Pickup truck owners know that hauling cargo in an open truck bed leaves it exposed to the elements. Driving in wintry conditions means your truck bed can fill up with snow and ice. A tonneau cover provides a solution to keep your truck bed protected. But how well do tonneau covers work for keeping snow and ice out?
How Does Snow And Ice Get Into An Open Truck Bed?
When you drive with an open truck bed in snowy conditions, snow can blow in and accumulate. As the temperature drops, any snow in the truck bed will turn to ice. Here are some common ways snow and ice sneak into an uncovered pickup bed:
- Flying snow blown in by wind
- Snow falling from the sky directly into the bed
- Slush splashing up from the road
- Melting and refreezing of snow in the truck bed
Over time, the snow builds up and turns into sheets of ice. Not only does this add a lot of weight, but it also makes a slippery mess in your truck bed.
Do Tonneau Covers Prevent Snow Buildup?
A tonneau cover fits over the truck bed, creating an enclosed space. This provides some protection from snow and ice. Here are the key benefits of using a tonneau cover in winter:
Keeps Falling And Blowing Snow Out
The snug fit of a tonneau cover doesn’t leave gaps for snow to blow or fall into. Soft covers with a gentle slope allow snow to slide off the sides. Hardcovers form a rigid shell that fully blocks snow entry.
Insulates The Truck Bed
A covered truck bed stays warmer than an open one. The tonneau cover traps heat and prevents cold air from freezing any accumulated snow.
Protects From Road Splash
By covering the entire bed, tonneau covers shield your cargo and interior from icy road slush. The water-resistant fabric or hard shell causes splashes to bead up and roll off.
Adds Weight For Traction
The tonneau cover and any snow on top of it push down on the truck bed. This extra weight over the rear wheels results in increased traction.
How Effective Are Tonneau Covers Against Heavy Snow?
Tonneau covers vary in their ability to withstand deep snow and ice buildup. Here are key factors that determine how well a tonneau cover sheds snow:
Snow Load Capacity
Look for the maximum snow load capacity rating when choosing a tonneau. Models built for winter can support up to 2,000 pounds of snow weight.
Cover Strength And Attachment
Soft covers with weak frames will sag under heavy snow. Make sure to get a cover with a rigid frame or strong bars that keep the fabric taut. Hard covers are inherently sturdier.
Pitch And Surface
Covers with steep angled sides allow snow to slide off. Low-profile soft covers and hardcovers gather snow easier. Smooth, slippery surfaces prevent snow sticking and ice buildup.
Look for weather seals, drain tubes, and channel gaps engineered to facilitate water runoff from rain or melting snow.
Keep the tonneau cover clear of debris and lubricate hinges. Tighten loose clamps or attachments that could allow snow entry.
How Watertight Are Tonneau Covers?
While tonneau covers are not 100% watertight, most do a decent job at keeping rain and melted snow out of your truck bed. Here is how waterproof different tonneau cover types are:
Hard Tonneau Covers
Made from aluminum, fiberglass or polycarbonate, hard covers form a rigid shell. When sealed correctly, minimal water can seep through the tailgate gaps.
Soft Roll-Up Tonneaus
Offering easy roll-back access, these covers use velcro and rubber seals to close gaps along the sides and back. Very little water enters, though condensation may form inside.
Affordable covers secured with snaps or rails, these have seams that let in some dripping water. Better models utilize full-length weather seals.
Vinyl fabric stretches over aluminum slats that roll up or retract to open. When closed, the thick weather strips provide excellent water resistance.
Two or three foldable panels hinge together to cover the bed. Water leaks through the gaps between panel folds, especially in heavy rain.
The hard shell and tight seals of fiberglass camper toppers make them highly waterproof. They encapsulate the entire bed, fully blocking water entry.
How Do You Clean Off Snow And Ice From A Tonneau Cover?
As your truck sits outside, some snow and ice will inevitably accumulate on the tonneau cover. It’s important to regularly remove this winter buildup. Here are some tips:
- Use a snow brush or broom to gently sweep off fresh powder before it freezes solid.
- Knock off chunks of ice with a plastic scraper, being careful not to scratch the cover.
