Installing a ladder rack on your pickup truck can provide much needed storage and hauling capacity. But what if you already have a tonneau cover over the truck bed? Will a ladder rack and tonneau cover work together or do you have to choose one or the other?
The short answer is yes, you can mount a ladder rack on a truck that already has a tonneau cover installed. However, there are some important considerations to make it work properly.
What Factors Determine Tonneau Cover And Ladder Rack Compatibility?
There are two key factors that determine whether a particular tonneau cover and ladder rack will be compatible with each other:
The first thing to look at is where each component mounts to the truck bed.
- Tonneau covers typically mount to the inside bed rails or across the top of the bed rails.
- Ladder racks mount to the outside bed walls using the stake pocket holes.
So as long as your tonneau cover mounts to the inside of the bed rails only, it shouldn’t interfere with ladder rack installation that uses the outer bed walls and stake pockets.
Tonneau Cover Style
The second consideration is the style of tonneau cover you have.
- Roll-up covers that store at the front of the bed when open are generally compatible with ladder racks. This includes both soft roll-ups and hard rolling covers.
- Folding covers that fold up toward the cab also typically work with ladder racks.
- The one style to avoid is a tonneau cover that sits flush with the top of the bed rails. This type of cover will block access to the stake pockets needed for the ladder rack mounts.
As long as your tonneau cover doesn’t use the outer bed wall for mounting or overhang the bed rails, it should be able to co-exist just fine with a ladder rack.
What Are The Best Tonneau Covers For Using With A Ladder Rack?
Based on the factors above, the most ladder rack-friendly tonneau covers are:
Roll-Up Tonneau Covers
Both soft and hard roll-up tonneau covers roll up toward the cab to keep them out of the way of a ladder rack. Popular options include:
- Soft roll-ups like the Access Roll-Up or Tyger Auto T3
- Hard rolling covers like the BakFlip MX4 or RetraxPRO MX
Roll-ups have the added benefit of letting you partially open the cover when you need rack access.
Folding Tonneau Covers
Folding covers like the BakFlip G2 or Extang Tri-Fold also work well with ladder racks. When open, they fold up toward the cab instead of rearward over the bed.
Low Profile Tonneaus
There are also “low profile” tonneau covers like the UnderCover Flex or OEDRO Roll-Up that sit below the bed rails specifically to maintain compatibility with truck racks and attachments.
As long as the cover avoids the stake pockets and outer bed walls, it will pair up just fine with a ladder rack.
Are There Ladder Racks Made Specifically For Trucks With Tonneau Covers?
There are a few ladder rack systems designed with tonneau cover compatibility in mind:
- BakFlip’s Elevate Rack System – This combo rack fits the BakFlip G2, MX4, and F1 covers perfectly.
- Extang’s SolidFold Tonneau Rack – Made to pair with SolidFold and FullTilt tonneaus.
- Retrax’s T-Rack System – Fits the RetraxPRO MX hard rolling cover.
These integrated systems ensure full compatibility between the rack and tonneau cover using the same manufacturer. But you can mix and match components from different brands too.
What If My Tonneau Cover Mounts Across The Top Of The Bed Rails?
If you have a tonneau cover that sits flush with the top of the bed rails, you most likely won’t be able to add a ladder rack. That style of cover will block access to the critical stake pocket mounting points around the bed.
However, there are a couple potential solutions to make them work together:
Remove The Tonneau Cover
You can simply take the tonneau cover off to install the ladder rack and leave it off. Just be sure to store it safely when not in use.
Modify The Tonneau Mounts
Some pickup owners have modified the tonneau cover mounting system to attach it to the inside of the bed instead. This frees up the outer bed rail for the ladder rack.
But this requires drilling new mounting holes and custom fabrication work. And you still lose the ability to easily remove the tonneau cover whenever needed.
Unfortunately, most flush mount covers aren’t easily compatible with add-on racks. You’ll have better luck with a roll-up, folding, or low profile style cover.
Can You Install A Tool Box With A Tonneau Cover And Ladder Rack?
It is possible to carry a tool box in the bed along with a tonneau cover and ladder rack installed. The key is positioning the components so they don’t interfere with each other.
Here are some tips to make them all fit:
- Place the toolbox against the front of the bed, leaving room for the tonneau cover to roll up behind it. Make sure the cover clears any toolbox handles.
- Mount the ladder rack forward of the toolbox, closest to the cab. This prevents the rack uprights from blocking toolbox access.
- Use a mid-rise ladder rack instead of a full cab height rack to preserve visibility and access to the toolbox.
- Consider a folding or retractable ladder rack that can move out of the way when not needed.
With good positioning and the right gear, you can absolutely use a tonneau cover, ladder rack, and toolbox together. It just takes a little planning to make them all play nice!
Can You Install A Fifth Wheel Hitch With A Tonneau Cover And Ladder Rack?
Fifth wheel hitches mount directly to the truck bed and need to be compatible with your existing accessories.
