Pickup truck owners know that a folding tonneau cover is an excellent way to secure cargo in the truck bed. But over time, the constant opening and closing of the cover can put stress on the hinges. When a hinge cracks or breaks, it can prevent the cover from opening and closing properly.
This leaves your cargo exposed and reduces the usefulness of your tonneau cover. So if you notice a cracked or damaged hinge, it’s important to fix it right away. Proper hinge repair will restore smooth operation and full function to your tonneau cover.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps for fixing a cracked tonneau cover hinge. We’ll cover identifying hinge types, finding repair kits, gathering tools, removing old hinges, installing new ones, and testing operation. With some time and effort, you can have your tonneau cover opening and closing like new again. Let’s get started!
What Type of Tonneau Cover Do I Have?
Before you can fix a cracked hinge, you need to know what specific type of folding tonneau cover you have. There are a few main options:
Soft Roll-Up Vinyl Covers
- Made of flexible vinyl material that rolls up for storage
- Hinges made of aluminum, steel, or composite polymers
- Found on most entry-level vinyl fold-up tonneau covers
Hard Folding Covers
- Made of aluminum, fiberglass, or ABS polymer sections
- Hinges allow the hard panels to fold accordion-style
- Used on higher-end folding tonneau covers
- Made of vinyl, aluminum, or polymer panels
- Hinges allow panels to roll up into a canister at the cab end
- Often electric or spring-loaded for easy opening
Once you’ve identified the material and design of your particular cover, you can move on to finding the right repair parts. Checking the manufacturer’s website or labels on the cover may help if you’re unsure of the model.
How Do I Find the Right Repair Kit?
With the tonneau cover type identified, start researching options for a replacement hinge kit. Here are some tips:
Check Manufacturer Parts Listings
Most tonneau cover manufacturers sell replacement hinges and hardware for their products. Search online or call their customer service line to find the repair kit for your cover. Make sure to have the cover model information handy.
Search Auto Parts Stores
Many auto parts stores stock common tonneau cover hardware and hinge kits that work across brands. Bring your truck to the store to get professional advice on finding the right parts.
Look for Universal Hinge Kits
Some companies sell universal hinge repair kits designed to work on most soft and hard folding tonneau cover models. These can be easier to find than specific OEM parts.
Buy Used/Salvaged Parts
For discontinued or rare tonneau covers, you may need to track down used or salvaged replacement hinges. Check online classifieds and salvage yards to locate compatible hardware.
Once you’ve sourced the correct replacement parts, it’s time to start the repair. Make sure to get the necessary tools together beforehand.
What Tools Do I Need for Tonneau Cover Hinge Repair?
Replacing cracked tonneau cover hinges requires just a few basic tools:
- Screwdrivers – Both Phillips and flathead types to remove hardware.
- Socket wrench set – For loosening nuts and bolts. Match sizes to your tonneau’s fasteners.
- Pliers – Helpful for prying off stuck parts or gripping new hardware.
- Replacement hinge kit – Make sure it’s compatible with your tonneau cover model.
- Clean rags – For cleaning surfaces and wiping up spills.
- Protective gloves – Leather work gloves protect your hands during the repair.
- Soft mallet – Useful for tapping parts loose if needed. Avoid metal hammers.
- Replacement hardware – Extra screws, washers, etc. may be needed.
- Electrical tape – Temporarily holds pieces in place during installation.
Having these basic tools on hand will make the hinge replacement job much smoother. Always work safely and carefully when doing automotive repairs.
How Do I Remove the Broken Tonneau Cover Hinge?
With the right parts and tools gathered, it’s time to tackle removing the damaged hinge. Follow these key steps:
Park on Level Ground
Park your truck on a flat, level surface to ensure the tonneau sits evenly during hinge removal. Uneven ground could shift the cover and complicate the repair job.
Make sure all clamps, latches, and tailgate locks are disengaged so the tonneau can open freely. This provides access to hinge hardware.
Support Cover Panel
Have a helper hold up the tonneau cover panel(s) near the damaged hinge or place supportive blocks under the panel. This takes weight off the hinge.
Using proper screwdrivers and sockets, carefully remove all screws, bolts, and fasteners around the cracked hinge. Go slowly to avoid stripping.
Separate Hinge Sections
With fasteners removed, pry or tap apart the two halves of the hinge from the cover panel and truck bed. Protect surfaces.
Remove any old sealant, grime, or debris from the now-exposed panel and bed surfaces where the hinge attaches.
Inspect For Damage
Look for any cracks, rust, or warping around hinge attachment points before installing the new hardware. address any issues.
Taking the time to properly remove the damaged hinge prevents causing any additional problems. Make sure no pieces of the old hardware fall into the truck bed.
Step-By-Step Tonneau Cover Hinge Replacement
Once the cracked hinge is fully removed, you’re ready to install the replacement parts. Follow these key steps:
Test fit the new hinge on the cover panel and bed rail to ensure proper alignment before attaching. File or sand any irregular edges if needed.
Run a bead of automotive sealant around the hinge contact areas on the truck and cover for a watertight seal. Avoid dripping excess.
Attach Hinge Section
Using new hardware from the kit, bolt one side of the hinge to the cover panel following specified torque. Don’t overtighten.
