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Are Tonneau Covers Waterproof?

One of the main reasons truck owners buy tonneau covers is to protect their cargo from rain and snow. It makes sense that adding a cover would stop a downpour from ruining whatever you’re carrying. Whether you’re just starting to research truck tonneau covers or are about to buy, you might be wondering if truck bed covers are waterproof. 

Even though no tonneau is perfectly watertight, a good tonneau will keep almost all water from entering your truck bed. 

Tonneau Truck Bed Cover

Waterproof vs. Water Resistant

This is where the difference between waterproof and water resistant comes into play. It would be nearly impossible for a truck bed cover to be totally waterproof. There are even places on your truck bed, like around the sides of the tailgate, that can let in water. Sometimes you can’t even see the gaps where water sneaks in.

No matter how good your tonneau is, a small amount of water could leak in. That said, you’ll still get the benefit of your tonneau being water resistant. There’s a big difference between rain pouring into your truck bed and a little bit of water leaking in around the sides while your gear stays mostly dry. Usually water resistant is enough to do the trick.

Before you leave your camping gear in your truck during a rainstorm, we’ll explain in more detail how waterproof your tonneau cover is.

Some tonneaus are more waterproof than others

The first thing to consider is that not all tonneaus are equal. Let’s look at how a few different truck bed covers stand up to water. There are other factors to consider when choosing the best tonneau for your truck, but this is definitely worth thinking about.

Hard Top Hinged Tonneaus

If picking a waterproof tonneau is your main priority, you may want to pick a hard top fiberglass tonneau. Since these are all one piece and extend past the truck bed rails and tailgate, they will let in the least amount of water. Like we said before, no tonneau is perfectly watertight. A few drops will still sometimes get in around the hinge alongside the cab or through the openings around the tailgate. But this type of cover may be your best bet if you mainly care about waterproofing and don’t mind dropping big money on a tonneau.

Retractable Tonneaus

Retractable tonneaus are stored in a canister that sits at the bed bulkhead and can be extended to cover the truck bed with the click of a button. They aren’t perfect at keeping water out, but they are meant to be good at withstanding rain and snow. Yet, snow and ice can prevent the tonneau from properly retracting and or getting logged within or around the canister. The rails can help channel water away from the cover, and some even come with drain tubes to move water away. However, the drain tubes typically require the installer to drill holes through the truck bed so the tubes can drain.

Folding Tonneaus

Tri- and quad-folding covers can be made of hard plastic/aluminum panels or soft vinyl fabric that fold back to give you access to your truck bed. They can be good at repelling water. However, there are usually places where water can get through. The performance of these tonneaus can be impacted if ice builds up and prevents the mechanisms from operating properly.  

Soft Snap-On Tonneaus

Soft tonneau covers that snap along the edges are many people’s budget picks. They are inexpensive and easy to remove. They provide some protection against rain or snow, yet they wear quickly. Since they are only secured by snaps and don’t have any drainage system, water can get in at points around their corners. They may not hold up well in crosswind downpour conditions, but work just fine in light rain.

Sawtooth STRETCH Tonneau

Sawtooth tonneau covers are made with thick Stretch & Hold impervious textile that is 7 times thicker than most other soft tonneau covers. They come with easily removable cross bars that support the tonneau cover and help rain slide off instead of pooling. The cross bars are also great at preventing the tonneau from sagging under heavy snow loads. The edges of the tonneau cover seal tightly on the bed rails, which also helps keep water out. 

How To Waterproof a Tonneau Cover

So, is there anything you can do to make your tonneau more water resistant? Depending on your tonneau model, there are a few things you can try. Also, make sure you properly measure for tonneau cover.

Use The Parts That Came With Your Tonneau

When installing your tonneau cover, don’t leave any parts out. Some models come with parts meant to make them more water resistant: 

  • Water resistant seals that stick along the sides of the tonneau. These are usually included to fit in areas where the tonneau may leave a small gap, so be sure to install them carefully. Sawtooth seals are pre-installed at the factory. There are no additional steps to take with a Sawtooth Tonneau.
  • Drain tubes that help channel water off the cover or away from the bed rails. 

Follow your manufacturer’s instructions and don’t skip any steps if you want to get the most out of your tonneau. Seals and drain tubes can make a big difference in keeping water out of your truck bed.

DIY Waterproofing Options

If you’re still worried about water entering your truck bed, you can consider adding additional seals. As mentioned earlier, the tailgate area can have large gaps between the truck bed and tailgate itself. Fortunately, there are many aftermarket tailgate seal options to help solve this problem. It should be noted that depending on your make and model of truck, certain tailgate seals work better than others.

If a lot of water is still getting in your truck bed after taking those steps, it’s worth considering whether you have the right tonneau. Is it old and worn out? Did you pick a budget model that has never been able to keep water out? It may be time to upgrade!

The Good News About Truck Bed Covers

Even though no tonneau can perfectly waterproof your truck bed, there are lots of other benefits to a tonneau cover:

  • Protect your cargo from snow and wind
  • Keep heat and harmful UV rays off your gear
  • Stop dust and dirt from getting in your truck bed
  • Discourage prying eyes or even stop a potential thief

So, even if a few drops of water get in under your tonneau during a storm, your gear will still be in way better shape than it would be with no tonneau cover.

One thing many drivers find disappointing is that most tonneaus only have all those benefits for cargo that fits below the bed rails. Tall or large cargo is left out in the rain. What’s the point of owning a tonneau if it only protects some of your stuff? The Sawtooth adjustable tonneau cover expands to cover tall and large cargo, so even that will be protected from the weather.

If you have any questions about tonneau covers, reach out to our team of truck experts at 801-692-3368 or check out our the Sawtooth Tonneau Cover website. We're here to help you!