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Truck-Bed Protection: Tonneau Covers and Bed Liners

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Enhance the look of your truck with these worthwhile investments that pay off and shield valuable cargo

Whether you bought a truck for towing, work-related activities or both, you want to keep it looking good as long as possible. You also want to make sure that whatever you put in the bed doesn’t get wet or sun-fried and is still there when you get home. It’s for these reasons that bed liners and tonneau covers are some of the most popular pickup accessories in the truck aftermarket. They protect the truck and its cargo from weather, prying eyes and sticky fingers, and add to the truck’s resale value when it comes time to trade up by keeping the interior of the bed looking good.

Bed Liners

The best way to protect the paint inside the truck bed and prevent dents and cracks that result from carrying heavy or shifting cargo is with a bed liner. Think of a liner as a layer of armor between your precious truck and the cruel world, a layer whose job it is to absorb the scratches and dings that might otherwise be inflicted on the bed itself, eventually causing rust that you’ll have to deal with sooner or later.

There are two main types of bed liners: drop-in and spray-on. Drop-in liners are basically large, molded inserts that exactly match the shape of the bed and simply drop into it. They’re bolted down after drilling holes through the bed and liner. Most incorporate holes for stakes and racks, so you don’t need to cut your own. Because they’re custom-molded for each make and model of truck, they look great. They’re not only easy to install, they’re easy to remove.

But the holes needed for the mounting bolts present their own problems and offer an opportunity for moisture and eventually rust to creep up from underneath. Also, if the installation isn’t done just right, the liner could be misaligned, allowing water and dirt to infiltrate the gaps along the sides of the bed and collect underneath the liner, where they can move around and scratch the paint as well as cause rust. It’s always a good idea to give the bed a thorough cleaning before installing a drop-in liner to prevent wear that can go unnoticed for years.

The problems common to drop-in liners aren’t present with spray-on liners. As the name implies, these liners are sprayed onto the bed like paint, but unlike paint, the material dries into a tough, wear-resistant surface. Because there are no mounting holes to drill, there is no danger of rust or corrosion creeping up from under the bed. Many truck owners choose to have the job done by professional installers at authorized dealerships, but for the DIY crowd, there are brush-on liners that can be applied.

Even more than with a drop-in liner, bed prep is vitally important to a successful spray- or brush-on application, so be sure to add prep time to your estimate of how long the job will take. The main downside is that, once applied, they’re not removable. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal until the material gets scratched, or stained by some nasty chemical.
A professional spray-in liner company can always add a topcoat for cosmetic reasons if the liner becomes damaged.

Tonneau Covers

The function of a tonneau cover is less to protect the truck bed and more to secure the cargo in it. They also look cool, whether the bed is full or empty, and some claim they improve fuel mileage slightly by smoothing turbulent airflow over the open bed. The mileage claim is open to debate, especially in terms of cost-effectiveness, but there’s no denying that if you want to protect whatever you’re carrying, a tonneau cover is the hot ticket.

There is a wide variety of styles of tonneau covers in terms of material and operation. The simplest and most economical ones are just big rectangles of heavy-duty vinyl that stretch over the bed and attach to the truck body with snaps. They’re fine if money is an issue, or if you’re not going to take them off and on very often because the snaps can wear out.
Security is mostly an illusion. The vinyl can be opened to get at the cargo, and if the thief is feeling especially rushed that day, the material is easy to slice with a knife. Finally, in rainy weather the cover can sag and collect water — and make its way into the bed. Even a moderate snowfall can weigh down the cover enough to stretch it out of shape.

Many hard tonneaus provide cargo security, thanks to locks that work in conjunction with a locking tailgate. Made of fiberglass, ABS or aluminum to withstand snow buildup if the truck is parked outside during the winter, they’re sturdy, too. Some roll up like a big rug, others consist of hinged slats that fold or slide to give access to the bed, and still others are basically big lids hinged at the cab end that lift up like the top of an ice chest. A lot of fiberglass and ABS covers can be ordered to color-match the truck.