Secure To Bed Rail
Line up the remaining hinge section with holes in the bed rail. Insert new bolts with washers and hand tighten.
Allow Sealant To Cure
Let the tonneau cover rest in the open position for 1-2 hours. This allows the sealant to begin curing before operation.
Inspect Alignment And Tighten
Check that the hinge sits evenly between the cover and bed before final tightening with a socket wrench. Go slowly.
Open and close the cover several times to verify smooth hinge function. The motion should be easy and free of binding.
Complete Sealant Cure
Leave the tonneau closed for 24 hours to completely cure the sealant and create a watertight seal around the new hinge.
Following this structured process when replacing your tonneau cover hinge ensures proper installation and operation. Take precautions not to overtighten hardware or allow leaks.
What If The New Hinge Still Doesn’t Work Right?
Hopefully the new hinge restores smooth opening and closing function to your tonneau cover. But in some cases, you may still experience problems like binding, misalignment issues, or continued leaks. Here are some tips if the repair isn’t working:
- Double check that all hardware is tightened to the proper torque – Loose or overtightened bolts can cause problems.
- Inspect hinge contact areas for any gaps, rust, or damage – This can prevent a flush fit.
- Make sure to use a compatible sealant and allow full curing time – Leaks may occur with improper sealant.
- Adjust shims between the cover panel and hinge if binding or rubbing occurs – This can improve alignment.
- Ensure the truck bed rails are straight – Bent rails prevent level hinge installation.
- Try an OEM manufacturer’s repair kit – It’s engineered specifically for your tonneau model.
- Consult a professional installer – They have specialized skills and tools to properly diagnose issues.
- If all else fails, the cover panel or entire assembly may need replacement due to excessive damage.
With patience and proper troubleshooting, most tonneau cover hinge issues can be corrected. But if problems persist, don’t hesitate to seek expert repair help.
Professional Tonneau Cover Hinge Repair Options
While DIY tonneau cover hinge replacement can certainly be done, it does require mechanical skills and truck bed access. For those without the time, tools, or ability to tackle it themselves, seeking professional hinge repair is a good option. Here are some of the benefits:
Proper Diagnosis of Issues
Experienced technicians can diagnose the exact cause of your tonneau cover’s hinge problems. This ensures the proper repair steps are taken.
Access to Specialty Tools
Shops have professional-grade tools that make hinge removal and installation much easier than DIY methods.
Availability of OEM Parts
Dealers and repair shops have manufacturer-direct access to original tonneau cover hardware that individuals may not be able to source.
Correct Installation Process
Having an expert handle the hinge replacement provides peace of mind that everything is repaired to factory specifications.
Professional repair techs can replace tonneau hinges in a fraction of the time it takes DIY repairs. Your truck will be back on the road quickly.
Warranty on Work Performed
Most professional tonneau cover hinge replacements will come with a warranty on parts and labor. This protects against future failure.
For those not up to the challenge of tackling it themselves, seeking professional hinge repair service is the smartest option. Most shops can diagnose and replace damaged tonneau cover hinges promptly and correctly. This restores full function quickly and reliably.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tonneau Cover Hinge Repair
What are common signs my tonneau cover hinge is damaged?
Look for cracked plastic casing, loose/missing hardware, binding when opening, gaps between sections, inability to fully close/open, and the cover sagging or unaligning from the bed rail.
Can I just glue or weld a cracked hinge instead of replacing it?
No, attempting to glue or weld will likely fail quickly. The constant opening/closing motions put too much stress. Proper repair requires full hinge replacement.
Where can I find the hinge replacement part number for my cover?
Check sticker labels on the underside of the cover or the manufacturer’s website parts lookup. Local dealers may also be able to lookup parts using the VIN.
Is it safe to drive with a damaged tonneau cover hinge?
No, damaged hinges that are loose or failing can allow the cover to fully open unexpectedly. This causes major damage. Get cracked hinges fixed before driving.
How can I prevent my tonneau hinges from cracking in the future?
Avoid overloading cargo on the cover, follow the manufacturer’s care guidelines, inspect hinges periodically, lubricate pivot points, and close the cover gently.
Conclusion: Keep Your Tonneau Cover Functioning Properly With Timely Hinge Repairs
Tonneau covers are one of the best ways to protect pickup truck cargo beds and their contents. But the frequent opening and closing inevitably take a toll on the hinge hardware over time. When you notice a cracked or malfunctioning hinge, timely repair is essential to keep your cover functioning properly.
As we covered, by identifying your tonneau cover style, obtaining the correct replacement parts, gathering the right tools, and following proper hinge removal and installation steps, you can successfully restore your cover on your own with some mechanical ability. But for those who would rather leave it to professionals, reputable auto repair shops can expertly handle tonneau hinge replacement jobs.
Whichever repair route you take, addressing damaged hinges quickly ensures your tonneau cover opens, closes, seals, and operates smoothly for maximum truck bed protection. With the right replacement parts and techniques, a cracked hinge can be fixed and keep your cover functioning like new. Just be sure to inspect hinges periodically and operate the cover gently to maximize its lifetime use. Your truck cargo will remain clean, dry and secure.