way to minimize vibration. For priceless cargo, inflatable bladder bags offer superb protection when fixed in place under a hard cover.
What if I need to frequently access my cargo?
Look for a retractable or folding cover to avoid constantly removing and storing the tonneau. Rail systems for mounting and sliding your cover out of the way make it easy to reach cargo quickly. Just remember to close it up before hitting the road.
Are There Limits to Cargo Protection Offered by Tonneau Covers?
While tonneau covers provide notable benefits, it’s important to know their limitations:
Can tonneau covers prevent all weather-related damage?
The most heavy duty covers provide excellent protection. However, no cover is 100% water or air proof, especially when opened periodically. Moisture and humidity can still eventually seep in. Extended sun exposure may also damage cargo.
How much can tonneau covers reduce shifting cargo?
Tonneau covers greatly minimize, but do not completely stop, cargo movement. Heavy braking and sharp turns can still toss unsecured objects around. Use tiedowns and dividers for best results.
Are tonneau covers able to thwart all theft attempts?
Determined thieves with power tools or sharp blades can sometimes penetrate even rugged covers. Portable motion alarms and backup cameras provide extra security. But if someone wants your cargo badly enough, no truck bed cover can guarantee complete protection.
What are the tradeoffs of extra protective features?
Adding aspects like divider panels or air bladders takes up bed space. Heated covers require electrical connections. More complex systems also mean more components that could fail. Consider both utility and simplicity when choosing accessories.
The Bottom Line: Are Tonneau Covers Worth It for Protecting Cargo?
At the end of the day, installing any tonneau cover significantly boosts cargo protection versus an open pickup bed. Hard covers deliver the most security and weather resistance. Retractable designs optimize accessibility while also safeguarding cargo during transport. Even basic soft covers provide meaningful improvements over uncovered cargo.
Ultimately, the right tonneau cover can effectively protect your truck cargo from weather, shifting, and theft. But you have to choose the level of protection that fits your needs and budget. With the wide range of options available, there is a tonneau cover solution for virtually every pickup owner to better safeguard precious cargo.