How Did The Tonneau Cover Get its Name?

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It is an interesting name because tonneau is a French word, meaning ‘cask’ or a sizeable barrel-like container made of wood, metal, or plastic, used for storing liquids, typically alcoholic drinks. 

It actually refers to the area behind the driver in a car or a truck that the top is open on. In fact, tonneau covers were primarily used for open cars, but over time it’s been used exclusively for pickup trucks.

What is a Tonneau Cover Made of?

Tonneau covers are made from fiberglass, plastic vinyl, or canvas for the coverings. The frames are made from aluminum, hard plastic, and polycarbonate.

There are so many bed covers to choose from; that’s why it’s essential to do your research. You might find our best tonneau cover guide useful.

race car with n tonneau cover

In regards to cars, manufacturers actually integrated tonneau covers into the design of the cars back then. It was used to store actual cargo or just people. Then after this, street racers started adopting the tonneau cover for the sole purpose of reducing wind drag. It was all to have an aerodynamic edge over their competition, and well, it served its purpose.

Many racers from that era stated that a tonneau cover was why so many world records were able to be broken.

It’s really cool looking back at where things actually came from and where they are now.

Fast forward to today, and tonneau covers come in so many different styles and materials.

What Can I Use a Tonneau Cover For?

Pickup trucks indeed use bed covers for similar reasons as back then, just not for the purpose of actual racing. 

Today is all about security, keeping your cargo out of harsh elements, and being stylish!

Most tonneau covers are water-resistant, which keeps whatever you have in your truck bed dry even in adverse weather conditions. Anything from rain to snow, you could even face possibilities of mold or dust. This is probably the reason most truck owners get themselves a tonneau cover.

cover tonneau being used

Other benefits are tonneau covers look so stylish on a pickup truck! Try comparing a pickup truck with no tonneau cover and one with a tonneau cover. The most appealing will be the one with the tonneau cover. That’s my opinion, though. But many truck owners tend to agree.

Tonneau covers tend to be called other names such as truck bed covers, hardtops, and other related phrases, but they are all tonneau covers.

A tonneau cover can be used for practically anything you can think of. If you run a carpet cleaning business… use it to keep the carpet dry. If you deliver things… use them to protect them from the elements. If you’re a contractor, you can safely store your tools and keep them dry with a locking tonneau cover. It’s perfect for hauling light cargo that might fly out of the bed.

.Open tonneau cover on a truck

Different Types of Tonneau Covers

There are many types of covers, including but not limited to:

  • Tool Box Tonneau Cover
  • Heavy Duty Tonneau Cover – with head racks on them
  • Scissor Hinge
  • Continuous Hinge
  • Soft and hard tri-fold
  • Retractable
  • One-piece solid
  • Soft and hard roll-up
  • Snap tonneau cover

Tonneau Cover Installation and Maintenance

Tonneau covers are an economical way to protect your cargo. However, they should not be a permanent solution to your storage problems.

At some point, you will need to remove them to gain access to the bed if you need to haul large cargo (depending on the type you have). 

Removing and reinstalling covers is easy.

Truck accessories such as bed racks and bed rails will have to be removed for installation and removal.

The difficulty will vary depending on the type – soft tonneau covers are easier than one-piece hinged covers. But in general, you would do something like this.

  1. Remove any truck accessories that might be in the way
  2. Loosen all clamps that hold the cover in place
  3. Lift up the cover and remove it from the truck
  4. Remove the tonneau’s rails and or other bracketry from the truck bed

installing a tonneau cover

Tonneau Cover Maintenance is Easy:

Tonneau covers can be extremely helpful in keeping the elements out of your vehicle. However, they can also be a pain in the ass if you don’t maintain them. Again, this will depend on different types of covers from painted, rigid plastic, fiberglass, or polycarbonate, but the general maintenance includes:

  1. Wash tonneau cover
  2. Allow it to fully dry
  3. Apply protectant as directed
  4. Repeat every 3 months or when the finish starts looking dry

Can a Truck Bed Cover Saves Gas

After the tonneau cover installation, you will notice a difference in fuel consumption straight away.

Tonneau covers improving your gas mileage, but how does this actually work? 

When the truck bed is covered, it will lower air resistance and reduce wind drag. Less drag means you will be driving in more aerodynamics and ultimately save more gas. 

Are you’re wondering if a truck cap will save more fuel than a tonneau cover.

There are studies about how tonneau covers affect the coefficient of drag (1).

Lock Up Your Valuables

It’s no secret that stealing from truck beds is one thing that happens a lot. In Miami, this happens a lot, and it’s is one of the most annoying things.

The most secure tonneau covers are definitely the one-piece, but the hard tonneau covers that are hinged, retractable, or folding are made of highly durable material that will block anything from entering. They are all lockable, adding an even greater level of safety and security.


Hopefully, you found this article useful and figured out why it’s called a tonneau cover. I didn’t really find the answer to this question till one day; it really just dawned on me. 

I always thought tonneau covers were just for pickup trucks but was pleasantly surprised to read that cars 50 years ago used these.

It really helps you respect the changes that happen in every industry. It’s really astounding how tonneau cover has really become its own industry.

If you have a truck, you researched tonneau covers, and if you haven’t, you probably should!


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