Pickup truck bed covers are a great way to protect your cargo and provide extra security, but driving at high speeds can cause soft covers to billow open and expose your gear. Here are some tips to prevent your cover from flying open on the highway:
How Does Speed Cause Billowing Covers?
When driving fast, aerodynamic forces push air under the cover and create lifting pressure, similar to how airplane wings work. This lifts the soft material and causes flapping or billowing. Hard folding and retractable covers have rigid panels so are less affected, but soft roll-up and snap-on types are vulnerable.
What Problems Can Billowing Covers Cause?
A cover flapping in the wind can be noisy and annoying. It can also strain the fabric, causing premature wear. In extreme cases, the entire cover could rip off, damaging your cargo or the vehicle behind you. Billowing covers are a hazard that need to be secured.
Should I Avoid Driving Fast With a Soft Cover?
You don’t necessarily have to strictly obey the speed limit, but do be cautious exceeding 70 mph. Wind noise and strain on the cover increases dramatically over that threshold. Minimize high speed driving when possible, and take steps to properly secure the cover.
What Are Some Ways to Prevent Billowing Covers?
Use Cover Locks or Clamps
Most soft covers have locking mechanisms along the edges that take tension off the fabric. Make sure these clamps are properly secured before driving. Some aftermarket clamps cinch the cover down even tighter.
Secure The Tailgate Gasket
Covers attach to the tailgate with a rubber gasket. Make sure it connects snugly along the entire width without gaps. Consider adding weather seals or foam fillers.
Tie Down The Cover
You can loop ropes or straps over the cover then attach them to tie-down points in the truck bed. This helps resist uplift forces. Just don’t overtighten to the point of damaging the fabric.
Use Sandbags or Weights
Placing weighted objects on the cover helps hold it down. Sandbags over each wheel well are ideal. Or repurpose heavy items you already have at home.
Check The Weather Forecast
Avoid driving in extremely windy conditions if possible. Wait for gusty storms to pass before heading out.
Adjust Latches, Straps, and Bows
On roll-up covers, ensure the bows are providing tension while latches are tightened adequately. Adjustable tension straps can also be added.
Consider Upgrading Your Cover
If your current cover is worn out, upgrading to a newer rigid cover like a tri-fold, retractable, or hard shell could help eliminate billowing issues.
Are There Any permanent Solutions?
For frequent highway driving, you may want a permanent solution beyond temporary tie downs and weights. Some good options include:
You can bolt metal grommets into the truck bed then tie ropes through them over the cover. They provide reliable anchor points whenever needed.
Install a Rack System
Various racks, bars, or roll bars can be mounted over soft covers to help eliminate flapping. They divert airflow and prevent uplift.
Use a Bed Cap
A fiberglass camper shell creates an airtight seal, preventing air from ever entering underneath in the first place. Cap-mounted cargo racks are also available.
Upgrade to a Hard Cover
As mentioned earlier, upgrading to a vinyl wrapped hardcover provides rigid panels that won’t billow up. Hard folding and retractable versions have good highway performance.
Tips For Driving With Soft Covers
- Double check all clamps, straps, and gaskets before driving
- Avoid quick acceleration and deceleration
- Open the tailgate slightly to relieve air pressure
- Slow down if you hear flapping or wind noise
- Periodically stop to re-tighten components
- Keep cargo low and centered in the bed
- Never exceed the cover’s weight rating
- Check mounting bolts, hinges, and latches for wear
Signs Your Cover Needs Replacing
If securing your cover doesn’t solve billowing issues, it may be too worn out and need replacement. Some signs include:
- Faded, cracked, or peeling fabric
- Rips, holes, or unraveling seams
- Broken or missing hardware
- Loose fabric despite tightened clamps
- Excessive wind noise and vibration
- Sections that sag, flap, or look deformed
Billowing pickup truck bed covers can be annoying and hazardous but are preventable. Keep your speed in check, securely fasten all clamps and straps, weigh it down if needed, and ensure the mounting hardware is in good condition. With proper precautions, soft covers can be safely used at highway speeds. But if problems persist, upgrading to a rigid hard cover is the best permanent solution.