Pickup truck owners know that securing and protecting cargo in the truck bed is a top priority. Tonneau covers are a popular truck bed accessory that provide protection, security, and improved gas mileage. But will a tonneau cover actually prevent scratches and damage to your cargo? Here’s what you need to know.
How Do Tonneau Covers Protect Cargo?
Tonneau covers protect cargo by creating a barrier between your truck bed and the outside elements. When properly installed, a tonneau cover seals off the truck bed, keeping out rain, snow, debris, and sunlight. This protects your cargo from:
- Rain can cause moisture damage or rust fragile items. Tonneau covers provide a waterproof barrier.
- Snow and ice can melt and seep into cargo. Tonneau covers block snow and ice.
- Sunlight can fade and degrade cargo. Tonneau covers block UV rays.
- Gravel, dirt, branches, and other debris thrown up by traffic can scratch or chip cargo. Tonneau covers create a shield.
- While not completely theft-proof, tonneau covers conceal cargo and require effort to open, deterring opportunistic theft.
So in these ways, tonneau covers can protect cargo from many external threats during transport. But do they prevent scratching and damage from cargo shifting around inside the truck bed?
Do Tonneau Covers Prevent Internal Cargo Damage?
The interior truck bed walls and floor can potentially scratch fragile cargo if items shift and rub around during driving. Can a tonneau cover mitigate this? Here are some key factors:
Tonneau Cover Types
The level of scratch protection will depend on the specific tonneau cover design:
- Hard folding covers provide a rigid surface that keeps cargo stable. Cargo has less room to shift and rub.
- Soft roll-up covers have some give and flex. Cargo can still shift around underneath.
- Retractable covers fully expose the bed when open. When closed, they perform similar to a hard cover.
So hard and retractable covers will provide better protection from inner cargo movement.
How well your cargo is packed and cushioned is also important:
- Loose items are more likely to shift and get damaged. Packing items tightly together reduces movement.
- Padding around fragile cargo helps absorb shocks and scratches. Foam, blankets, etc. add protection.
- Securing cargo with straps or tie-downs limits shifting and rubbing.
Proper packaging significantly improves protection for fragile cargo.
Your driving style and road conditions also play a role:
- Defensive driving prevents abrupt accelerating, braking, and turning that can shift cargo.
- Off-roading increases jostling and chances for cargo damage. Smooth paved roads are gentler on cargo.
- Tight space leaves cargo little room to move. A partially loaded truck bed allows more shifting.
Careful driving on paved roads helps minimize cargo movement inside the truck bed.
So while tonneau covers provide a good barrier, interior scratch protection depends on cover type, cargo packaging, driving habits, and load size. Additional measures may be needed for fragile cargo.
How Else Can You Protect Cargo From Scratches?
If you’re concerned about scratching despite having a tonneau cover, here are some additional steps to take:
Use Protective Liners
Spray-on bedliners and bed mats provide a smooth, cushioned barrier between the truck bed and cargo. The soft textured surface helps prevent scratches and damage.
Chains, straps, netting, and other tie-downs securely hold cargo in place during transport. Properly tying down cargo limits shifting and friction that causes scratches.
Use Protective Padding
For especially fragile cargo, wrap or pack items with extra padding like bubble wrap, foam, or blankets. This cushions and isolates the cargo surface.
Get a Toolbox
In-bed toolboxes allow you to lock up fragile items securely. The enclosed space protects from exterior elements and interior cargo movement.
Use Cargo Bags
Duffle bags, plastic storage bins, and other vessels allow you to compartmentalize and isolate cargo. Carrying items this way prevents them from rubbing against other cargo.
As mentioned before, defensive driving keeps abrupt maneuvers to a minimum. Take care when going over bumps or uneven terrain.
Tonneau Cover Limitations
While tonneau covers provide useful protection, it’s important to recognize their limitations:
Not Completely Water or Dust Proof
- Most tonneau covers are water resistant but not fully waterproof, especially soft covers. Extended exposure can lead to moisture damage.
- Dust and pollen can still enter through slight gaps around edges. This may dirty or scratch cargo.
Minimal Security Against Theft
- Locking mechanisms on some tonneau covers can be compromised by prying. Determined thieves may still gain entry.
- Soft covers can be easily cut open. Hard covers provide more security but are still penetrable.
Potential Truck Bed Damage
- Hard folding covers could scratch the truck bed when opening/closing. Pay attention to avoiding contact between the cover and bed walls.
- Improper installation can cause the tonneau cover to rub against the bed. Only install according to manufacturer instructions.
Added Wind Resistance
- Tonneau covers create aerodynamic drag which impacts gas mileage. Hard covers are better than soft in this regard.
- Increased wind resistance can potentially shift cargo if not properly secured. Tie down cargo even with a tonneau cover.
While very useful accessories, tonneau covers cannot guarantee full protection or security for cargo. Take additional precautions as needed.
Tonneau Cover Recommendations
If you’re looking for a tonneau cover to protect your truck bed, here are some top recommendations:
BAKFlip G2 Hard Folding Cover
- Matte black finish with aluminum underside
- Flips open in sections for easy bed access
- Low-profile design improves gas mileage
- Locking panels deter tampering and theft
Extang Solid Fold 2.0 Hard Cover
- Dent-resistant polymer panels
- Quick-release side latches for simple opening
- Vinyl coated underside prevents bed scratches
- Full perimeter seal keeps out elements
TruXedo Lo Pro Soft Roll-Up Cover
- Vinyl layered construction is waterproof
- Leather-grained finish looks great
- Rolls up or folds open for full bed access
- Tight fit helps minimize flapping
RetraxPRO XR Retractable Cover
- Powder-coated aluminum slats are durable
- Smooth automatic retraction with lockable cover
- Bed rails help minimize water intrusion
- Works with bed liners and tie-down systems
While not flawless, a tonneau cover can provide valuable protection against weather, debris, and theft threats. Hard folding covers offer the most protection against inner cargo movement and scratches. For maximum protection, use proper cargo packaging, padding, tie-downs and drive carefully, especially off-road.
Add bedliners, toolboxes or bags for extra shielding of fragile items. With the right tonneau cover and additional measures, you can transport cargo securely with minimal risk of scratches and damage.