If you have an aluminum tonneau cover on your truck, keeping the hinges well-lubricated is important to ensure smooth and quiet operation. Stiff, creaky hinges can be annoying and may eventually lead to hinge failure. Lubricating the hinges periodically will help keep them working properly for years.
What Type of Lubricant Should I Use on Tonneau Cover Hinges?
Choosing the right lubricant is important to make sure you don’t cause any damage or functionality issues. Here are some good options:
Silicone Spray Lubricants
Silicone-based spray lubricants are a great choice for tonneau cover hinges. Look for brands like Blaster or Tri-Flow silicone lube that are made specifically for lubricating door hinges and other mechanical parts. The silicone will penetrate deeper than some other lubricants to provide longer-lasting lubrication. It won’t wash away easily or attract dirt and dust.
Lithium grease is another excellent lubricant for tonneau hinge lubrication. It has excellent water resistance and forms a long-lasting protective coating on metal surfaces. Lithium grease may last longer than silicone sprays before needing reapplication. Auto parts stores will have lithium grease in tubes or cans.
Dry graphite powder can also be used to lubricate hinges. It’s very slippery and repels moisture. Apply it by dusting it directly onto the hinge pins. It can be messy to apply but provides smooth hinge operation.
Avoid Oil-Based Lubricants
Thinner lubricants like WD-40 or oils may wash away more quickly with exposure to weather. They also tend to attract more dust and dirt than silicone or lithium grease. Stick to thicker lubricants that will cling to the metal hinge components longer.
How Should I Clean the Hinges Before Lubricating?
Before applying any new lubricant, it’s important to clean the hinges to remove any dirt, grease, or grime buildup. Here are some tips for proper cleaning:
- Use a rag or scrub brush to wipe down each hinge, getting into the crevices on both sides of the hinge.
- If there is caked-on grease or dirt, use a degreasing cleaner or all-purpose cleaner to break it down before wiping it away.
- You can also use a small wire brush or pick to dislodge any stuck debris from the hinges.
- Rinse with water and dry completely with a clean rag.
- Remove any loose particles or lint with compressed air if available.
Thorough cleaning will allow the new lubricant to penetrate and coat the hinges better for optimum lubrication.
What Are the Steps for Applying the Lubricant?
Once the hinges are clean, applying the lubricant is fairly straightforward:
1. Choose Your Lubricant
Select a high-quality lubricant suitable for metal hinges from the recommended options above. Avoid cheaper, thinner oils.
2. Prep the Hinge Area
Lay down some cardboard or cloth below the hinges to catch any drips or overspray.
3. Apply a Small Amount of Lubricant
A little bit goes a long way. Apply just a small amount to each knuckle of each hinge.
4. Open and Close the Hinges
Slowly open and close the hinges several times so the lubricant penetrates all the surfaces and spreads evenly.
5. Add More Lubricant if Needed
If the hinges are still sticking or squeaking, add a bit more lubricant and repeat opening and closing them.
6. Remove Any Excess Lubricant
Use a clean rag to wipe away any lubricant that didn’t soak in or that is dripping. This will prevent dust buildup later.
7. Test Operation
Fully open and close the cover a few more times to ensure smooth, quiet operation. If you still hear squeaking, repeat the process.
Properly lubricating the hinges using this process will restore smooth operation and keep the hingesprotected from wear and corrosion.
What Are Some Maintenance Tips for Tonneau Cover Hinges?
To keep your tonneau cover hinges staying smooth for many years, follow these maintenance recommendations:
- Inspect hinges regularly – Check for excessive play, wear or corrosion. Catching problems early makes repairs easier.
- Clean hinges periodically – Use a degreaser or stiff brush to clean off accumulated dirt that can grind away at the hinges.
- Lubricate every 1-2 months – Frequency depends on usage, weather conditions and lubricant type. Do it regularly.
- Watch for leaks – If hinge seals are leaking and exposing hinges to rain and grime, have seals replaced right away.
- Avoid harsh chemicals – Stay away from cleaners, degreasers or lubricants that could degrade the hinge components.
- Use care when opening/closing – Avoid slamming or dropping the cover closed. Open gently. This will add years of life to the hinges.
