Getting scratches out of your truck bed tonneau cover can seem like a daunting task. However, with the right techniques and tools, you can repair scratches and restore the look of your tonneau cover. The process will vary depending on whether you have a hard folding cover or a soft roll-up cover. This guide will walk you through assessing the damage, gathering the right materials, and repairing scratches in truck bed tonneau covers.
How to Remove Scratches From a Hard Tonneau Cover
Hard folding covers made of materials like aluminum and fiberglass are prone to scratches, especially if you haul a lot of gear in the bed. Here are some steps to remove scratches from a hard tonneau truck bed cover:
Inspect and Assess the Scratches
First, take a close look at the scratches on your hard tonneau cover. Make note of:
- Depth – are they surface scratches or deeper gouges?
- Width – are they hairline scratches or wide scratches?
- Location – where are the scratches situated on the cover?
This assessment will determine the repairs needed. Shallow, hairline scratches may only need a buffing compound or touch up paint. Deeper scratches will require filling with putty before painting.
Sand the Scratched Area
Use a fine grit sandpaper to sand down the scratched area, feathering the edges. This helps the paint adhere better. Start with a 600 grit paper, then move up to 1000, 1500, and finally 2000 grit sandpaper. The goal is to smooth and blend the area.
Clean the Sanded Area
Wipe away all dust with a clean microfiber cloth. Make sure the area is perfectly clean before applying any paints or coatings. Remaining dust particles can affect the finish.
Spot Paint the Scratches
Use automotive paint pens, touch up paint, or a paint spray can specifically made for your tonneau cover material. Paint pens allow you to layer on the paint and are good for filling small scratches. Spray paint works well for covering larger scratched sections. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.
Buff and Polish
Once the paint has fully cured, use a fine buffing compound to blend the painted area with the surrounding cover. Then polish it up with a tonneau cover protectant/polish. This helps restore the smooth, glossy finish.
Consider Vinyl Wrap
For tonneau covers with extensive scratching, a vinyl wrap may be the best solution for a scratch-free “new” look. Professional installation is recommended for best results.
Fixing Scratches in Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Covers
Soft covers made of vinyl material are also prone to scratches from cargo, automotive fluids, environmental factors, and normal wear and tear. Here’s how to remove or minimize scratches in soft roll up covers:
Clean the Cover
Cleaning is the first step toward improving the appearance of a scratched soft tonneau. Use a tonneau cover cleaner and let it soak in to lift dirt from the vinyl grain.
Gently Scrub the Cover
Use a soft brush or microfiber cloth to gently scrub the tonneau cover cleaner over the surface. This helps lift contaminants lodged in the scratches.
Rinse Off the Cleaner
Thoroughly rinse the cover with clean water using low pressure. Avoid high pressure washing as this can push debris deeper into the vinyl grain.
Let the Cover Dry
Allow the tonneau cover to completely air dry before moving onto the next steps. Never apply conditioners or protectants on wet surfaces.
Apply a Vinyl Conditioner
Vinyl conditioners help keep vinyl tonneau covers flexible while also restoring the surface. Work the conditioner into the vinyl grain using a soft cloth.
Use Touch Up Paint on Deeper Scratches
For deeper scratches that persist after cleaning and conditioning, use a tonneau cover touch up paint pen. Carefully apply thin coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry before adding another.
Finish with a Protectant
Top off the conditioning and paint touch ups by applying a UV-resistant vinyl protectant. This helps restore shine while protecting against future scratches and sun damage.
Consider Professional Repair
For tore or severely scratched soft covers, professional vinyl repair may be necessary. An expert can patch holes, seal tears, and respray the cover for a flawless restored appearance.
Tips for Preventing Future Tonneau Cover Scratches
While it’s inevitable that your truck bed cover will get some battle wounds, you can take steps to prevent scratches and prolong its life:
- Use truck bed mats and pads when hauling gear
- Avoid dragging heavy or sharp objects across the cover
- Cover sharp tie-down points with protective caps
- Use proper driving height to avoid hitting overhead objects
- Regularly clean and condition the cover
- Apply protectants to form a scratch resistant barrier
- Handle the cover with care during opening, closing, and storage
- Park in covered areas or use a tonneau cover
Common Questions About Fixing Tonneau Cover Scratches
Can I use household cleaners to remove scratches?
Avoid household cleaners as these can damage the tonneau cover finish. Use only approved tonneau cover cleaners and conditioners.
Will fixing scratches void my tonneau cover warranty?
Proper cleaning and light surface repairs will not void the warranty. But tampering with hardware or the cover itself could void claims. Check your warranty details.
How can I stop my soft cover from flapping and scratching at highway speeds?
Try securing the rear clamp tighter, adjusting the bows to create tension, and using an anti-flapping tool like the Extang Torch. Reducing flapping helps prevent scratches.
Will using a plastic bed liner help prevent tonneau cover scratches?
Yes, plastic bed liners help protect both the truck bed and tonneau cover from scratches caused by loading and unloading. The smooth surface prevents abrasion damage.
Can I sell my used truck bed cover if it has scratches?
My aluminum tonneau cover is badly scratched – should I replace it?
If the scratches are only cosmetic, try sanding and repainting first. But deep scratches that expose bare metal may require professional repair or replacement.
How can I stop my tonneau cover from rattling and scratching my truck bed?
Check all hardware pieces and ensure rails, clamps, and hinges are tight. Use rubber grommets or padding anywhere metal contacts the truck bed. Adjust alignment if needed.
Will using wd-40 help my stuck or squeaky tonneau cover open smoothly
No, wd-40 can actually damage the vinyl and rubber components. Use a specially formulated lubricant like Tri-Flow instead. This prevents scratching from sticking.
Fixing scratches in your truck bed tonneau cover takes patience and care, but yields rewarding results. With the right approach for your specific cover, you can erase unsightly scratches and get your cover looking showroom new again. Just be sure to implement preventive measures moving forward to keep it looking its best.