Pickup truck tonneau covers are a great way to protect your truck bed and cargo from the elements. Folding tonneau covers are a popular style that allows you to quickly and easily fold the cover open for full bed access when needed. However, over time the hinges on folding tonneau covers can start to stiffen and squeak without proper lubrication. Lubricating the hinges will help keep your tonneau cover operating smoothly for years to come.
What Type of Lubricant Should I Use on Tonneau Cover Hinges?
Using the right type of lubricant is important to keep your tonneau cover hinges operating properly. Here are some good options:
Silicone-based lubricants, like silicone spray, are a great choice for lubricating tonneau cover hinges. Silicone provides good lubrication and moisture protection while staying in place for a long time. It won’t wash away or evaporate quickly. Look for a silicone lubricant that states it is safe for rubber and plastics.
Teflon-based lubricants, like Teflon spray, also work well for lubricating tonneau hinges. The slick Teflon coating reduces friction and wear between the metal hinge components. Make sure to get a Teflon lubricant specifically designed for metal-on-metal applications.
Dry graphite powder can be applied to hinge pins and bushings to lubricate the hinge motion. The super slick graphite particles will adhere to the metal and reduce friction. Use a brush or cotton swab to dust a light coating of graphite powder onto the hinge components.
For a thicker lubricant option, lithium grease is a good choice for tonneau hinges. The water resistant grease will stay put for a long time. Use a small brush or cotton swab to apply the grease sparingly to hinge pins. Too much grease can attract dirt and debris.
While not the longest lasting option, WD-40 can provide some quick lubrication in a pinch. The light oil will penetrate tight hinges and reduce squeaking and stiffness. Reapply frequently, as WD-40 can dry out quicker than other lubricants. It’s best for a temporary quick fix, not long term lubrication.
How Often Should I Lubricate My Tonneau Hinges?
A good rule of thumb is to lubricate the hinges on your folding tonneau cover 2-4 times per year. Every 3 months is ideal for most tonneau owners. If you drive in dusty or sandy areas, lubricating more frequently may be needed.
Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to lubricate the hinges:
- Squeaking or grinding noises when opening/closing the cover
- Stiffness and resistance when folding the cover
- Cover not folding smoothly or getting stuck
- Visible dirt or grime buildup on hinges
Regular lubrication will help prevent dirt and corrosion from building up and allow the hinges to open and close smoothly for years.
Step-by-Step Guide to Lubricating Tonneau Cover Hinges
Lubricating the hinges on your folding tonneau only takes a few minutes. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Open the tonneau cover fully
Start by opening your tonneau cover all the way so you can access the entire hinge mechanism. This allows you to lubricate the full range of motion.
2. Clean the hinges
Use a rag to wipe away any dirt or debris around the hinges. This will allow the lubricant to adhere directly to the hinge components.
3. Apply lubricant to hinge pins and bushings
Spray or wipe lubricant onto the hinge pins and bushings where there is metal-on-metal contact and motion. Silicone spray, Teflon spray, WD-40, or lithium grease applied with a small brush are good options.
4. Open and close the cover
After lubricating, open and close the cover a few times to work the lubricant into the hinges. Fully close and open the cover to spread lubricant throughout the full range of motion.
5. Wipe away excess lubricant
Finally, wipe away any drips or excess lubricant with a clean rag. You only need a light coating on the hinges. Too much lubricant will attract dirt and dust.
6. Test operation
Fully open and close the cover again. The motion should be smooth and squeak-free when properly lubricated. If hinges still feel stiff, reapply lubricant.
And that’s it! Just a few minutes of lubrication will keep those hinges smooth as silk.
Tips for Lubricating Tonneau Hinges
Here are some additional useful tips to get the most out of lubricating your tonneau cover:
- Use a light touch – Don’t overdo it with the lubricant. Just a thin coat is needed.
- Check all hinge points – Lube where the hinge pins insert into bushings or grommets.
- Lift the cover – Lubricate the hinges with the cover lifted up. Gravity will help the lubricant coat all surfaces.
- Leave cover open – After lubricating, keep the cover open overnight to allow the lubricant to fully penetrate the hinges.
- Remove cover – For the best access, remove the cover from the truck to thoroughly lubricate all hinge components.
- Don’t overlube – Wipe away any excess lubricant so it doesn’t attract dirt.
- Use a penetrating lubricant – Sprays like WD-40 help lubricate tight hinges then evaporate over time.
Proper regular lubrication will keep those tonneau hinges moving freely for years. Just don’t forget to lube those hinges at least 4 times a year!
Additional Maintenance for Tonneau Covers
Besides just lubricating the hinges, keeping your tonneau cover clean and well maintained will ensure it lasts a long time. Here are some additional tonneau maintenance tips:
- Wash your tonneau every few weeks with soap and water to prevent dirt buildup.