- Check torque on bolts – Ensure all hinge hardware is tightened to the proper specs. No loose or missing bolts.
Proper care and maintenance will ensure the hinges on your aluminum tonneau cover keep it opening and closing smoothly for years of service. Follow good lubrication and cleaning practices.
What Problems Can Occur With Improperly Lubricated Hinges?
It’s important to keep your tonneau cover hinges lubricated to prevent problems including:
Hinges that lack adequate lubrication will begin to squeak or creak loudly when opening or closing the cover. This indicates surface friction and wear.
Dirt and corrosion can cause hinges to start sticking when manipulated. Forceful sticking or jamming can damage the hinges.
Reduced Range of Motion
Lack of lubrication will allow a buildup of grime that hampers free hinge movement and operation.
Unlubricated metal parts rubbing together will wear down more quickly. This can increase wobble or shorten hinge lifespan.
Moisture getting into unlubricated hinges can initiate surface rusting and oxidation on the hinge components.
Increased Chance of Breakage
Neglected, dry hinges are more prone to mechanical failure, especially if force is used when sticking/jamming occurs.
Don’t allow your tonneau cover hinges to get into any of these conditions. Regular cleaning and lubrication is the best prevention.
What Type of Damage Can Occur From Using the Wrong Lubricant?
It’s vital to use the proper type of lubricant on your tonneau cover hinges. Using the wrong lubricant can lead to the following types of damage:
Degraded Plastic and Rubber
Petroleum-based oils may react with the plastic and rubber components in the hinges, causing swelling, softening or brittleness.
Broken Down Grease
Thinner lubricants can dilute or wash away the existing grease packed inside the hinges, leaving them unprotected.
Attraction of Dust and Dirt
Using a thinner lubricant than the original factory grease can leave the hinges more prone to contamination and fouling.
Loss of Water Protection
The wrong lube may not cling well or provide the level of moisture resistance needed for exposed tonneau hinges.
Cheap oils tend to wear away quickly, leaving hinges unlubricated again and vulnerable to damage from friction and rust.
Harsh or reactive chemicals in some lubricants can damage protective hinge platings and coatings over time.
Carefully research any lubricant before use and stick with trusted brands made for auto hinge lubrication. Never use products not intended for metal mechanisms.
How Can I Tell If My Hinges Need Replacement?
Inspect your tonneau hinges periodically for signs they may need replacement, including:
- Excess sloppiness, play or “looseness” when opening the cover
- Severe creaking/squeaking even after lubricating
- Sections of the hinge bent or deformed
-Pieces rattling loosely inside the hinge
-Corroded, pitted or cracked metal
-Broken or worn-down plastic inserts
-Cam lock pin that won’t stay engaged in the latch
-Mounting bolt holes enlarged or stripped
-Cover no longer opening smoothly or aligning properly when closed
-Significant reduction or loss of rotational range of motion
Many tonneau hinge issues can be repaired, but if damage is severe, replacement may be the best option to restore proper operation. Catching problems early makes replacement easier.
Where Can I Buy Replacement Hinges for My Tonneau Cover?
If your hinges do need replacement, you have a few options:
Dealership Parts Counter
Your vehicle dealership can look up and order OEM replacement hinges for your cover. More expensive but exact fit.
Many tonneau brands sell replacement hinges through their websites. Find the part number and order directly.
Auto Parts Stores
Stores like AutoZone or O’Reilly Auto Parts have extensive hinge inventories. Bring your old part to find the best match.
Websites from Amazon to Walmart sell replacement truck bed cover hinges for most models if you search for them. Look at reviews.
Check at local junkyards and salvage yards to possibly get used OEM hinges off the same model truck for much cheaper.
With some research and part numbers in hand, you should be able to track down replacement tonneau cover hinges when yours fail. Installing them is usually simple if you’re mechanically inclined.
Regular lubrication is the best way to keep the hinges on your aluminum tonneau cover operating smoothly for a long time. Clean them thoroughly and use silicone spray lubricants or lithium grease. Add more lube periodically, clean away debris, and avoid using thin oils.
With proper maintenance, your tonneau hinges should provide years of quiet and reliable function. If problems develop, new replacement hinges can give your cover fresh operation. Follow these tips for maximizing the life of your truck bed cover hinges.