A soft roll-up tonneau cover is a popular truck bed cover that provides protection and improves gas mileage. The cover rolls up for easy access to the truck bed. Underneath the vinyl cover, bows run across the width of the bed to provide structure and allow the cover to roll up.
Proper adjustment of the bows is important to keep the tonneau cover tight, prevent sagging, and ensure it fits securely. Thankfully, adjusting the bow tension on a soft roll-up cover is a straightforward process. With a few simple steps, you can dial in the perfect tension for a taut, wrinkle-free cover.
Why Should I Adjust The Bow Tension On My Tonneau Cover?
Keeping proper tension on the bows of your soft roll-up tonneau cover serves several important purposes:
When the bows lack enough tension, the cover can sag in between them. This not only looks bad but also allows water to pool on the cover, which can lead to premature wear and leakage. Tightening the bows eliminates sagging.
A tight cover fits snugly over the truck bed, preventing thieves from slipping their hands underneath to steal items. Proper bow tension keeps the cover secure and your cargo protected.
A cover with good tension has a smooth, wrinkle-free appearance. Adjusting the bow tension removes any ripples or wrinkles in the fabric for a tight, sleek look.
Optimizes Gas Mileage
The aerodynamic shape of a soft roll-up tonneau cover can improve gas mileage. But if the cover is sagging due to loose bows, it disrupts airflow. Adjusting the tension optimizes the cover’s wind-cheating shape.
Extends Cover Life
Insufficient bow tension allows the vinyl cover to flap in the wind. This can lead to premature cracking and wear. Keeping the bows tightened reduces wind stress and helps the cover last.
How Do The Bows On A Roll-Up Tonneau Cover Work?
Soft roll-up tonneau covers contain aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic bows that run horizontally across the width of the truck bed under the vinyl covering.
The bows roll up into the canister at the front of the bed along with the cover. When unrolled over the bed, the bows provide structure to the pliable fabric and create the cover’s rolled shape.
Adjusters on the sides allow you to increase or decrease the tension of the bows. This lets you tune the cover to the perfect tautness.
What Do I Need To Adjust My Tonneau Cover Bows?
Adjusting the bow tension requires just a few simple tools:
- A small flathead or Phillips screwdriver to turn the tension adjusters.
- Possibly a 7/16″ wrench or socket to loosen retaining bolts (depending on the cover design).
- A soft clean rag to wipe down the cover and bows when done.
Other than that, the only thing needed is a few minutes of time. The process for tuning the tension is quick and straightforward.
How Do I Know If My Tonneau Cover Bow Tension Needs Adjustment?
It’s easy to identify when the bows on your soft roll-up tonneau need tighter or looser tension. Here are a few signs to look for:
Sagging Between The Bows
If you see obvious sagging, wrinkling or pooling of the cover in between the underlying bows, the tension needs tightening.
Loose Fit Over The Bed
When closed, the cover should fit flush against the bed rails with no gaps. If it fits loosely, the bow tension likely needs adjustment.
Cover Flutters In The Wind
Excessive fluttering of the vinyl cover while driving indicates the bows are too loose and should be tightened.
Difficult To Latch or Unlatch
If you struggle to secure or release the cover latch due to resistance, the bows may be too tight and need loosening.
Bed Access Is Tight
When the tailgate end is hard to flip up onto the canister, or drops back down forcefully over the bed, loosen the tension.
Checking for these signs periodically lets you identify problems and tune the bow tension when needed.
What Are The Steps To Adjust Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Cover Bows?
Once you’ve determined that the bow tension needs adjustment, tightening or loosening the bows is a quick and easy process. Here are the basic steps:
1. Roll The Cover Open
Fully roll open the tonneau cover to expose the entire underside. This provides access to adjust the tension adjusters along the sides.
2. Locate The Tension Adjusters
Depending on the specific cover, the adjusters may be plastic knobs, metal set screws, or hex bolts. Refer to your owner’s manual if unsure.
3. Release Retaining Bolts (If Necessary)
Some covers have retaining bolts that must be loosened slightly before adjusting tension. Use a wrench or socket to loosen them.
4. Turn The Adjusters
- For more tension: Turn clockwise
- For less tension: Turn counterclockwise
Turn incrementally in 1/4-turn increments to fine-tune the tension.
5. Adjust Both Sides Evenly
Be sure to adjust both sides evenly to distribute tension uniformly across the width of the cover.
6. Test And Re-Adjust As Needed
Roll the cover closed and examine the fit. Make further small turns of the adjusters until the desired tautness is reached.
7. Tighten Retaining Bolts
If the cover uses them, tighten the retaining bolts once final tension is achieved to lock in the adjustment.
And that’s all there is to it! Just repeat this simple process periodically to keep the perfect tension on the bows.
How Much Tension Should I Apply To The Bows?
Finding the ideal bow tension is a balance – enough to prevent sagging and fluttering, but not so much that operation becomes difficult.
Here are some guidelines for optimal soft roll-up tonneau cover tension:
- Tighten evenly until cover is drum-tight across entire bed
- Minimal to no wrinkling/sagging between bows when closed
- Tailgate end should roll up and down with reasonable ease
- Cover should move easily from open to closed positions
- Latches should click into place without forcing or binding
It may take a few rounds of adjustment to find the sweet spot. When in doubt, gradually increase tension until the cover retains a smooth, wrinkle-free shape.
