If you notice water leaking into your truck bed from under your retractable tonneau cover, chances are the rear seals have become damaged or worn out. Broken seals on a retractable tonneau cover can allow water to drip through, getting your cargo wet and leading to rust and corrosion.
Thankfully, fixing broken seals is a straightforward repair you can often tackle yourself. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to fix broken rear seals on a retractable tonneau cover.
What Causes Rear Seals to Become Damaged on Retractable Tonneau Covers?
There are a few common reasons the rear seals on your retractable tonneau cover may become cracked, brittle or misaligned:
- Normal wear and tear – The rear seals bear the brunt of weather and use whenever you open and close the tonneau cover. Over time, the seals can degrade and lose their flexibility.
- Improper cleaning – Using harsh cleaners or abrasive tools to clean your tonneau cover can degrade the seals. It’s best to use mild soap and water.
- Objects impacting the seals – Dropping heavy objects onto the seals while loading or unloading cargo can cause tears or misalignment.
- Exposure to extreme weather – Prolonged exposure to very hot or very cold weather can accelerate seal wear and cause brittleness or cracking.
- Improper operation – If the tonneau cover is opened unevenly or forced open beyond its tracks, the rear seals can become warped or torn.
No matter the cause, worn seals will need to be repaired if you want to keep the inside of your truck bed dry.
How Can You Identify Broken Rear Seals?
Inspecting your tonneau cover and identifying any seal damage is the first step in this repair project. Here’s what to look for:
- Visible cracks or tears – Carefully examine the rear seals for any obvious rips, cracks, or gaps. Seal damage may be visibly apparent.
- Signs of leakage – Open the tonneau cover and look for any moisture or standing water inside the truck bed. Leak points often highlight seal failure.
- Seal misalignment – Ensure the seals sit flush and even across the back of the cover. Any noticeable bumps or gaps likely indicate a problem.
- Seal rigidity or brittleness – Press gently along the seals looking for loss of flexibility. Hard, stiff, cracked sections need replacing.
Catching damaged seals early makes the repair quicker. But even covers with severe seal deterioration can be fixed with a little time and effort.
What Parts and Tools Do You Need to Fix Broken Seals?
Before starting work, gather the necessary supplies:
- Replacement seals – Measure the length of your existing seals and get new ones in the same dimensions. Opt for durable vinyl, rubber, or silicone replacement seals.
- Sealant (optional) – For quick temporary fixes, silicone sealant can patch small leaks.
- Isopropyl alcohol – This helps clean the cover surface before applying new seals.
- Scissors or utility knife – Useful for cutting replacement seals to size.
- Rags & water – For cleaning away old sealant or grime around damaged seals.
- Masking tape – Can help hold new seals in place until the adhesive cures.
Don’t forget essential safety gear like gloves and eye protection. And be sure to work in a clean, dry area with good visibility.
Step-By-Step Instructions to Replace Broken Seals
Ready to start replacing those leaky seals? Follow these steps:
1. Clean the Tonneau Cover
- Use isopropyl alcohol and clean rags to thoroughly clean the tonneau cover surface where the new seals will attach.
- Remove any old sealant, grime, wax or polish along the repair area for best adhesion.
2. Remove the Damaged Seals
- If any sections of the old seal are still intact, carefully slice through the adhesive with a utility knife and pry them off.
- Scrape off any remaining adhesive with a plastic putty knife or credit card.
- Thoroughly clean the revealed surface before applying new seals.
3. Prepare and Install New Seals
- Measure the length of the repair area and cut replacement seals to match. Include a couple extra inches on each end.
- Peel away the adhesive backing and test fit the new seals before pressing them firmly in place.
- The seals should sit evenly with the ends flush to the top of the cover. Take your time for straight installation.
- Use masking tape to hold the seals if needed while the adhesive sets.
4. Seal the Cover and Seams
- Once the main seals are applied, run a bead of silicone sealant along the seams and ends.
- Also apply sealant along the back edge of the cover to fully prevent leaks.
- Let the silicone cure completely before operating the cover.
5. Operate and Inspect the Cover
- Do several test runs opening and closing the cover to ensure smooth operation.
- Watch closely for any gaps as the cover retracts. Reapply sealant as needed.
- Give it a good leak test with a garden hose. The truck bed should stay bone dry.
With good seals installed and sealed, your cover should once again keep the elements out of your truck bed. But regular inspection and maintenance will help spot any new seal damage before major leaks occur.
What If the Cover Has Damage Beyond Just the Seals?
If your tonneau cover has issues beyond worn out seals, like cracks, punctures, or framework damage, that complicates repairs. Here are some options:
- For minor cracks or holes in the cover material itself, clean thoroughly and use a vinyl repair compound to patch.
- Badly warped framework may need a professional re-bending or replacement parts welding.
- Covers with major fabric tears or irreparable damage will need complete replacing.
- Contact the manufacturer and provide photos of the damage to explore official repair options.
- For old discontinued covers, custom fabrication of parts like tubing and caps may be needed.
- If damage is severe, replacing the whole unit becomes the most viable and cost-effective choice.
Major tonneau cover damage takes skill and often factory parts to repair correctly. But just swapping out the seals is doable as a DIY project if the base cover is still functional.
Where Can You Get Replacement Rear Seals for Your Tonneau Cover?
