Pickup truck owners love tonneau covers for securing gear in the truck bed and improving gas mileage. But over time, the hinges on folding tonneau covers can wear out or break. A broken hinge prevents the tonneau from opening and closing properly.
Thankfully, repairing a damaged tonneau hinge is usually a straightforward DIY project. With some basic tools and a replacement hinge, you can often get your folding tonneau cover working smoothly again in an hour or less.
What Causes Tonneau Cover Hinges To Break?
Tonneau hinges endure a lot of stress during daily use. Repeated opening and closing can lead to metal fatigue and broken welds. Debris in the hinge joints also accelerates wear.
On softer vinyl or plastic hinges, sunlight and temperature extremes can cause the material to become brittle and crack over time.
Binding or jamming as the tonneau opens and closes adds extra force on the hinges too. This often happens when the truck bed is overloaded or the tonneau frame is out of adjustment.
How Can I Tell If A Hinge Is Broken?
Check for these signs of a damaged tonneau hinge:
- The cover does not open or close smoothly. It may bind, jam up or sag.
- sections of the cover shift out of alignment when opening or closing.
- There is visible damage like cracks or broken welds on the hinge.
- The hinge makes grinding or popping noises when moving.
- There is excessive play or sloppiness in the hinge joint.
If you spot any of these issues, it’s time to replace the hinge. Driving with a broken hinge can further damage the cover.
What Type Of Tonneau Cover Do I Have?
There are many different brands and types of folding tonneau covers. The exact repair steps can vary depending on the specific design. Here are some of the most common styles:
Tri-fold covers have two hinges and fold into thirds. The sections are often made of vinyl, aluminum or a composite material. Tri-folds attach at the front and back of the truck bed.
Folding Aluminum Covers
These have aluminum panels that fold accordion-style. The hinges run the length of the cover on both sides. Some models have vinyl-covered aluminum panels.
Roll-Up Vinyl Covers
With a roll-up vinyl tonneau, the vinyl cover rolls up on itself. It secures at the tailgate with horizontal aluminum slats. This style has hinges along the sides.
On these covers, a hard lid flips open for access. The lids attach to the truck bed with hinges along their back edge.
These have panels made of vinyl or aluminum that slide along rails. Hinges are positioned at the front and back.
Once you know the style, you can look up specific repair tips for that model. The manufacturer’s website often has DIY instructions.
How Do I Remove The Tonneau Cover?
First, you’ll need to fully remove the tonneau cover from the truck bed to access the broken hinge. The exact steps vary by design, but here is the general process:
Open The Tailgate
You’ll need full access to the underside of the cover.
Release The Back Clamps
There are typically clamps on the underside that attach to the tailgate edge. Loosen them so the cover releases.
Unscrew The Side Clamps
Look for clamps along the cover’s sides that grip the bed rails. Unscrew them with a wrench or drill.
Detach The Front Clamps
Release any remaining clamps at the front/cab end of the truck bed. The cover should now lift free.
If your tonneau has a dome light or other powered options, disconnect the wiring harness.
Lift It Out
With all clamps released, carefully lift the cover out and place it upside down on a soft surface. Now you can access the damaged hinge.
How Do I Remove The Broken Tonneau Hinge?
Once the cover is off the truck, use these tips to detach the bad hinge:
Inspect The Damage
Examine the hinge closely to see exactly how it attaches. Make notes and take photos if needed.
There will likely be bolts, screws, rivets or clamps holding the hinge in place. Carefully remove them.
Separate The Hinge
Gently pry or twist the hinge free from the cover panel. On vinyl covers, heating the hinge with a hairdryer can soften the adhesive.
Clean The Area
Remove any debris and use rubbing alcohol to clean the hinge area on the cover. This helps the new hinge adhere properly.
Set aside any small fasteners for re-installing the replacement hinge.
What Do I Need To Replace A Folding Tonneau Hinge?
Gather these supplies before starting the repair:
- New replacement hinge: Use an OEM part from the tonneau manufacturer if possible for proper fit and performance.
