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What are side curtains called?

Side curtains are protective fabric coverings that run the length of a vehicle’s cabin. They are typically made of vinyl, canvas or leather and mounted to the roof rail. Side curtains serve both functional and aesthetic purposes in a vehicle.

What are side curtains called?

Functional Purposes of Side Curtains

Side curtains in vehicles serve several important functional purposes:

Weather protection

  • Side curtains protect passengers from inclement weather like rain, wind and snow. They help keep the vehicle’s cabin dry and comfortable.

Temperature regulation

  • Side curtains provide insulation to maintain interior temperature. This keeps passengers warmer in colder months and helps reduce solar heat gain in warmer weather.

Noise reduction

  • Fabric side curtains absorb sound and road noise that would otherwise enter through an open side of the vehicle. This allows for more quiet and relaxed driving.


  • Side curtains offer privacy from people outside the vehicle being able to look into the cabin. This gives occupants more privacy.


  • Newer vehicles are equipped with side impact protection curtains that provide an extra layer of occupant protection in side collisions. These safety curtains are integrated into the vehicle structure.

Aesthetic Purposes of Side Curtains

In addition to functional benefits, side curtains also contribute aesthetically to a vehicle’s appearance:

Design element

  • Side curtains act as a major design element impacting the style and visual character of a vehicle. Choice of fabric and color schemes extend a vehicle’s interior decor.

Brand styling

  • Certain designs and treatments of side curtains help identify brand heritage and styling themes across vehicle lineups. Iconic vehicles are often distinguished by their distinctive side curtain design.


  • Aftermarket side curtains allow for customization and personalization with unique colors, materials, logos or graphics. This adds individual flair.

Complementing mods

  • Aftermarket side curtains provide buyers an avenue to integrate curtains into other cabin mods like custom upholstery for a complete, tailored cabin environment keyed to personal taste.

Different Types of Side Curtains

There are a few basic types of side curtains that provide full or partial coverage:

Full side curtains

  • As the name suggests, these curtains extend the full length of the vehicle cabin from front to rear on both sides. Full curtains offer complete weather protection and privacy.

Half side curtains

  • Half curtains, also called short side curtains or stubby curtains only extend partially down the cabin length, typically to the rear edge of the front doors. Half curtains maximize open feeling while still offering some weather protection.

Safari side curtains

  • Safari curtains have zippered plastic windows integrated into them, allowing them to be rolled up or down. This flexibility enables them to be closed during inclement weather or opened when desired for better views and ventilation.

Tube side curtains

  • Made of rugged vinyl material, tube curtains slip over a vehicle’s sport cage or roll bars providing basic shielding from sun and other elements while retaining open sides.

Materials Used for Side Curtains

There are a variety of materials commonly used in the production of side curtains, each offering distinct properties:

Vinyl – Water resistant and durable yet relatively lightweight for easy storage/removal. Offers transparency option.

Canvas – Rugged, breathable fabric that withstands elements well. Typically opaque with various color/pattern options.

Mesh – Woven mesh material provides excellent outward visibility and ventilation. Mostly opaque mesh effect.

Leather – Provides sophistication and luxury aesthetic. Soft supple feel yet still durable to elements. Perforated leather available.

Neoprene – Insulating “wetsuit” type material keeps interior warmer. Also helps dampen noise. Tend to be opaque fabric.

Acrylic – Waterproof yet breathable performance fabric with insulating properties helps regulate interior temperatures.

Polyester – Lightweight yet tough synthetic fabric. Provides basic elemental protection at affordable price points.

Key Considerations When Choosing Side Curtains

Important factors to weigh when selecting appropriate side curtains include:

  • Vehicle make and model fitment
  • Full/half/tube coverage needs
  • Desired visibility or privacy levels
  • Insulating and noise reduction properties
  • Color, pattern, style preference
  • Price and budget
  • Ease of installation, storage, removal
  • Windows and accessory integration
  • Safety ratings of any impact protection curtains

Carefully evaluating priorities across these criteria help buyers narrow selections to optimal side curtain solutions for their individual needs and uses.

Installing Aftermarket Side Curtains

Installing aftermarket side curtains on trucks, SUVs, Jeeps and specialty vehicles allow owners to customize coverage to their priorities. Here is an overview of key steps:

  1. Choose curtains suited for your specific vehicle’s make, model, and year. Ensure proper fit.
  2. Thoroughly clean mounting locations like sport cage and window trims.
  3. Carefully unroll curtains and connect Velcro edge borders to mating vehicle Velcro mounts while smoothing fabric evenly.
  4. Secure any supplemental attachments like plastic windows to lock curtains firmly in place with even tension distribution.
  5. Sit inside cabin and test curtains, adjusting as needed for proper alignment, overlap and reattaching any loose sections.
  6. Check that all accessories like zippers, flaps and closures function properly once curtains are optimally situated.

With proper research and patience during installation, aftermarket side curtains can provide a perfect custom fit along with great functionality and style. Seek assistance for any issues.

Maintaining and Caring for Side Curtains

Like any fabric exposed to the elements, side curtains benefit from certain care and maintenance steps to uphold their integrity and appearance. Here are some best practices:

Inspect – Periodically inspect curtain integrity, looking for any tears, gaps, mold/mildew that requires rectification.

Clean – Brush off loose dirt then hand wash or spot clean with a mild detergent, rinse thoroughly. Never machine wash.

Protect – Apply protectant sprays to repel moisture and condition fabric while preventing UV damage.

Avoid abrasion – Prevent curtain contact with abrasive objects during transport/storage. Use padding barriers if necessary.

