Story and photos by G.R. Whale
If you don’t make a habit of hauling construction material, dirt bikes or other tall objects, a pickup truck bed cover makes a lot of sense.
It adds secure storage and is weatherproof if you seal factory holes; it may look better than your beat-up truck bed and typically helps fuel economy. The extra 90 pounds isn’t felt much on a 5,000-pound truck, but better airflow helps on the highway. With a bed cover highway fuel-economy gains vary as widely as the number of variables, though it’s usually 8% or less (and much better than driving with the tailgate down). We had only two days for initial testing of this short-bed, regular-cab two-wheel-drive half-ton (5.3, six-speed auto, mild drop, slightly larger tires, odo-corrected) and commuting highway mileage went from a long-term 17.7 mpg to 19.1 mpg.
Prices for the ARE LSX short-bed cover when installed are in the $1,300 to $1,400 range. If your truck gets 17 mpg highway and you bump that to 18 mpg, the payoff in fuel economy at $4 a gallon is about seven years; from 15 mpg to 16 mpg at the same price is 5.5 years. In either case, a secure bed that won’t fill with snow may be invaluable to you.
The LSX cover has a six-layer construction, multiple adjustment points and a limited lifetime warranty. ARE covers are built-to-truck so you usually can’t buy one off the rack; the paint matches our 1-year-old GMC Sierra’s Summit White nicely, and options we passed on included lights, clothes rod and a wing.
ARE does only dealer-installs, which ensures a good fit for warranty protection. Based on previous positive experiences, we did ours at DACO in North Hills, Calif., in less than an hour despite strong thunderstorms.
The spoiler/tailgate lip on some pickups, including our low-trim Sierra, has to be removed. Four screws and a firm yank did the job here. A replacement flush-fit plastic strip ($25-30) covers the big holes in the tailgate sheetmetal.
After fitting mounting brackets to the cover and exposing the foam tape, it is lifted onto the truck and centered. On the Sierra, the rear brackets use a toggle-nut in the stake pocket, but it’s not tightened until the side rail is clamped tight with locking pliers.
The forward brackets use L-clips to secure the cover to the bed rail, shimmed as needed. At this point, we found plenty of daylight at the leading edge of the bed. We sealed it with silicone to keep contaminants out. The final step is adjusting the lock rods for length and double-checking everything, including that keys work (they did). Locking requires just a one-eighth turn with spring-back to center.