- Spray stuck-on ice with de-icer fluid to help melt it away.
- Rinse off road salt and grime to prevent corrosion damage.
- When safe, get in the truck and drive around to let wind and motion shake loose snow and ice from the cover.
- For soft covers, flip back the tonneau cover to let any snow on top slide off onto the ground.
- Once clear of snow, dry the cover thoroughly to avoid moisture damage.
Taking time to regularly clear snow and ice from your tonneau cover will help it last longer and function better at keeping your truck bed protected in winter.
Will Installing A Tonneau Cover Prevent Me From Using My Truck Bed In Winter?
Drivers rightfully worry that adding a tonneau cover will make it harder to use the truck bed in icy conditions. But you can still easily load and access your pickup bed in winter after installing a tonneau with these tips:
- Opt for a soft roll-up or retractable tonneau you can quickly flip open. Hard covers require removing panels to access the bed.
- Use tonneau props or lift supports to keep the opened cover propped up. This keeps it from sagging under the weight of snow.
- Install semi canister tonneaus that allow partial access without needing to open the entire cover.
- Apply anti-seize lubricant to the tonneau hardware like clamps, hinges, and rails to prevent ice buildup from sticking it shut.
- Stow an ice scraper inside to clear snow and ice from the tonneau cover framing.
- When parked, keep the tonneau cover rolled or folded up to allow the bed interior to melt any accumulated frozen slush.
With the right tonneau cover and proper operation, you can reap the benefits of bed protection without compromising accessibility and usability.
Which Type Of Tonneau Cover Is Best For Keeping Snow Out Of My Truck Bed?
Based on their design, construction, and ability to withstand snow, here are the tonneau cover options best-suited for blocking snow:
Hard Tonneau Covers
The rigid panels seal tightly to form an impenetrable shell over your truck bed. Snow slides right off the smooth finish. Opt for thicker gauge aluminum or fiberglass panels.
They roll up for total access, and the vinyl fabric locked over the slats is impermeable. The low profile sheds snow efficiently. Electric models retract at the push of a button.
Soft Roll-Up Tonneaus
Offering simplicity and strength, the tarp-like fabric resists snow accumulation when kept pulled taut over the bows. Choose rubberized fabric with weather-tight closures.
Fiberglass camper shells are hardened and insulated for the elements. Highly snow-proof, but they limit bed accessibility. A rear hatch provides some access.
For the best snow protection, stick with a durable, tight-sealing tonneau cover suited for winter use. Maintain it properly to keep snow out and make accessing your truck bed easy all season.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tonneau Covers And Snow
Can I drive with snow on top of the tonneau cover?
Yes, tonneau covers designed for winter conditions can safely support snow weight while driving. Stick to speed limits and brake gradually. Remove excess snow at stops.
Do tonneau covers help keep snow out of the truck cab?
Tonneau covers minimize snow blowing into the truck bed and reduce the chance of it flying forward into the cab when driving. Use mudflaps and a tailgate seal for added protection.
How do I keep the tonneau cover from freezing shut?
Regularly clear snow buildup, lubricate hardware, and use non-freezing de-icer locks. Park inside when possible and keep the cover open to allow the interior to melt.
Will a basic tonneau cover handle heavy snow?
Basic vinyl tonneaus may collapse under heavy snow. Upgrade to a winter-grade soft cover with a reinforced frame or aluminum slats. Hard covers are naturally sturdier.
Can I install a tonneau cover on my truck after winter starts?
It’s best to install a tonneau cover before snow season, but you can add one anytime. Look for no-drill models and use removable seal tape until permanent mounting in spring.
Adding a tonneau cover is an excellent way to protect your pickup truck bed from snow and ice accumulation when driving in cold winter weather. While no tonneau is 100% impenetrable, they will significantly minimize snow entry compared to an open truck bed.
Hard and soft roll-up covers designed to handle heavy snow provide optimal winter performance. With proper maintenance and operation, a tonneau cover allows you to reap the benefits of a covered bed without sacrificing accessibility and usability. Drive into snow season with confidence by outfitting your truck with a durable, weather-resistant tonneau cover.