What Are Some Tips For Adjusting Tonneau Cover Bow Tension?
Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of the bow adjustment process:
- Consult your owner’s manual for model-specific guidance.
- Work in small increments – slight 1/4 to 1/2 turns of the adjusters go a long way.
- Roll cover open and closed to check fit after each adjustment round.
- Have someone apply pressure along the cover while you dial-in the tension.
- Adjust tension seasonally to account for vinyl shrinkage in extreme cold.
- Clean bows periodically with rubbing alcohol to prevent binding.
- Lubricate tension adjuster threads with WD-40 if needed to prevent sticking.
Taking your time and gradually making adjustments is key to achieving that perfect tension for maximum performance and life from your soft roll-up tonneau.
What Problems Can Occur From Improperly Tensioned Bows?
It’s important to keep your tonneau cover bows adjusted to the proper tension. Insufficient tension can lead to some annoying issues:
Excessive Wind Flap
Loose bows allow the vinyl cover to whip back and forth in the wind. This stresses the material and causes premature cracking.
Water Leaking Through
Without enough tension, water can pool in sagging areas and leak through ribbon seams meant to be kept tight.
Thieves can easily slip their hands under a loose-fitting cover to swipe valuables from the truck bed.
Poor Gas Mileage
A loose, flapping cover disrupts airflow, decreasing the tonneau’s wind-cheating abilities and fuel economy benefits.
Damage To The Cover
A sagging cover is more vulnerable to rips, abrasion, and cuts from shifting cargo. Keeping it taut helps prevent damage.
Bed Access Problems
Covers with excessive tension can be difficult to unlatch or roll up onto the canister when accessing the bed.
Overtightened bows put undue stress on vinyl seams and connections points leading to early fatigue and failure.
Difficulty Operating The Tailgate
Too much tension makes lowering and raising the tailgate a struggle and can damage cables or struts.
Getting the bow tension right avoids these issues, while also maximizing cover life and performance.
When Should The Bow Tension Be Checked And Adjusted?
To maintain optimal function, check and adjust your soft roll-up tonneau cover bow tension periodically:
- At least 2-3 times per year (more often in extreme climates)
- After installing a new cover
- If sagging, wrinkling, or wind flap becomes evident
- If the cover seems loose or is difficult to latch/operate
- With seasonal changes as vinyl shrinks and expands
- Anytime the truck bed load changes significantly in weight
Getting in the habit of checking tension every few months ensures the cover always stays properly tuned.
Is Adjusting The Bows On My Tonneau Cover Difficult?
Thankfully, no! Adjusting soft roll-up tonneau cover bow tension is one of the easiest maintenance tasks for your truck.
It requires no special tools or skills, and takes just minutes once you locate the tension adjusters for your specific cover design.
With a few simple turns of the adjuster knobs or bolts, you can achieve a drum-tight, wrinkle-free cover in no time. Periodic adjustment keeps things tuned up perfectly.
The process is straightforward enough for anyone to master. Simply reference your owner’s manual, work in small increments, and test-adjust until the cover fits and functions flawlessly. Keeping those bows tuned is one of the best ways to maximize the performance and life of your soft roll-up tonneau cover.
Am I Adjusting The Bow Tension Correctly?
Not sure if you have the tension dialed in just right? Here are a few quick checks:
- The cover should be uniformly tight across the truck bed – no sagging spots.
- It should roll up and down against the canister smoothly and with reasonable effort.
- The cover lays flat and the tailgate closes without forcing it.
- No excessive wrinkling or rippling of the vinyl surface.
- The cover withstands crosswinds without excessive wind flap when driving.
- It latches securely along the sides and tailgate edge with audible clicks.
- There is minimal water pooling on the cover after rain or washing.
If the cover passes these checks, you’ve successfully adjusted the bow tension for optimal function and life. Well done!
How Do I Care For The Vinyl On My Roll-Up Tonneau Cover?
Once you’ve got the bows adjusted perfectly, it’s important to care for the vinyl cover material itself:
- Use a mild soap and water solution to clean the cover. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a microfiber cloth.
- Treat with a UV-protectant vinyl conditioner 1-2 times per year.
- For stubborn stains, use a vinyl cleaner and reconditioner. Test on small area first.
- Never roll up cover when wet or with pooling water on top.
- Park in shade whenever possible to limit sun exposure.
- Check vinyl seams and stitching for wear or gaps. Re-seal as needed.
- Avoid dragging sharp objects across the cover surface.
With periodic cleaning, treatment, and proper bow adjustment your soft roll-up tonneau cover will continue providing years of utility while looking fantastic.
Keeping your soft roll-up tonneau cover bows adjusted for proper tension is vital for performance and extends its life. Thankfully the process is quick and easy. Just periodically check for sagging, wrinkles, and difficult operation. Then make slight turns of the tension adjusters until the cover fits snug and smooth.
Following the simple steps outlined in this article, you can master tuning the tension on your cover’s bows. Doing so will maintain its attractive appearance, provide security, prevent leaks, and keep your cargo out of the elements. Plus you’ll enjoy optimized gas mileage from its ideal aerodynamic shape.
So take a few minutes to check that tension and roll with confidence knowing your soft tonneau cover is dialed-in to protect your truck bed. Keeping those bows in tune equals a lifetime of utility with your roll-up tonneau!