Yeah, yeah, trucks are meant to get dirty and ridden hard and put away wet blah, blah. Some of us need the space a big truck bed can provide, but need to keep our gear covered up, dry, and secure. That’s why the 4-wheeled gods blessed us with the invention that is the tonneau cover.
But how waterproof are they really? I don’t just mean for rain, but what about taking them through a car wash? Can I take it through a car wash without damaging anything or ruining my gear?
Spoiler: Yes, as long as the tonneau if properly secured and not broken, you should be fine. This goes for soft or hard designs — though there are some things to keep in mind if you want to make sure your stuff stays dry.
Making Sure Your Truck Bed Is Waterproof
So on its own, no tonneau cover can ensure a waterproof truck bed. The reason for this is because while good covers can provide strong seals around the perimeter of the bed and even include rain channels to siphon off water that makes it past the hinges or tracks (such as in folding or retractable covers) — there will still be gaps in the tailgate by design.
Manufacturers know that 95% of their trucks will spend most of their time with a wide-open truck bed, so in order to ensure that your F-150 doesn’t become a mobile swimming pool every time it rains, they make sure there is a gap in the bottom of the tailgate for water to drain. Along with that, the tailgate bottom and sides need a little bit of a tolerance gap to let dirt, rocks, and other debris by and not interfere with the opening or closing of the tailgate.
Worry not, friend, because as is usually the case with these sorts of things, the aftermarket has responded, and now you can buy a tailgate seal to close those gaps and take care of the bed’s biggest vulnerability to water.
What Is the Most Waterproof Tonneau Cover?
If you want the best chance at water resistance, a hinged tonneau cover is your best bet. These covers form a clamshell over the sides of the bed and tailgate and have no other hinges or seams along the length of the bed to worry about. There are a few pros and cons that go along with these:
So on the plus side, along with offering the best seal, hinged tonneau covers tend to be the most factory-looking option. This is especially true with the factory paint matched options from brands like Undercover and Ranch Fiberglass. These can be ordered in your factory paint code, primered and ready for custom paint, or just plain black if that’s what you prefer.
As for the downsides, hinged covers tend to provide the least amount of access to the whole truck bed when you need it. Since they usually hinge from the rear, getting big/heavy things out of the rear of the bed isn’t always the easiest. Then, if you do find yourself needing to haul something big and need to remove the cover, they usually require at least two people to remove and are quite bulky to store in the meantime. Everything is a give and take.
Balancing Water Resistance and Convenience
If you do find yourself needing to open up the bed fairly often either for ease of unloading or to carry larger items, folding, roll-up, and retractable covers strike a balance between convenience, security, and water-resistance.
It stands to reason that a good folding cover like the Rugged Ridge Low Profile tonneau or retractable cover like the Pace Edwards Switchblade would offer more security in terms of protecting from sticky fingers as well as weather. However, there are plenty of soft covers that offer great weather resistance as well, such as the TruXedo Lo Pro.
Have any questions on your specific cover? Looking for recommendations? Drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!