The good news is there are no conflicts installing a fifth wheel hitch with a tonneau cover and ladder rack, as long as you follow a few guidelines:
- Make sure to get a removable fifth wheel hitch that can be taken in and out of the truck bed as needed. Permanent under-bed hitches won’t work.
- Use a rolling or folding tonneau cover to keep the bed accessible for installing and removing the hitch. Avoid a flush mount cover.
- Position the fifth wheel hitch toward the rear of the bed so the tonneau cover can still retract fully.
- Install a front mount ladder rack to keep the bed floor open for the hitch. Rear mount racks take up more space.
- Use a mid-rise rack no taller than the top of the cab for easy hitch access.
With the right combination of gear, you can absolutely pull a fifth wheel trailer while still carrying a tonneau cover and ladder rack on your truck! Careful component selection and positioning is key.
Can You Add A Headache Rack With A Tonneau Cover And Ladder Rack?
Adding a headache rack (also known as a cab protector) is a popular way to carry even more gear above the bed. But is it possible with a tonneau cover and ladder rack already installed?
The short answer is yes – you can install a headache rack with those other accessories by following these tips:
- Make sure to get a frontend mounted headache rack designed to work with a rear mounted ladder rack.
- Choose a moderate size rack that doesn’t extend too far back over the bed. This prevents interference with the tonneau cover.
- Use a folding or rolling tonneau cover to avoid any issues with cover operation.
- Install the headache rack last to make sure it fits properly with the existing ladder rack position.
With good planning and the right gear selection, you can absolutely use a truck headache rack together with a tonneau cover and ladder rack for maximum storage flexibility!
Can You Add A Trailer Hitch With A Tonneau Cover And Ladder Rack Installed?
Adding a trailer hitch is a breeze with a tonneau cover and ladder rack already installed. Here are the key points to make them work together:
- Use a standard receiver trailer hitch that mounts beneath the rear bumper of the truck. This ensures no conflicts with accessories in the bed.
- Leave adequate space between the end of the ladder rack and the rear bumper for clear hitch access.
- Make sure any folding or rolling tonneau cover is fully forward of the hitch when retracted.
- Opt for a “hidden” trailer hitch that tucks up out of sight if low bed clearance is needed.
- Avoid “gooseneck” hitches that require mounting plates in the truck bed itself.
As long as you choose the right hitch style and allow room for access, a trailer hitch gets along perfectly with any tonneau cover and ladder rack combo!
Are There Any Ladder Rack Or Tonneau Cover Installation Tips To Allow Both Components?
Here are a few useful installation tips to ensure your ladder rack and tonneau cover coexist happily:
- Always install the tonneau cover first since ladder racks require access to the outer bed walls.
- Ensure the tonneau uses the inner bed rail or a low profile mount to avoid blocking rack access points.
- Leave a gap of at least 12 inches between the tonneau mounting points and ladder rack legs to allow for cover operation.
- Use rubber bumpers on the ladder rack legs to protect the tonneau cover from abrasion.
- Position any toolboxes or cargo forward of the tonneau cover to provide clearance for rolling it back.
- Test the clearance between the upright rack legs and your truck’s rear cab corners.
Following the manufacturer’s instructions and allowing adequate space between components is the key to success. Take your time with the installation and fitment.
Are There Any Drawbacks To Keep In Mind?
While ladder racks and tonneau covers can complement each other nicely, there are a few potential drawbacks to note:
- Reduced bed access when ladder rack legs are blocking the tailgate area. Folding racks help avoid this issue.
- Opening and closing the tailgate can be tighter depending on the ladder rack position.
- Damage or tearing of the tonneau cover material if rack legs frequently rub. Use protection pads.
- Visibility issues if a full height ladder rack is used. Keep the height moderate.
- Reduced weather protection for cargo if the tonneau cover is left open frequently.
- Potential for noisy wind buffeting if certain rack and tonneau combinations are used.
With smart installation and component choices, these drawbacks can be minimized. Just be realistic about any functional or convenience compromises based on your specific truck setup.
What Are The Key Takeaways For Installing A Ladder Rack On A Truck With A Tonneau Cover?
Here are the essential tips to remember:
- Choose a rolling, folding or low profile tonneau that mounts inside the bed rails only.
- Make sure the tonneau cover leaves the outer bed walls and stake pockets accessible.
- Allow adequate clearance between the tonneau mounting points and ladder rack legs.
- Position other accessories like toolboxes and hitches carefully to avoid interference.
- Use ladder rack bumpers and keep the height reasonable for tonneau cover protection and access.
- Install the tonneau cover before installing the ladder rack for proper fitment.
With good planning, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the best of both worlds – a truck bed tonneau cover and a beefy ladder rack for even more cargo capacity!
Adding a ladder rack to increase your truck’s hauling abilities doesn’t mean you have to lose the benefits of a tonneau cover. By choosing compatible mounting styles and allowing adequate room for operation, many tonneau covers and ladder racks can work together just fine.
Do your homework on how each component installs before combining them. With the right gear and planning, you can have the extra cargo space of a ladder rack as well as the protection and style of a truck bed tonneau cover.