If you have a roll-up tonneau cover on your truck, you know how great it is for keeping your gear protected and out of sight. But like any moving part, those hinges and rails can get stiff and start to squeak over time. Lubricating the hinges and rails is an easy DIY task that will keep your roll-up cover opening and closing smoothly for years to come.
Why Does My Tonneau Cover Need Lubrication?
Your roll-up tonneau operates using a series of hinges, rails, and moving parts. When you open and close the cover daily, these parts are constantly sliding and rubbing against each other. This friction can cause the joints to become stiff and squeaky over time. Lubricating the hinges and rails reduces friction and wear, allowing the cover to glide smoothly open and closed.
When Should I Lubricate My Tonneau Cover?
You’ll want to inspect and lubricate the hinges and rails on your tonneau cover at least twice a year. The best times are spring and fall, as part of your regular truck maintenance routine. Lubricating in these off-seasons will keep the parts moving freely before winter weather or summer heat can cause sticking and wear.
It’s also a good idea to lubricate the parts if your tonneau cover is brand new, right after installation. This helps prevent squeaking and sticking issues from developing. And lubricate any time your cover seems loud, stiff, or hard to operate. Catching problems early makes the parts much easier to lubricate.
What Do I Need To Lubricate My Tonneau Cover?
Lubricating your tonneau cover is a simple job you can do in your own driveway. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:
- Lubricant – Use a dry lubricant like silicone spray, white lithium grease, or WD-40. These will lubricate the hinges without leaving a greasy residue.
- Clean rags – Have some rags on hand to wipe away excess lubricant and dirt. Microfiber cloths work great.
- Paintbrush – A small paintbrush helps apply lubricant into tight hinges. Optional but handy.
- Screwdriver – A basic Phillips head screwdriver can help loosen or tighten hardware if needed.
Make sure to avoid using oily lubricants like motor oil or grease. These can attract dirt and leave your tonneau cover a grimy mess.
Step-By-Step Guide To Lubricating Tonneau Cover Hinges
Lubricating the hinges and rails on your roll-up tonneau cover takes just a few easy steps. Here is a simple DIY process:
1. Open The Cover Fully
Start by opening your tonneau cover all the way until it locks into the open position. This exposes the hinges and allows you to access both sides.
2. Inspect The Hinges
Check all the hinges on both sides of the cover. Look for dirt buildup, squeaking, stiffness, or signs of wear. Pay special attention to the main hinge plates in the middle and at the tailgate end.
3. Clean The Hinges
Use a rag to wipe away any dirt or debris around the hinges. This allows the lubricant to penetrate better. A paintbrush can help clean tight spots between hinge parts.
4. Apply Lubricant
Spray or wipe lubricant onto the hinge pins and brackets. Get lubricant into the inner pivot points so it can work into the joint. Reapply if the lubricant gets wiped away.
5. Work The Hinges
Slowly move the cover up and down a few times to work the lubricant into the hinges. This distributes it evenly and ensures smooth operation.
6. Lubricate The Rails
Spray or wipe lubricant along the rails that the cover rolls up onto. This prevents squeaking and sticking as the cover opens.
7. Remove Excess Lubricant
Wipe away any drips or globs of excess lubricant with a clean rag. Too much will attract dirt and debris.
8. Test Operation
Fully close the cover again. Open and close it a few times to test that the hinges are moving smoothly and quietly. Reapply lubricant if needed.
And that’s it! With just a little regular lubrication, your roll-up tonneau cover will open and close like new.
What Areas Of My Tonneau Cover Should I Lubricate?
Focus lubricating on these key friction points:
- Hinge pins – Lubricate the pins where the hinge brackets connect. This allows them to pivot smoothly.
- Hinge joints – Work lubricant into the hidden inner joints of the hinge.
- Side rails – Lube the rails that the cover rolls up against to prevent rubbing.
- Clamps & hardware – A little lubricant on clamps keeps them sliding easily.
Don’t waste time lubing the underside of the cover or parts that don’t move. Just focus on friction points for best results.
What Type Of Lubricant Is Best For Tonneau Covers?
Using the right type of lubricant is important to prevent problems:
- Dry lubricants – Sprays like silicone, WD-40, or lithium grease won’t leave a oily mess.
- Low-residue – Formulas that dry without heavy deposits left behind.
- Waterproof – Lubricants that won’t wash away easily work best.
Stay away from thicker greases that attract dirt. Light sprays are the easiest DIY tonneau lube to apply.
How Do I Lubricate The Side Rails of My Tonneau Cover?
The side rails your roll-up cover slides against are another area that needs regular lubricating. Here are some tips:
- Spray lubricant directly onto the rails or onto a rag and wipe on.
- Run the cover up and down a few times spreading the lubricant evenly.
- Focus extra lubricant on curved sections and end caps.
- Wipe away any globs of grease so dirt doesn’t stick.
- Make sure the vinyl underside of the cover glides smoothly.
Lubing the rails prevents noise and helps your cover roll up evenly without sticking.
What Areas Should I Avoid Getting Lubricant On My Tonneau Cover?
