A tonneau cover is a popular truck bed accessory that provides extra security, protection from weather, and improved gas mileage by streamlining airflow over the bed.
For many truck owners, tonneau covers and roof racks go hand in hand as useful additions to increase versatility. However, with the tonneau cover sitting directly on top of the truck bed, it raises the question – can you install roof racks over the top of a tonneau cover?
Do All Tonneau Covers Work With Roof Racks?
The short answer is no – not all tonneau covers will be compatible with roof rack systems. There are a few factors that determine whether a tonneau can be used with racks mounted above it:
Tonneau Cover Mounting Style
- The tonneau cover must be a type that mounts between the bed rails, not sitting flush across the top of the bed. Covers that mount rail-to-rail block access to the stake pockets that roof racks use for installation.
- Roll-up, retractable, folding, and hinged tonneau covers that mount inside the bed leave the stake pockets accessible for roof rack installation.
Tonneau Cover Strength and Weight Rating
- The tonneau must be sturdy enough to support the weight of roof racks and any cargo you’ll be loading on them. Soft vinyl covers may not offer enough support compared to stronger retractable, folding and hinged covers.
- Check the cover’s weight rating and roof rack specifications to ensure proper load capacity. Exceeding weight limits could damage the cover.
Specific Tonneau and Roof Rack Compatibility
- Certain tonneau cover models are designed to work seamlessly with particular roof rack brands and systems. These compatible pairings will be advertised by the manufacturers.
- For best results, choose a roof rack designed especially for use over your tonneau model and follow all instructions.
As long as your tonneau cover meets these criteria – proper mounting method, adequate strength rating, and matching specs with the roof rack – it is possible to install roof racks over the cover. But the options are more limited compared to using racks alone.
What Are the Benefits of Combining a Tonneau Cover and Roof Rack?
Installing roof racks over your tonneau cover gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to truck bed accessories. Here are some top advantages:
Added Storage and Hauling Options
With a tonneau cover sealing and protecting your truck bed and a roof rack mounted above, you get the ultimate versatility for storing and transporting gear of all shapes and sizes. The bed stays locked and weatherproof while the roof rack lets you easily transport longer, taller items like ladders, lumber, surfboards, canoes, and more.
Keep Bed Covered While Hauling Up Top
Many tonneau cover owners dislike having to remove their cover anytime they need roof rack cargo capacity. Combining the two accessories allows you to keep the bed covered and locked while taking advantage of the roof rack – giving you flexibility without sacrificing security and protection.
Increased Ground Clearance Under Rack
Since the roof rack sits on top of the cover instead of directly on the roof rails, it provides extra ground clearance underneath for overlanding adventures and off-road use.
Aerodynamic Profile When Rack Not In Use
When you aren’t using the roof rack, the tonneau cover’s low, flush profile provides excellent aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. But the rack is there whenever you need the extra cargo space.
What Are the Limitations?
While roof racks add a lot of versatility, there are some compromise and limitations to consider:
Reduced Cargo Volume in Bed
The roof rack mounting system and tonneau cover hardware take away from usable cargo space in the bed interior. You lose a couple inches, which could be an issue for maxing out bed capacity.
Weight Capacity Tradeoffs
Any cargo weight put on the roof rack takes away from your tonneau cover’s weight limit for items stored in the truck bed. Heavy gear up top means you may need to reduce cargo below.
Potential Leaks at Rack Mount Points
Sealing and weatherproofing around rack mounting holes drilled through the tonneau cover can be tricky. If not properly sealed, the penetration points could allow dust, debris and moisture into the bed. Proper installation is key.
Limited Tonneau Cover Access With Rack Installed
Most roof rack installs make the tonneau cover difficult to open or remove with the racks in place. You may need to plan ahead for cargo that needs bed access.
Alignment and Balance Challenges
Getting the roof rack installed evenly and centered on certain tonneau covers can be tricky. Any misalignment can make folding or retractable covers track improperly.
What Are the Best Tonneau Covers for Roof Racks?
If you plan on adding roof racks over your tonneau cover, be sure to choose the right cover. Here are top options:
BakFlip G2 Tonneau Cover
The BakFlip G2 hard folding cover provides excellent strength and seamless integration with BAK’s OverRack rack system. No drilling required.