Don’t just grab any old rubber strip and hope for the best. Get the proper replacement seals specifically designed for your make and model retractable tonneau cover. Here are some good options:
- Dealer parts counter – Check with the dealer that sold your particular cover brand. They can look up exact part numbers and order seals.
- Manufacturers – Companies like BakFlip, Extang, and Retrax sell replacement parts for their tonneau covers directly.
- Auto parts stores – Stores like AutoZone and O’Reilly carry a selection of universal seals for tonneau covers. Bring measurements.
- Online retailers – Websites from Amazon to RealTruck have a huge variety of replacement vinyl and rubber seals. Read item details for proper sizing.
- Salvage yards – For out-of-production covers, call local junk yards to source used seals from parted out trucks.
Get the right length, width, and material seals and your cover will be watertight once again.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Rear Seals on Tonneau Covers?
This straightforward repair job won’t break the bank. Here are typical costs:
- DIY parts cost – $20 to $60 for enough replacement seals and sealant for most standard-size tonneau covers.
- DIY shop cost – Around $100 per hour for shop space, tools, and supplies if you don’t have a garage workspace.
- Professional installation – Repair shops may charge $150 to $300 including new seals, labor, and sealant.
With basic tools and a helpful tutorial, it makes sense to tackle this repair yourself and save on labor fees. But for complex covers or structural damage, professional repair may be worth the price.
Can You Use Silicone Seal Instead of Replacing the Seals?
For a quick temporary fix in a pinch, some truck owners simply cover leaking seals with flexible silicone sealant. But this doesn’t address the underlying deterioration and isn’t the best permanent solution. Here’s why:
Cons of using silicone sealant:
- Not designed to withstand retracting friction like purpose-made seals. Can tear or shear off.
- Doesn’t adhere as tightly long-term leading to leaks.
- Can ooze out and make operation sticky. Requires frequent reapplication.
- Not guaranteed to fully prevent moisture and dust intrusion.
Pros of replacing with new seals:
- Engineered for tonneau cover operation and weathering.
- Once properly installed, replaces the full seal surface area.
- Stays flexible and watertight for years with no reapplications needed.
- Maintains smooth retracting function.
For top performance and longevity, invest in quality replacement seals instead of shortcut sealants. Use silicone sparingly just to augment the new seals.
Step-By-Step Video Instructions for Rear Seal Replacement
Seeing the full repair process in action can make replacing your tonneau cover seals much easier. Here are a few helpful video walkthroughs:
BakFlip Replacement Seal Installation
This video from BakFlip provides an excellent visual guide to their seal replacement process:
- Carefully removes the old seals using a putty knife.
- Thoroughly cleans the cover.
- Tests the fit of the new seals.
- Uses rubbing alcohol to prep the surface.
- Applies the adhesive-back seals for a perfect fit.
Extang Tonneau Cover Rear Seal Replacement
In this helpful tutorial, an Extang owner shows how he replaced ripped seals on his cover:
- Identifies extent of damage.
- Uses a razor to slice away old seal remnants.
- Shows how the cover shifts due to missing seals.
- Test fits new vinyl seals for proper coverage.
- Seals gaps with black silicone sealant.
RetraxPRO Seal Installation Tips
The experts at Retrax demonstrate their professional process for seal repairs:
- Points out the seam where leaks originate.
- Carefully scrapes off the old seal adhesive.
- Applies silicone sealant in the seal channels.
- Firmly adheres the new seals into the channels.
- Trims off any excess seal length for clean edges.
With the right techniques tailored to your specific cover, you can replace seals like the pros.
FAQs: Fixing Broken Tonneau Cover Seals
Still have some questions about repairing your leaky tonneau cover seals? Here are answers to some common queries:
How can I determine the cause of my broken seals?
Inspect closely for any visible damage like tears, misalignment, or loss of flexibility. Think about how you use and clean the cover. Seals worn simply due to age will deteriorate evenly across the back. Localized damage often indicates an outside cause like an impact or improper opening.
What if my seals won’t stick properly?
For good adhesion, carefully follow the seal manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to thoroughly clean the cover surface and use rubbing alcohol. Apply firm pressure along the seals for several minutes after attaching them. If necessary, use masking tape for a day or two to help hold the seals in place while the bond fully adheres.
Should I buy OEM or aftermarket replacement seals?
OEM seals from the original manufacturer are engineered to exactly fit your cover but can be pricey. Aftermarket options are readily available and affordable but may not align quite as perfectly. Measure carefully when ordering for the best fit.
How do I know when it’s time to replace the whole cover?
If the framework is bent, fabric is torn across large areas, or the retraction system is broken, attempting repairs will likely exceed the cost of a new tonneau cover. But just replacing seals on an otherwise functional cover is very doable.
Can I avoid seal damage by using some kind of protectant?
Regularly applying protectants made specifically for tonneau covers can extend the life of your seals. But they’ll still gradually wear out. Thorough cleaning and careful cover operation helps prevent premature damage.
Fix Broken Seals to Keep Your Cargo High and Dry
Worn out seals are inevitable after years of retracting your tonneau cover open and closed. But diagnosing the problem early and promptly replacing damaged seals can protect your truck bed from water damage.
With basic DIY skills, you can complete this repair yourself and avoid paying for shop labor. Maintain your cover properly and you’ll enjoy leak-free utility for years to come!