Hard tonneaus represent the high end in terms of quality and price, but they’re worth it because they secure your cargo and protect the bed’s interior from weather and, to some extent, UV deterioration. A real belt-and-suspenders pickup owner has both a bed liner and a tonneau cover.

Here’s a roundup of some representative bed liners and tonneau covers. It’s by no means a complete list, but it should give you an idea of what’s available so you can research which type and style of liner or cover suits your situation.

BAKShiny red truck

The BAKFlip 5 hard cover (starting at $800) comes in aluminum, fiberglass and vinyl versions. The aluminum G2 offers full-bed access as well as theft protection — just lock the tailgate to secure the contents of the bed — and you can drive with the cover closed, half open or fully open. The Fibermax (starting at $840) is made of a fiberglass-reinforced polymer with an aluminum substructure and has all the features of the aluminum BAKFlip.White truck with bed roll
The Revolver X2 6 (starting at $1,200) is a rolling hard cover with locking rails that secure the full length of the bed. It can be opened easily with one hand and has an automatic slam latch that operates from either side.White truck with bed open and man standing reaching inThe RollBAK 5 (starting at $1,200) is made of a series of interlinked ½-inch-thick extruded aluminum slats that glide on Teflon rails. It locks with the tailgate and can be set in multiple positions.


BedRugGrey truck with bed rug

The BedRug bed liner is made of tough polypropylene that resists stains from bleach, oil and even battery acid — they just wash off. It has a knee-friendly ¾-inch cushioned floor and an anti-skid surface to keep cargo from shifting.Grey truck with bed linerThe XLT BedMat 6 is designed for outside use and will not absorb water. It installs in minutes with hook-and-loop fasteners, with no sanding, bed prep or drilling required. The cushioned Impact BedMat 6 has a TPO-composite surface that’s slip- and skid-resistant.It installs with hook-and-loop fasteners in just minutes. Contact your local dealer for prices.



DualLinerGrey truck with back bed open

DualLiner’s 5 five-piece drop-in bed liner ($399 for 5½- and 6½-foot beds, $449 for 8-foot beds) consists of custom-fit hard panels for the front, sides and tailgate that integrate with a heavy-duty 3⁄8-inch-thick ZeroSkid rubber floor. A tight fit allows the use of factory tie-downs and provides a clean, finished look. The bed liner installs without drilling, sanding or prep work and doesn’t trap water. The floor snaps into a molded channel at the bottom of the side walls. The DualLiner comes with four pieces for some truck models.



LeerBlack truck with tilting bed cover on beach

The custom 750 Sport 6 tonneau is packed with features like a FlexSeal water barrier, Leer’s SuperLift system and an interior headliner. There’s also a 12-volt DC interior LED light with a gas prop switch and a keyless remote. The finish uses automotive paint for a long life.Blue truck parked on grass near waterThe Trilogy X2T 6 ($904) is an easy-on, easy-off trifold cover with interlocking hinges and an exclusive latching system. It features an accessory track, superior water management and vertical stacking.Other Leer tonneaus include the Ricochet XRT ($1,694), made of heavy-duty extruded aluminum panels with a tough powder-coated matte-black surface. It requires only a Phillips screwdriver and a 7⁄16-inch wrench to remove and retracts into a canister box at the front of the bed at the turn of a knob. The Velocity ($527) is an economical roll-up soft cover that installs with two ½-inch wrenches and uses a no-drill clamp attachment.Contact your local dealer for prices, as most covers are custom-made.




