A tonneau cover is a useful truck bed accessory that helps protect cargo from weather and theft. However, over time the clamps that secure the cover can become damaged and cracked. Repairing cracked clamps is possible with some basic tools and replacement parts.
What are the different types of tonneau covers and clamps?
There are a few main types of tonneau covers, each with their own clamping system:
Roll-up tonneau covers
- Use a vinyl or aluminum roll-up design secured with clamps along the side rails
- Clamps are often aluminum or plastic clamp rings that slide into rails
Retractable tonneau covers
- Have a vinyl mat that retracts into a canister at the front of the bed
- Secured by clamps on the side rails similar to roll-up covers
Folding tonneau covers
- Hard panels that fold for access to the bed
- Clamps are hinges that allow the panels to fold and latch closed
Tri-fold tonneau covers
- Hard or soft vinyl panels that fold into thirds
- Hinge clamps allow panels to fold and latch together
How can I determine the cause of cracked clamps?
Cracked clamps usually result from:
Normal wear and tear
- Clamps weaken over time from repeated opening/closing
- Plastic clamps become brittle and crack
- Dropping heavy objects on the cover
- Forcefully closing the tailgate on the clamps
- Prolonged sun exposure can dry out and crack plastic/rubber
- Extreme cold can make the clamps more brittle
Poor quality materials
- Low-cost clamps may crack easier than premium brands
- Using harsh cleaners can degrade plastic clamps
Inspecting the cracked clamps can help narrow down the root cause. Look for impact marks, UV damage, brittle plastic, etc.
What tools do I need to repair tonneau cover clamps?
Repairing tonneau clamps requires just a few basic tools:
- Screwdrivers – for removing damaged clamps
- Pliers – helps pry off stuck clamps
- Adhesive (super glue, epoxy) – for minor clamp repairs
- Replacement clamps – required for full clamp repairs
Optional helpful tools:
- Utility knife – cutting away excess adhesive
- Lubricant (WD40) – loosen stuck clamps
- Protective gloves – avoid sharp edges
Make sure you have the specific tool to remove the clamp if it uses unconventional fasteners.
Can I repair cracked clamps or do they need replacement?
- May be repairable with adhesive (super glue)
- Ensure the repair is waterproof if outdoors
- Clamp should still close and latch securely
Major cracks or complete break
- It’s best to replace fully cracked/broken clamps
- Repairs unlikely to restore full strength
Tip: Try lubricating the clamp area first to remove without cracking further.
Replacement clamps can be ordered through tonneau cover manufacturers or auto parts stores.
What are the steps to replace broken tonneau clamps?
Here is the general process for replacing cracked tonneau cover clamps:
1. Remove the damaged clamp
- Use proper tool to detach clamp from cover
- Pry gently to avoid further cracking
- Clean clamp rail/hinge area as needed
2. Obtain replacement clamp
- Check manufacturer website for specific replacement
- Generic clamps may work if exact match unavailable
3. Install the new clamp
- Follow provided instructions for proper installation
- Ensure latch closes securely but not too tightly
- Check cover operates smoothly
4. Test operation
- Open and close the cover multiple times
- Verify new clamp latches appropriately
- Adjust as needed for smooth operation
And you’re done! With the new clamp installed, your tonneau cover should open and close securely again.
What precautions should I take to prevent future clamp cracks?
To maximize the longevity of new clamps and prevent cracks down the road:
- Open/close the cover carefully without forcing
- Avoid dropping heavy objects on the cover
- Park in shade when possible to reduce UV exposure
- Keep clamps cleaned and lubricated
- Use protective tonneau conditioner/protectant regularly
- Inspect clamps periodically for wear/damage
High-quality clamps paired with proper care will provide years of reliable use. Replacing cracked clamps promptly preserves the function of your tonneau cover.
Frequently Asked Questions about Tonneau Clamp Repair
How do I know if my tonneau clamps can be repaired?
Inspect the damage – minor cracks may be repairable, but fully broken clamps will need replacement. Try a test repair first before replacing if uncertain.
What if I can’t find an exact replacement clamp?
Generic clamps are available that should work for most tonneau covers. You can also contact the manufacturer about interchangeable parts from other models.
Is it safe to drive with a cracked tonneau clamp?
It’s not recommended – the cover may fly open unexpectedly on the road. At least remove the cracked clamp and secure the cover another way temporarily.
Will leaving clamps exposed to outdoor conditions affect them?
Yes, sunlight and extreme temperatures will accelerate wear, drying out rubber components leading them to eventually crack.
Can I lubricate old tonneau clamps to prevent cracking?
Lubricating the hinges/joints can help maintain flexibility but won’t stop age cracks. Use tonneau lubricant made for plastic/rubber to avoid damage.
Will using harsh cleaners on my cover cause the clamps to crack?
Harsh chemicals like bleach or strong degreasers can degrade and dry out plastic/rubber over time leading to cracks and breaking.
Should I replace all the clamps or just the broken ones?
Just replace visibly cracked clamps for now. Check the others for wear and replace as needed down the road before they break.
How can I get replacement clamps for an older discontinued tonneau model?
Check with salvage yards or online parts resellers. Some manufacturers also stock clamp replacements for older models – call their customer service line to check availability.
Is it worth paying more for premium clamps that won’t crack as easily
Generally yes – cheaper clamps often mean lower quality materials prone to cracking. Paying a little more for robust clamps can save hassle down the road.
Repairing cracked tonneau cover clamps is straightforward with some basic tools and new replacement clamps. Just take care when installing any new clamps and maintain them properly to maximize their lifetime use on your truck bed cover.