We recently did a GMC Sierra tonneau cover install after searching the market and choosing between a hard cover and a soft cover based on our needs.
There’s no end to the benefits of owing a pickup: four-wheel drive grip, a tall driving position, and the request every other weekend from your buddies to borrow the thing. Ok, maybe not that last one.
That latter point is, however, one of the pickup truck’s key advantages: hauling space. That open box (whether it’s five-and-a-half, six, or eight feet long) is the indisputable king of cargo. Need to haul a washer and dryer home from the shops? No problem. How about that ugly vintage grandfather clock you found at an estate sale? Toss it in. The amount of debris one can handle with a pickup is legendary. Thing is, though, that open bed is – well – open.
Tonneau covers have been around for ages and are designed to cover up the box of your truck, essentially sealing it from weather and prying eyes. The buying demographic for this accessory is, anecdotally from conversations with local parts store, split between those who want a cover for security purposes and those who install one simply for looks. Do your own thing; we won’t judge. Much.
In broad strokes, there are two different categories of tonneau covers. Let’s look at them individually.
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Hard Folding Tonneau Cover
This is the type of GMC Sierra tonneau cover we installed, explaining why we’re leading with this option. A hard tonneau has numerous advantages, including being a heckuva lot more secure than the alternative. Short of hammering away at this thing or taking to it with a crowbar, both of which are likely to attract attention, a hard tonneau cover will provide good protection for your valuables.
This example was selected based on its looks, construction, and positive feedback. Fully assembled right out of the box, this hard, tri-fold tonneau cover folds up into thirds, which permits your author to load a snowblower or other smaller piece of equipment aboard the truck bed without needing to remove the entire cover. Note the third panel closest to the cab remains fixed, an annoyance if trying to utilize the truck’s entire bed. Solutions exist to this problem.
Installation of this GMC Sierra tonneau cover is straightforward, with the leading edge of this cover clamped to the truck’s bedsides. This is accomplished with robust metal fasteners that don’t require tools to adjust. Its edging provides a tight seal to keep out the weather, while easy-to-use and easy-to-grip spring-loaded fasteners keep the tailgate end of the cover secured tightly to the bed even with frequent opening and closing of the truck’s ‘gate.
When closed, a good tonneau cover of this type can serve as a flat surface on which to temporarily place items while working around the truck. Make sure to clean off all debris before folding the thing, lest you mar the cover’s surface. The downside, as you might guess, is weight: this cover weighs a good thirty pounds and takes up lots of vertical space in your garage when not installed on the truck. Hard covers are more expensive than their fabric-based brethren, too.
The ‘buy it for looks crowd’ will enjoy this style of GMC Sierra tonneau cover as it neatly buttons up the rear of the truck while also providing a dose of functionality. Note: any fuel economy gain will be incremental, thanks to modern trucks being a paragon of aerodynamics compared to pickups of yore. That tailgate has a spoiler-esque lip for a reason.
Soft Tonneau Cover
This type holds some advantages over its hardtop cousin – primarily price and ease of operation. Think of them as a thick tarp covering the bed of your truck and you’re on the right track. Most are secured onto the bed with a series of clamps, permitting the cover to be rolled up like a beach towel against the cab wall when you want full use of the truck bed.
Some have velcro-style strips along their leading edge to facilitate weather protection and increase security. It is the latter that is a big knock on soft tonneau covers, as most of them are swiftly defeated with a sharp knife. Improper loading of gear with pointy edges while the cover is in place can also damage this type of cover, poking through from the bottom like a Viking’s sword.
This option from well-known Leer, who bills itself as “America’s #1 Truck Cover”, is a soft tonneau with a twist. Blending the best of both worlds, it is a tri-fold unit, flipping forward in thirds to reveal the truck bed underneath instead of rolling up to look like a sad and droopy burrito. Made of commercial-grade reinforced vinyl, this cover won’t provide the security of a hard cover, but is s good option if one doesn’t want to break the bank. Its latching system near the tailgate is of a one-handed pinch design, not a bulky handle on which to yank, providing a clean look.
GMC Sierra Tonneau Cover Installation Tips and Thoughts
Installing either type of cover is a breeze, with tri-fold tonneau covers (both hard and soft types) being held in place with robust metal clamps tucked away out of sight inside the truck bed. Most tonneau covers can be installed on a truck in less than ten minutes without any tools.
Experience has taught your author that if your truck has a bed liner, like our GMC Sierra test truck, check to make sure it is of the type which tucks underneath the sides of bed. This means the areas onto which the cover will clamp are accessible and not concealed by the liner. Ninety-nine percent of plastic drop-in bed liners are of this variety. Modern spray-in liners generally don’t affect the installation of a tonneau cover at all.
As mentioned, but worth repeating, roll-up tonneau covers can be easily trundled up against the truck’s cab when you need the whole bed to haul an ATV. Some tri-fold tonneau covers will also flip forward and provide access to the bed but often leave a portion of the bed covered up, scuppering your plans to haul a load of furniture or dirt bike. Either way, you’ll likely have to remove the cover in order to load tall items, so plan ahead.
Be sure to measure your truck’s bed before buying a cover to ensure a proper fit and think about how you plan to use your pickup. All tonneau covers provide a mail-slot of access into the bed when you drop the tailgate, but beyond that, some can pose limitations if you’re frequently hauling tall gear in the bed.
Aftermarket truck accessories are a huge business, unsurprising since almost 20% of all new vehicles sold are pickup trucks to deeply loyal owners who want to protect their purchase. A tonneau cover is a great way to clean up the lines of your truck and increase the amount of lockable storage space. Do your research, select the one that fits your needs, and you’ll have a practical accessory that adds value to your truck.
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