Pickup trucks are popular vehicles for both work and recreation. Tonneau covers help protect cargo by enclosing the truck bed. Grab handles make it easier to get in and out of the truck bed. But can you mount grab handles if you have a tonneau cover installed?
What Are Tonneau Covers and Why Would You Want One?
A tonneau cover is an accessory that goes over the truck bed. It creates an enclosed storage space to protect cargo from weather and theft. Tonneau covers come in different styles:
Hard Tonneau Covers
Hard Tonneau covers are made from aluminum, fiberglass, or heavy-duty vinyl. They lock in place and provide maximum security. However, they can be heavy and limit accessibility to the truck bed.
- Very secure and protective
- Lockable to prevent theft
- Come in sections or one piece
- Heavy and not easily removable
- Reduce bed accessibility
Soft Roll-Up Covers
Soft roll-up tonneau covers are made from vinyl. They roll up to allow open bed access. A Velcro or snap system secures the cover when rolled down.
- Lightweight and easy to install
- Allow full truck bed access when rolled up
- Typically less expensive than hard covers
- Less secure than hard covers
- Vinyl can tear or puncture over time
Retractable Tonneau Covers
Retractable tonneaus use an aluminum slat system. The slats roll up into a canister at the cab end of the bed. This allows for quick, easy access.
- Provide security when closed
- Roll up and out of the way in seconds
- No removal necessary for full bed access
- More expensive than soft covers
- Mechanism may fail over time
So why add a tonneau at all? Reasons include:
- Keep cargo clean, dry, and secure
- Reduce wind drag for better gas mileage
- Prevent theft of equipment and tools
- Create an uncluttered, finished look
For many truck owners, the benefits of a tonneau cover outweigh the cons. But they do change the bed configuration. This can impact mounting grab handles.
What Are Grab Handles and Why Do You Need Them?
Grab handles provide a grip point to climb into and out of the truck bed. They allow you to pull yourself up safely. Truck beds can be several feet off the ground. Grab handles prevent slips and falls.
Most pickup trucks come equipped with factory grab handles. But the OEM handles may leave something to be desired. Aftermarket handles offer benefits like:
- Larger Size – Bigger handles are easier to grip.
- Fat Padding – Thick foam prevents hand fatigue.
- Stronger Mounts – Reinforced mounting brackets add durability.
- Style Choices – Aftermarket handles come in different shapes, sizes and finishes.
- Adjustable Positioning – You can angle handles to suit your needs.
So how do you add grab handles once a tonneau cover is installed? Let’s look at some options.
Can You Mount Grab Handles With a Hard Tonneau Cover?
Hard folding and retractable tonneau covers take up less rail space. This leaves room for installing grab handles. But you need to choose handles designed to work with your cover:
Low Profile Grab Handles
Low profile handles sit close to the bed rail. They take up little space so won’t interfere with hard tonneau operation:
- Lund’s Low Profile Handle – steel with rubber grip
- Aries 3″ Slim Handle – oval aluminum handle
- Amp Research BedStep – doubles as a retractable step
- Roggy Enterprises Low Profile – round steel grab handle
These maintain a sleek look that complements the smooth tonneau cover. But they may not protrude enough for some users.
Folding Grab Handles
Folding handles sit upright when needed. They fold down flat against the bed rail when not in use. Popular options include:
- Front Runner Folding Handle – powder coated steel
- TAC Folding Grab Handle – pivots down out of the way
- Black Boar Outfitters Folding Handle – vinyl coated
Folding handles keep the bed rail cleared when cargo hauling. But the hinge may loosen over time with prolonged use.
Rail Mount Grab Handles
These handles connect directly to the bed rail using U-bolts. No drilling required. Some good rail mount handles:
- Down and Dirty Outdoors Bed Rail Grab Handle
- Magnum Quick-Grip Bed Rail Handle
- BedRug Grab Handle Straps
Rail mounting avoids drilling holes in the tonneau cover. But it may obstruct cover operation. Check for rail interference.
What About Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Covers?
Soft covers need to roll up and out of the way. Side rail mounts can impede operation. But you still have good handle options:
Low Profile Handles
The same low profile handles that work with hard covers are an option here. Measure first to ensure the handle doesn’t protrude above the vinyl cover. Deeper handles like the Amp Research BedStep work well.
Above Rail Grab Handles
These handles mount to the top of the bed rail, above the cover attachment point. This prevents physical interference with cover rolling:
- Front Runner Roof Rack Grab Handles
- JackPak Over-the-Rail Handles
- Upper Edge Grab Handles
Just be sure to measure first. You want at least 3″ of clearance above the cover height.
Stake Pocket Grab Handles
Stake pockets are pre-existing rectangular holes in the bed rail. Handles mount securely by inserting pins into the pockets:
- Drive Auto Products Stake Pocket Grab Handle
- Black Boar Outfitters Stake Pocket Handle
- CARTMAN Stake Pocket Mount Grab Handle
Stake pockets avoid drilling into the tonneau cover. Just ensure the pins don’t protrude below.
Special Considerations for Access Cab Trucks
With extended and crew cab trucks, you can mount grab handles on the front bed rail. But access cab (single cab) trucks lack this front rail space. What are your options?
Tailgate Grab Handles
The tailgate offers prime handle mounting real estate. Handles bolt through the tailgate itself or use a rail clip system. Choices like:
- Lund Tailgate Grab Handle
- Dwight Corners Gate Grappler
- Rear Door Assist Handle from Sparco
Just note that punching holes in the tailgate may lead to rust issues over time. Use sealant to prevent corrosion.
Hitch Receiver Grab Handles
Receiver handles slide into your truck’s trailer hitch receiver. Popular options:
- Bully Trailer Hitch Assist Handle
- MaxxHaul Pickup Truck Receiver Handle
- Offroading Gear Hitch Mount Grab Handle
This takes advantage of an existing mount point. But it may block trailer hitch access when installed.
Wheel Well Grab Handles
For single cab trucks, the rear wheel wells allow handle mounting. Choices like:
- Great Day Wheel HOP Handles
- Front Runner Bed Side Steps
- TAC Side Steps
You’ll get full bed access. But watch for handle protrusion that may catch cargo.
Key Takeaways – Mounting Grab Handles with Tonneaus
Adding truck grab handles with a tonneau cover just takes research and planning:
- Ensure handle clearance to allow cover operation
- Avoid drilling holes into soft cover vinyl
- Folding and low profile handles help minimize space used
- Existing mounts like stake pockets & hitch avoid drilling
- Getting creative with tailgate, wheel wells opens up options
With smart selection, you can install functional grab handles even with a truck bed tonneau cover. Just measure first and check for fit. Then enjoy the added truck access and safety.
In summary, it is possible to mount grab handles on trucks with tonneau covers. The key is to select handles designed to work with your specific tonneau cover, ensuring adequate clearance and non-interference.
Low profile, folding, above rail, stake pocket, tailgate, hitch receiver, and wheel well grab handles can all provide good mounting options. With proper measurement and installation, you can safely add grab handles to simplify accessing your truck bed, even with a tonneau cover installed.