RetraxPRO XR Retractable Tonneau
This heavy-duty polymer retractable cover pairs perfectly with Retrax’s XR roof rack for simple, secure installation. No cover modification needed.
Extang Solid Fold Tonneau Cover
Extang’s Solid Fold models have thick panels rated for 100lbs, and many work with the manufacturer’s Express rack system using existing stake pockets.
Truck Hero AlloyFold Tonneau Cover
This lightweight aluminum tri-fold model has pre-drilled holes under the panels for direct roof rack mounting to the cover. No bed access needed.
Access Roll-Up Cover
Access Advantage, ADARAC, and ADARAC Aluminum tonneaus are designed specifically to mount Access roof racks directly to the cover.
Ultimately, the most seamless pairing will come from choosing a roof rack and tonneau cover designed and advertised to work together from the same manufacturer. Doing your research to ensure full compatibility is the key to success.
What Are the Steps for Proper Installation?
Once you have compatible roof rack and tonneau components, proper installation technique is crucial. Here are key steps:
Gather All Required Mounting Hardware
- Use all the provided screws, clamps, seals and accessories to avoid leaks and instability. Don’t try to rig other hardware – stick to what’s recommended.
Carefully Follow All Directions
- Never assume or take shortcuts. Every rack and tonneau combo has nuances during install, so follow each step.
- Before drilling holes, verify roof rack position is perfectly centered and aligned on the panels.
Use Provided Drill Templates
- This ensures proper hole size and placement. Don’t eyeball it.
Caulk Around Mounting Holes
- Use quality caulk or seals around all drilled rack holes to prevent moisture seeping through.
Perform Water Test
- Once installed, spray the rack and tonneau cover and check closely for leaks at mount points. Fix any wet spots.
Re-Tighten Mounts Often
- Retighten all rack clamps and hardware regularly to account for vibration on rough roads that can loosen things over time.
Doing a careful, methodical installation by the book will ensure your new roof rack and tonneau cover live together happily ever after and provide awesome function and versatility! Take your truck to the next level with this great combo.
FAQs About Tonneau Covers and Roof Racks
Some other common questions on combining a truck bed tonneau cover with an overhead roof rack system:
Can you install a roof rack directly on top of a soft roll up tonneau cover?
No, most soft roll up covers do not provide enough strength and support for roof racks and cargo weight. The vinyl cover could become damaged. Opt for a rigid folding or retractable tonneau rated for accessory racks.
What are the best roof racks to use with a tonneau cover?
Use a rack specifically made for tonneau cover installation, like offerings from Extang, BakFlip, Retrax and others. Or choose modular rack systems with separate rail kits to fit over covers.
Should you install the tonneau before or after the roof racks?
Always install the tonneau cover first, getting it fitted and mounted properly between the bed rails. Then install the roof racks centered on top of the cover afterwards.
Can roof racks be mounted directly to folding tonneau panels?
Some tri-fold and folding covers have pre-drilled rack attachment points underneath for direct roof rack mounting. But others require drilling, which risks bed leaks.
How much weight can you carry on a roof rack installed over a tonneau cover?
Follow the manufacturer’s rated weight limits for the tonneau cover. This is the maximum weight capacity between roof rack cargo and gear stored in the bed below.
Is it better to use crossbars or individual roof racks with a tonneau cover?
For best compatibility with tonneau covers, go with full roof rack systems over simple crossbars. The racks offer more secure attachment points and sealing around holes drilled into the cover.
Should you remove tonneau cover drain tubes when installing roof racks?
No, you want to keep all drain tubes in place. This ensures water does not pool on the cover if any leaks past the roof mounts. Proper drainage prevents cover damage.
Can you open a retractable tonneau cover with roof racks installed?
Once roof racks are mounted over a retractable cover, you likely won’t be able to open it until the racks are removed. The canister can’t retract underneath.
Is it safe to drive off-road with roof racks mounted over a tonneau cover?
As long as you follow weight ratings and install both accessories securely, it is fine for off-road use. The extra clearance height helps.
The ideal pickup truck setup for many owners includes a bed cover and roof racks for versatility. As long as your tonneau model is designed for roof rack installation, uses proper mounting hardware, and follows weight limits, this combination can hugely increase utility and function.
Be sure to use rack and cover components guaranteed to work together for ease of install and optimal performance durability. With the right pickup bed accessories, you will be fully equipped to carry any type of cargo and gear over any terrain.