Additional maintenance may involve seam reinforcement, torn panel replacement, window restoration and Velcro/fastener adjustments over time from continual use.

Key Takeaways

  • Side curtains serve vital functional roles shielding vehicle cabins from weather elements, road noise and privacy intrusions while enhancing safety and temperature regulation.
  • Aesthetically, side curtains enable extensive design customization and brand differentiation via shape, fabric choice and embellishment options.
  • Major side curtain types differ primarily on coverage area and extent of closure flexibility provided.
  • Numerous material technologies exist offering varied properties around durability, transparency, insulation and ease of storage suited to diverse vehicle applications.
  • Careful consideration around priorities and trade-offs guides optimal side curtain selection for specific vehicle models and owner needs.
  • Proper installation combined with active care and maintenance preserves side curtain integrity for best ongoing performance.


Vehicle side curtains play an invaluable yet often overlooked role shielding occupants from harsh external elements while enabling individual style and brand identity. Their materials and designs continue advancing hand-in-hand with innovations in automotive engineering and fabrication. Whether prioritizing safety, extreme climate adaptability or custom aesthetics, optimal side curtain selection, fitment and care ensures vehicle cabins provide the comfort and control owners require while standing up to rugged use over many miles of enjoyment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can aftermarket side curtains improve safety?
    Aftermarket side curtains on their own generally don’t provide significant safety improvements in collisions. But full doors with integrated impact bars do increase door strength. 
  2. Is it hard removing and reinstalling side curtains seasonally?
    Quality side curtains are designed for easy periodic reinstallation. The most user-friendly use sturdy zippers and durable Velcro panels matched to mounting points inside the vehicle cab. 
  3. Should side curtains be installed professionally?
    DIY install is possible on most side curtain applications with patience and care. But for specialty vehicles, custom integration and optimal mounting, professional installation may be preferred. 
  4. How often should side curtain condition be checked?
    Inspecting curtain integrity for any tears, gaps or other degradation should occur periodically, with more frequent inspections depending on intensity of use and storage practices. 
  5. Can worn sections be repaired or do entire curtains need replacement?
    Minor tears can be repaired with reinforcement patches. But severe degradation will necessitate complete curtain replacement, much like changing a worn convertible top. 
  6. Is there a break-in period for new side curtains?
    There is no formal break-in. But new curtains should be checked after initial install for any sag or gaps and re-tightened as needed. Proper mounting from the outset prevents issues. 
  7. How do side curtains differ from standard doors?
    Unlike rigid vehicle doors, side curtains are flexible fabric coverings without integrated door latch mechanisms. They overlay door openings rather than sealing them outright. 
  8. Do half side curtains provide as much protection as full curtains?
    Full side curtains inherently provide more coverage and protection than half curtains. But half curtains can sufficiently shield occupants unless subjected to torrential weather exposure for longer durations. 
  9. What are safari curtains?
    Safari side curtains are a special design with roll-up zippered plastic windows built into their lower section. This flexibility enables adjusting protection/ventilation as needed. 
  10. Should Velcro attachments be cleaned regularly?
    Yes, buildup of dirt and debris on Velcro curtain edges and vehicle mounting points can degrade grip and allow sagging. Occasional cleaning preserves fit. 
  11. How do impact protection safety curtains work?
    Safety side curtains are made of dense padded materials aligned with a vehicle’s roof rail structure to provide a protective barrier shielding occupants in side collision impacts. 
  12. Can mesh curtains become saggy over time?
    Yes, mesh curtains typically rely on tension to maintain shape. Sagging from use/compression can stretch mesh permanency. Periodic adjustments helps counteract this issue. 
  13. How much maintenance is required for leather side curtains?
    Leather requires periodic cleaning and conditioning to prevent drying out. A leather protectant spray also helps repel moisture. Avoid harsh cleaners. Light soap and water is best for cleaning leather curtains. 
  14. Do curtains limit access to the vehicle cabin?
    Side curtains can make cabin access less convenient than with standard doors. But innovations like safari snaps, zippered windows and magnet fasteners help mitigate the extra effort when entering and exiting vehicles with curtains. 
  15. Can stock side curtains be upgraded or modified?
    Some customization is possible with stock curtains. But choosing from the wide range aftermarket offerings allows much more significant upgrades in materials, closures and integration with other accessories during installation. 
  16. Is it important to use a soft cloth when cleaning side curtains?
    Yes, a soft damp microfiber cloth helps lift dirt without being abrasive during hand cleaning. Brushes also work well. Avoid using paper towels or harsh scrubbing to prevent fragile curtain fabrics from damage. 
  17. Do curtains require supporting modifications alongside installation?
    Sometimes minor additional mods like patching holes, adding fastener mounts or rain gutters may complement curtain installs. But full kits come equipped with all attachment hardware included. Assess individual vehicle needs. 
  18. How do tube curtains differ from standard vinyl curtains?
    Tube curtains use a ribbed sleeve design without fabric overlaps. This exposes vehicle cage dimensions allowing fast on-off capability desired for off-road trail runs and competitive motorsports. Durability takes priority over cabin comfort. 
  19. Can curtains help reduce noise from loud vehicle exhaust systems?
    Significantly loud exhausts may overpower most curtain materials. But thicker insulated fabrics like acrylic and canvas can provide a measurable reduction in deafening cabin drone compared to open sides without curtains. 
  20. Should Velcro edges be fused or left separated for storage?
    To prevent Velcro gaps when reinstalling, store curtains with Velcro edges mated rather than separated. This preserves shape memory for optimal reattachment by avoiding edge curl memory over time.

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