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Can Tonneau Covers go Through a Car Wash?

Who doesn't love an automatic car wash? Fast, convenient, and affordable, automated washes are perfect for truck owners who don't have the time or patience to wash their pickups by hand. However, if your truck is equipped with a tonneau cover, you might wonder whether or not an automatic car wash could damage the cover. While there isn't a hard and fast answer to this question, following these guidelines will help you prevent any potential damage a car wash could do to your tonneau.

Note: for the purposes of this article we are strictly addressing the issue of tonneau covers in automatic car washes, not the pros and cons of different car washing methods.

Car Washes With Spinning Brushes

We recommend that you remove your tonneau cover prior to going through a car wash that uses spinning brushes. There are a couple of reasons to avoid these car washes, chief among them the obvious possibility of a rolling brush damaging the top of the cover via abrasion. A second reason is that over time the side brushes can smack your tonneau cover's rails hard enough to dislodge the clamps that hold it in place, which at the very least means having to reinstall the rail and at the worst could cause damage to the cover. While there are plenty of videos online showing tonneau covers going through a car wash without any damage, some of these issues are more cumulative than immediate.

Ionic SE in a car wash
Retrax tonneau cover on an F-150 in the rain
Muddy Toyota Tundra.

Touch Free Car Washes

If you're going to take a tonneau cover through a car wash, a touch-free car wash is your best bet. By using sensors to gauge your vehicle's size and contours, a touch-free car wash lives up to its name, cleaning your vehicle with water and chemicals. Brushes and cloths don't come into play here, which is good news for your tonneau cover since nothing is physically hitting it besides pressurized liquids. Just make sure your touch-free car wash doesn't have a wax cycle. Speaking of which…

Avoid Waxes

Automotive waxes can leave a film or haze on the surface of your tonneau cover. For this reason, if you plan on taking your truck through any kind of automated car wash with a wax cycle, we recommend that you first remove your truck bed cover. After the automatic wash, you can wash your tonneau cover by hand and apply a protectant such as Extang Tonno Tonic.

Hand Washing: Your Best Bet

While this article is focused on automatic washes, it’s worth mentioning that most professionals recommend washing your truck by hand to avoid damage caused by swirling particles of dirt and sand found in automatic washes. If your truck has a tonneau cover, we urge you to follow this recommendation. And by all means, have some fun with it.

If you have any questions about tonneau covers, chat or call our team of truck experts.