Two white trucks with black covers on bedPace Edwards

The UltraGroove and UltraGroove Metal 5 retractable tonneaus ($1,319 and $1,796) feature T-slot and rear-end caps for quick and easy installation, and can be opened or closed without removing the racks. The UltraGroove consists of ArmorTek vinyl over aluminum panels, while the UltraGroove Metal has a powder-coated matte-black surface. Both have raised profiles, seals and drain tubes to improve water management. They include built-in expansion systems that fit most Thule and Yakima racks for bikes, kayaks and canoes.The retractable Switchblade ($919) and Switchblade Metal 5($1,415) can be removed easily with a Phillips screwdriver and 7⁄16-inch wrench for full-bed access. The Switchblade is ArmorTek vinyl over aluminum panels, and the Switchblade Metal has heavy-duty powder-coated aluminum panels.Other Pace Edwards products include the Bedlocker Electric remote-control retractable cover ($2,215) and the Full-Metal Jackrabbit spring-action retractable tonneau ($1,700).
Black truck parked on sand next to water






Rhino Linings

White truck parked on gravel with bed openRhino Linings’ 5 protective coating is a spray-in liner available at authorized franchise dealers (prices vary, typically running from $400 to $650). HardLine is the company’s hardest truck-bed lining and is applied up to 1⁄8-inch thick in areas exposed to heavy use.
Extreme was originally designed as a commercial and industrial coating but is now one of the company’s most popular products, with excellent impact, chemical and abrasion resistance and a full range of colors with a UV top coating.TuffGrip, the company’s flagship product, celebrating 30 years in 2018, is up to ¼-inch thick and has excellent slip resistance. Hybrid’s strengths are chemical and corrosion resistance, and the SolarMax coating combines long-lasting color and UV protection with good impact and abrasion resistance.




White truck with bed coverThe TruXedo Deuce 5 ($599) rolls up like a conventional tonneau cover from the rear, and with the pull of a latch, the front flips to allow access to the bed from the driver’s or passenger’s side. A rear-mounted control self-adjusts to keep the cover tight in varying temperatures. The preassembled, quick-attach cover system and no-drill clamps make installation time less than 20 minutes.The Edge 5 ($469) has a stylish arched tailgate design and can be installed in less than 20 minutes using the easy-to-attach clamps. A simple trigger latch opens the cover, and the no-tool adjustable-tension control keeps the cover snug in any temperature. Stake holes are available for maximum versatility.The Lo Pro (starting at $534) has a heavy-duty aluminum frame and tension control to keep the fit tight in all temperatures. It accommodates most bed caps and bed rails, and can be installed in 20 minutes or less.Other TruXedo bed covers include the Titanium (starting at $849), made of hard aluminum slats and soft vinyl, and the TruXport (starting at $336), an economical roll-up cover with an industrial hook-and-loop system that provides continuous contact between the cover and the rails.
Shiny blue truck







Red truck showing the UnderCover Classic 6 The UnderCover Classic 6 tonneau (starting at $926.95) is made of ABS and designed to provide a strong, watertight seal. It has a dual-locking system and a UV-protected polymer finish, and includes a wall mount for easy off-truck storage. The textured black finish is scratch-resistant, and an LED bed-lighting system is included. Installation and removal require no drilling.Other models include the Lux SE (starting at $1,459), made of an ABS composite material with UnderCover’s patented X-Effect design for strength. It includes a double-seal system to keep water out, a built-in LED light and a center-mount lock for security. The Flex (starting at $856.27), is made of fiberglass-reinforced panels with an aluminum frame and comes with prop rods to hold the cover in the upright, folded position to allow access to the full bed.




Silver truck WeatherTech’s Roll Up 4

WeatherTech’s Roll Up 4 retractable cover ($479.95 to $519.95) keeps cargo away from the elements when deployed and stays out of the way for oversize cargo. The AutoLatch II automatic dual-locking system releases with a downward pull, and when used with a locked tailgate provides excellent security. Made from commercial-grade reinforced vinyl, the cover stays flexible in extreme temperatures. It is water-resistant with front and rear seals that form a tight barrier between the truck and cover.The TechLiner (starting at $254.90) and TailGate TechLiner (starting at $59.90) 5 are custom-fit solutions to protect and preserve truck beds and tailgates. Made from recyclable and odorless thermoplastic elastomer, they’re durable, flexible and UV-resistant, and are designed not to crack, break or warp even in extreme temperatures. Both are secured using hook-and-loop discs.
Red truck with back bed open








Gear for Your TruckJerry SmithTowing in Style

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