- Use a soft brush and mild soap. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Dry with soft cloths. Don’t let air dry.
Vinyl Tonneau Cleaning
- Use vinyl cleaner to protect and condition vinyl covers.
- Apply vinyl protectant every 3 months.
- Remove stuck on dirt with isopropyl alcohol.
- Use dry graphite powder or lock lubricant spray.
- Lube keyed and combination locks.
- Check perimeter seals for gaps, cracks or damage.
- Apply UV protectant to seals annually.
- Reseal with automotive sealant if needed.
- Confirm clamps, latches and tension adjuster are properly adjusted.
- Adjust if needed to keep cover tight and secure.
Regular cleaning and lubrication along with fixing any minor damage right away will ensure your tonneau cover stays in top shape for maximum cargo protection and stylish good looks.
When to Call a Professional for Tonneau Repairs
While regular DIY cleaning and lubrication can handle most tonneau maintenance needs, sometimes it’s best to call in a professional:
- Major damage like large holes, cracks or tears
- Hinges that are seized up and unlubricatable
- Locks that are beyond repair
- Latches that are broken
- Large gaps in weather seals
- Frame or rails are bent or misaligned
- Snaps, bows, or hardware that have snapped off
- Any issue you are unable to diagnose or properly fix yourself
Replacement parts like hinges, bows, seals, locks, and hardware can be ordered from most tonneau manufacturers if needed. But major tonneau repair work is best left to the professionals.
Most truck accessory shops have experience servicing and repairing tonneau covers. They can pinpoint any issues and know the proper repair procedures for your specific tonneau brand and model.
Fixing minor wear and tear yourself through cleaning and lubrication can significantly extend the life of your tonneau cover. But for major repairs or complex issues, a professional installation technician will have the skills to get your cover looking and working like new again.
What to Look for When Buying a New Tonneau Cover
If your old cover is beyond DIY repair, purchasing a new tonneau cover is the best option. Here are some key features to look for when choosing a new truck bed tonneau cover:
- Material – Vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass composites all have pros and cons. Consider your climate and usage.
- Mounting System – Clamp on rails vs. drilling into the bed for permanent mounting. Make sure it is compatible with truck bed liners.
- Latch Types – Locking handles, snaps, electronic locks all provide varying security and ease of use.
- Cover Type – Retractable, roll-up, folding, tri-fold, and hinged variations available. Choose one compatible with your truck make/model.
- Bed access – Determine if you need tool-free open access to the entire bed or just tailgate access.
- Special features – Built-in storage compartments, lighting, crossbar mounts are popular options.
- Price range – Cheaper soft vinyl covers or higher end painted aluminum options. Set a budget.
- Warranty – Look for at least a 2 year manufacturer warranty on both material and hardware.
Doing thorough research will ensure you select the best tonneau cover for your specific truck and needs. And proper care and maintenance will help it last for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tonneau Covers
Should I lubricate a new tonneau cover?
Yes, it’s a good idea to lubricate a brand new tonneau cover. Even though the hinges are new, lubricating them early helps prevent squeaking and stiffness down the road. Use a light silicone or Teflon spray lubricant on new hinge pins and bushings.
How do I stop a vinyl tonneau cover from sticking to the truck bed?
Apply a silicone spray to the underside of the vinyl tonneau cover to reduce friction and sticking against the truck bed. Reapply every few months as needed, especially during warmer weather.
Why does my tonneau cover leak?
There are a few reasons tonneau covers can leak: aged/cracked seals, improperly adjusted latches, tears or holes in fabric, and debris buildup preventing proper sealing. Inspect seals for damage. Adjust latches for better tension. Check for holes needing repair. And clear out any debris.
Can I drive with my tonneau cover partially open?
It’s not recommended to drive with a folding tonneau cover partially open, as wind force can damage the cover and its hinges. Fully open or fully closed are the safest positions when driving.
How do I clean the inside of my tonneau cover?
Use an all-purpose cleaner and soft brush to scrub the inside surface. For vinyl covers, use a vinyl cleaner and protectant. Rinse thoroughly and let air dry before closing the cover.
Key Takeaways on Tonneau Cover Hinge Lubrication
- Use silicone spray, Teflon spray, lithium grease or graphite powder to lubricate hinges
- Lubricate every 3-4 months to prevent squeaking and stiffness
- Wipe away dirt, then apply lubricant to hinge pins, bushings and grommets
- Open and close cover to evenly distribute lubricant after application
- Only light lubricant coating needed – wipe away any drips or excess
- Check hinge operation to confirm smooth motion after lubricating
- Perform quick DIY lubrication to improve hinge function and extend cover life