The dual paddle latches on a tonneau cover are an important part of securely fastening and locking the tailgate shut. Over time, these latches can become loose, misaligned, or damaged – preventing you from properly closing the tonneau cover. Knowing how to inspect and adjust the latches is key to keeping your tonneau cover functioning properly.
What Are The Dual Paddle Latches On A Tonneau Cover?
The dual paddle latches are spring-loaded mechanisms located on both sides of the tonneau cover, usually towards the rear. They consist of two ‘paddle’ shaped pieces – one attached to the tonneau cover itself, and the other on the tailgate lip.
When you close the tonneau cover, the paddle on the cover hooks into and locks with the paddle on the tailgate. This holds the tailgate firmly shut and compresses the tonneau cover against the bed of the truck.
Proper adjustment of these latches is necessary to:
- Create enough tension to securely compress and seal the tonneau cover when closed.
- Allow the latches to properly align, hook together, and lock.
- Prevent rattling or noise from loose latches.
When Do The Latches Need Adjustment?
There are a few signs that indicate your dual paddle latches need adjustment:
The latches don’t catch or lock properly
- This could mean the latches are misaligned and no longer hooking together correctly.
There is excessive movement or rattling of the latches
- If the latches are loose, they may rattle against the tailgate and prevent proper sealing of the cover.
The latches are difficult to open and close
- Too much tension can prevent the paddle latches from smoothly engaging and disengaging when operating the cover.
There are gaps between the cover and bed
- Improper latch tension can fail to fully compress the cover, allowing gaps, flapping, and bed water intrusion.
There is visible damage or wear
- Cracked, bent or worn latches should be replaced. But first, try adjusting tension as damage may be from loose latches.
How To Inspect The Latches
Before making any adjustments, thoroughly inspect each latch:
Check for damage
Look for cracked plastic, bent metal components, broken springs or worn out rubber gaskets. Damaged parts may need replacement.
Ensure latches are clean
Buildup of dirt, grime or corrosion can interfere with smooth operation. Clean latches with a rag and a non-abrasive cleaner.
Confirm latches are lubricated
Dry, binding pivots can make latches harder to open and close. Lubricate with spray lubricant or lithium grease.
Verify mounting is secure
Grab each latch and try to wiggle it. Loose mounting will prevent proper adjustment. Tighten any loose screws or clamps.
Open and close the latches a few times. Stiff, sticky, or uneven movement indicates a deeper issue.
How To Adjust The Latch Tension
Step 1: Loosen any screws or bolts that hold the latch mounts in place. Do not detach completely.
Step 2: Close the tonneau cover and engage both latches to where they lock.
Step 3: Determine if the tension needs tightening or loosening based on fit.
To tighten: Move the mounts so that the latch paddles pull closer together when closed.
To loosen: Move the mounts so that the paddle latches are slightly further apart when closed.
Step 4: With latches closed in proper position, tighten mounting screws to 14 foot-pounds of torque. Do not overtighten.
Step 5: Check for proper latch engagement and tonneau cover sealing. Make additional small adjustments as needed.
Step 6: Operate the latches several times and ensure smooth opening and closing. The tension should be tight enough to seal the cover, but not overly difficult to operate.
How To Align The Latches
If the latches fail to properly hook together or release when operated, they likely need realignment:
Step 1: Loosen the latch mountings as explained above.
Step 2: With the tonneau cover open, look for alignment problems:
- Are the paddle orientations matched up?
- Do the latch pivots line up?
- Are the mounting angles the same?
Step 3: Hold the latches closed to where they barely touch. Ensure the paddle faces catch and overlap correctly.
Step 4: Adjust mounting angles as needed until paddle faces correctly intersect when closed. The tails may need to move in or out.
Step 5: Tighten the mounts while keeping the latches just touching. Check that they catch properly when fully closed.
Step 6: Make small adjustments until the latches smoothly engage and release in one motion during operation.
What If Adjustments Don’t Solve The Issues?
If you are unable to achieve smooth operation, proper sealing, and easy latch engagement through tension and alignment adjustments, there may be a deeper problem requiring service:
- Broken or worn out latch components: Springs, pivot pins, bushings, etc. may need replacement.
- Bent or warped mounting: This requires repair or replacement of mounts.
- Damaged tailgate lip: Dents or bends on the tailgate edge can prevent proper latching.
- Tonneau cover framework issues: Broke, bent or disconnected rails under the tonneau cover will prevent proper closing.
Unless you have the specific repair expertise, it’s best to seek professional tonneau cover service in these cases. Forcing damaged latches leads to worse failures down the road.
Helpful Tonneau Cover Latch Adjustment Tips
- Use a marker to make small alignment marks as a guide when adjusting latches.
- Adjust in very small increments until latches operate smoothly.
- Ensure adjustments are even on both sides.
- Close cover fully when testing for proper sealing and compression.
- Consult your owner’s manual for model-specific guidance.
- Seek professional service if you’re unsure about proper adjustment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I inspect and adjust the latches?
Check latches at least every few months for proper operation. Adjust as needed based on use, road conditions, and climate factors that can loosen latches over time.
Can I adjust the latches with the tonneau cover closed?
It’s best to make adjustments with the cover open so you can see the latch mechanisms clearly. Test and finalize adjustments with cover closed.
Can I use shims if latches are too loose?
Yes, using plastic or rubber shims/washers to take up space is an option for tightening loose latches instead of fully realigning the mounts.
What type of lubricant is best for the paddle latch pivots?
Use a light oil or spray lubricant for the pivots. Lithium grease can also be used sparingly on pivot pins and bushings.
My latches stick when it’s cold out. How can I fix this?
Try lubricating the pivots. Cold temperatures can cause stiff operation. You may need to adjust to slightly looser tension in winter months.
Keeping your tonneau cover dual paddle latches properly adjusted is important for smooth and reliable operation, proper cover sealing, and preventing costly damage down the road. Following the tips above will help ensure your latches function as intended for years to come. Let me know if you have any other tonneau cover latch questions!