You just loaded up your pickup truck bed with cargo that you need to haul to your destination. But it looks like rain is coming, and you want to protect your payload from the elements. Can you fold up your tonneau cover while leaving the cargo inside?
The short answer is yes, you can fold a tonneau cover over your truck bed while keeping cargo inside. Tonneau covers are designed to provide easy access to the truck bed for loading and unloading, while also securing your gear from weather and theft.
There are a few different types of tonneau covers that fold or roll up in some way. The specific folding mechanism depends on the style of cover you have. But most can be folded or opened partially even with cargo inside the bed.
What Are the Different Types of Folding Tonneau Covers?
There are three main types of folding truck bed tonneau covers to consider:
Hard Folding Covers
Hard folding tonneau covers are made of hard panels, usually aluminum or fiberglass, connected by hinges. The panels fold accordion-style towards the cab, allowing partial or full access to the bed.
Soft Roll-Up Covers
Soft roll-up covers are made of vinyl or other durable fabric. They roll up towards the cab to get out of the way.
Retractable tonneau covers roll up into an enclosed canister at the front of the bed. This fully exposes the entire cargo area.
Can You Fold a Hard Tonneau Cover With Cargo Inside?
Hard folding tonneau covers are designed specifically to allow owners to access part of the truck bed without having to fully open the cover. So yes, you can easily fold a hard cover over your cargo.
The multi-panel construction connected by hinges enables you to fold just the rear section or panels towards the cab. This leaves any cargo you have loaded in the front protected while allowing access to the rest of the bed.
Many hard folding covers have a “JackRabbit” feature that lets you fold the last panel or flip it open for longer items. So you can haul cargo of various sizes and still fold the panels forward.
Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for partially opening your particular hard cover model. But in general, hard folding covers are highly functional for folding over cargo.
Is It Possible to Roll Up a Soft Tonneau With Cargo Inside?
Absolutely! Soft roll-up tonneau covers are designed to fully or partially roll up to allow complete access to your truck bed when needed.
You can roll up just the rear portion of the cover to access cargo you’ve loaded in the front of the bed. Some soft roll-up covers even have a segmented design with buckles that allow you to open just one panel.
The vinyl material and horizontal stiffeners or “bows” enable the cover to roll tightly against the cab without sagging onto your cargo. Straps or tension adjusters keep the roll-up cover tucked out of the way.
Just be sure to roll up the cover evenly and follow the manufacturer’s guidance to avoid twisting or misshaping it. With the right technique, soft roll-up tonneaus can handle rolling up over cargo with no problem.
Can Retractable Covers Accommodate Cargo When Opening?
Retractable tonneau covers provide the ultimate in truck bed access and versatility. With the ability to retract fully into the front canister, retractable covers can easily open over any cargo you may have loaded.
The canister and retracting mechanism are specifically designed to lift the vinyl cover panel up and out of the way, exposing 100% of the cargo bed.
Retractable covers glide along rails as they open, so the cover can stop at any point along the rails without having to fully retract. This means you can partially retract the cover to access cargo while still keeping other items covered.
Electric retractable covers make it especially convenient to open and close the cover while carrying cargo. Just press a button to retract it!
Tips for Folding a Tonneau Over Cargo
Here are some useful tips for successfully folding or rolling up your tonneau cover over cargo:
- Clearance is key. Make sure there is adequate space between the cargo height and underside of the cover for it to fold without hitting.
- Mind the gaps. Avoid leaving large gaps between cargo items for the best coverage when folded. Spread items out evenly.
- Secure loose cargo. Use tie-downs, racks, or containment systems to keep cargo from shifting when folding the cover.
- Start slowly. Fold or roll the cover gradually to ensure cargo remains stable and has time to settle.
- Watch for snags. Keep an eye out for any cargo corners or items that could catch on the cover when folding. Use corner protectors or padding if needed.
- Refer to instructions. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for partially opening the cover with cargo. Methods vary.
- Check stability. After folding, check that cargo is still stable and hasn’t shifted. Make adjustments before driving if needed.
Are There Limits to How Much You Can Load Before Folding the Cover?
Most folding tonneau covers are remarkably capable of covering substantial loads. But there are some general cargo height limits to keep in mind:
- Hard covers: 8-12 inches of max cargo height is typical for folding hard tonneaus. Enough for moderately tall items.
- Roll-ups: Around 6 inches is average for soft roll-ups. The material has less overhead clearance when rolled up versus rigid panels.
- Retractables: Up to 11 inches of cargo height allowance. The canister position provides ample space.
Of course, the maximum load height can vary greatly by specific cover. So consult your owner’s manual for the cargo clearance your model provides.
You’ll also want to distribute bulky cargo evenly so the cover can fold over it. And watch for any sharp or pointy items that could poke the underside when folded. With good loading practices, folding tonneau covers can accommodate cargo well.
Will Folding the Cover Damage It or My Cargo?
One concern with folding or rolling a tonneau cover over cargo is the potential to damage the cover or your gear. But when done properly, it’s perfectly safe for both. Here are some tips:
- Use padding – Place blankets or soft padding over sharp or tall cargo edges that could press against the cover.
- Cinch down cargo – Secure your load well so nothing shifts and rubs the cover surface.
- Mind the gaps – Eliminate large gaps between items that could cause sagging when folded.
- Roll/fold gently – Operate the cover slowly and smoothly without forcing.
- Check often – Periodically inspect the cover and cargo for signs of wear.
- Follow guidance – Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for folding with cargo.
- Adjust if needed – If you notice wear, tweak how you load and fold the cover.
Today’s tonneau covers are durable and designed to withstand normal folding with cargo inside. By taking some basic precautions, you can easily fold or roll them without damage.
Key Takeaways – Folding Your Tonneau Over Cargo
Folding your tonneau cover over a loaded truck bed is convenient and safe if done properly. Here are the key tips to remember:
- All tonneau styles can be folded or opened partially to access cargo inside. Just check your owner’s manual.
- Hard covers allow versatile folding access thanks to their multi-panel design.
- Soft covers roll up neatly against the cab to uncover cargo. Retractable models provide full access.
- Mind cargo height limits and allow adequate clearance. Distribute cargo evenly.
- Take care when folding to prevent cargo shifting or cover damage. Use padding as needed.
- Fold slowly and follow the manufacturer’s guidance for folding with cargo inside.
- With good care and loading practices, you can easily fold your tonneau cover over your truck bed cargo. Enjoy the benefits of weather protection and security without blocking bed access when you need it.
So go ahead and load up your truck bed and fold that tonneau cover over your cargo with confidence! Just be sure to follow the recommendations above. In no time, you’ll be a pro at safely folding your cover over your payload while protecting it from the elements. Happy hauling!