- Screwdrivers: You’ll need standard and Phillips head types. For stubborn screws, use a powered screwdriver.
- Socket set and wrenches: Match the sizes to the tonneau’s fasteners. Usually 1⁄2 inch, 9/16 inch and 7/16 inch tools are sufficient.
- Pliers: Needle-nose and standard pliers help grip and turn fasteners.
- Rivet gun: For covers with riveted hinges, you’ll need a rivet gun with 1/8 inch rivets.
- Drill and drill bits: Useful for drilling out stubborn rivets or screws.
- ** painters tape:** Mask off the cover panel around the hinge area to prevent scratches.
- Rubbing alcohol and rags: This helps prep the hinge area for the best adhesion.
- Gloves: Protect your hands from sharp edges. Leather gloves provide the best grip.
How Do I Install The New Tonneau Cover Hinge?
Follow these tips for properly mounting the replacement hinge:
Compare To The Old Hinge
Make sure the new hinge matches the damaged one that you removed. The mounting holes, size and shape should all be the same.
Tape Off The Area
Use painters tape to mask off the cover section around where the hinge attaches. This prevents scratches and dents.
Clean The Mounting Area
Wipe the hinge location with alcohol to remove any grease or dirt for better adhesion.
Attach The Hinge
Carefully bolt, screw or rivet the new hinge into place. Use the same hardware in the original mounting holes.
Ensure Proper Alignment
With the hinge mounted, check that the panels align correctly. Adjust if needed before final tightening.
Torque Fasteners Evenly
Gradually tighten the bolts or screws in a crisscross pattern for uniform pressure. Don’t overtighten!
Operate The Hinge
Open and close the hinge a few times. Make sure it operates smoothly without binding. Add a thin lubricant like silicone spray if needed.
Reinstall The Cover
Once the new hinge operates properly, put the tonneau cover back on the truck bed. Secure all the clamps and reconnect any wiring.
Why Won’t My New Tonneau Hinge Open And Close Correctly?
If the replacement hinge binds, sticks or moves out of alignment, try these troubleshooting tips:
Check For Debris
Built-up dirt and grime in the hinge joints can interfere with movement. Clean out the hinge.
Inspect The Mounting
Make sure the hinge is centered on the cover panel and all the fasteners are tight. Loose mounting can distort alignment.
Adjust The Panels
Misaligned panels can put extra stress on the hinges. Loosen the fasteners and shift the panels as needed.
Lubricate The Hinge
Spray dry hinges with silicone lubricant. Wipe away excess lube so it doesn’t attract dirt.
File Rough Edges
Use a file to gently smooth any sharp corners or burrs around the hinge that may catch during operation.
Ensure Proper Hardware
Using the wrong size or length of bolt, screw or rivet can affect how the hinge functions. Double check you used the correct hardware in all the mounting holes.
With proper installation and adjustments, your new tonneau hinge should work smoothly for years to come!
Where Can I Find Help Repairing My Folding Tonneau Cover?
If you get stuck replacing your tonneau hinge, here are some helpful resources:
Check the support section of the manufacturer’s website for DIY tonneau repair tips. Some have detailed instructions with photos or videos.
Sites like TonneauCovered.com have active forums where you can get advice from other owners and mechanics. Post specific questions about your tonneau make and model.
There are many YouTube videos demonstrating tonneau repairs on specific brands. Search for your model name and “hinge replacement”.
A mobile mechanic service can come to your location and replace the hinge for you. Convenient if you don’t have the tools or skills for DIY.
Dealership Service Center
Technicians at the truck dealership service center can troubleshoot and replace broken tonneau hinges. This option is more expensive but they have factory training.
With some perseverance and the right guidance, you can get your folding tonneau cover opening and closing smoothly again. Repairing hinges is one of the most common DIY tonneau projects. Take it slow and be patient for best results. Driving with a working cover again will make all the effort worthwhile!