While lubricating the moving parts, be careful not to get grease or oil on other areas:
- Don’t get the fabric top of the cover wet with lubricants. It can stain and attract dirt.
- Keep excess lubricant off the interior lip, it can drip into the truck bed.
- Avoid the vinyl underside of the cover – it naturally glides well when clean.
- Don’t put lubricant on tailgate seals, weatherstripping or bumpers.
Focus only on the problem hinges and rails. Masking off nearby areas can help prevent overspray issues while lubricating.
How Can I Prevent Rust On My Tonneau Cover Hinges?
Salt, moisture, and dirt can cause unsightly rust to form on your tonneau’s metal hinges. Here are some tips to prevent rust:
- Clean hinges thoroughly before lubricating to remove grime.
- Apply lubricant carefully to reach inner hinge parts.
- Use waterproof lubricants like silicone spray.
- Wipe away excess lubricant so it doesn’t trap water.
- Clean and lubricate more often in wet climates.
- Consider rust inhibitors if hinge rust is severe.
With proper care, you can keep your tonneau cover hinges rust-free and maintain that like-new appearance.
Do Electric Tonneau Covers Also Need Lubricating?
Electric and power tonneau covers have fewer moving parts but still require occasional lubrication. Here are some key points:
- Lubricate the side rails like a roll-up cover.
- Look for internal gear tracks that need greasing.
- Lube the locking mechanism in tailgate.
- Check manual for any model-specific lubrication needs.
- Use light lubricants to avoid interfering with motors.
Though low-maintenance, electric covers still benefit from periodic DIY lubrication to keep things moving smoothly.
Can I Use WD-40 To Lubricate My Tonneau Cover?
WD-40 is an effective and popular DIY lubricant for tonneau covers. Here are some benefits of using it:
- Contains both lubricating oils and water-displacing agents.
- Dries fast without heavy greasy residue.
- Designed to penetrate and loosen stiff parts.
- Prevents rust and corrosion.
- Very easy to apply with included spray straw.
- Safe for use on metal and vinyl surfaces.
Just take care not to overspray WD-40 onto tonneau fabric as it can stain permanently. Overall it’s one of the best tonneau lubricants available.
What Are Some Alternative Household Lubricants I Can Use?
Don’t have a proper lubricant on hand? In a pinch, some household items can get the job done:
- Cooking spray – Vegetable or olive oil-based sprays can work short term. Avoid on fabric.
- Silicone sealant – Hardware store silicone lightly applied lubricates. Won’t harm vinyl.
- Candle wax – Melted on hinges, cools to a light lube.
- Soap – Bar soap rubbed directly on hinges acts as mild lubricant.
- Pencil graphite – The soft powder lubricates similar to powdered graphite lube.
Any of these can help extend the smooth operation of your cover until you get the proper lubricant.
How Do I Clean My Tonneau Cover Before Lubricating?
Your tonneau cover needs to be free of dirt and debris before lubricating for best results. Here are some cleaning tips:
- Rinse with a garden hose to remove loose dirt.
- Mix up mild soap and water. Use automotive soap if you have it.
- Gently scrub fabric with a soft brush and soapy water.
- For vinyl, use vinyl cleaner and a microfiber cloth.
- Rinse off all soap with low pressure water.
- Allow the cover to dry fully before applying lubricants.
Proper cleaning clears away grime so lubricants can penetrate and do their job.
When Should I Consider Replacing My Tonneau Cover?
If your tonneau cover is extremely worn out, lubricating the parts may no longer help. Consider replacing your cover if:
- The fabric is badly torn, damaged or deteriorated.
- Hinges are badly rusted or damaged.
- Parts are so stiff lubricating doesn’t help.
- It leaks heavily into the truck bed.
- Parts frequently break, crack or malfunction
- Hardware is missing or unusable.
Don’t risk your cargo getting wet or damaged in a tonneau that’s too far gone. Careful lubricating and maintenance can extend the life, but expect to replace at some point.
Can I DIY Repair My Roll Up Tonneau Cover?
Minor tonneau cover repairs can often be done yourself at home. Here are some possible DIY fixes:
- Fabric tears – Use adhesive vinyl repair patches.
- Broken hinges – Replace individual hinges.
- Bent rails – Use pliers or a mallet to gently straighten.
- Loose hardware – Tighten or replace clamps with new hardware.
- Seal leaks – Reapply weatherstripping tape.
- Jammed roll tube – Lubricate heavily and pry cover to unjam.
For major damage, it’s safest to have a professional repair or just replace the cover. But small fixes are a cost-effective DIY project.
Where Can I Find Replacement Parts For My Tonneau Cover?
If you need new hinges, rails, clamps or other replacement parts, check these sources:
- The manufacturer – Many sell individual repair parts.
- Auto parts stores – Some carry common tonneau hardware and components.
- Truck accessory retailers – Many offer repair parts for the covers they sell.
- Online retailers – Large selection from various brands, often at discounted pricing.
- Junkyards – You may get lucky finding parts from scrapped trucks.
Search for your specific make and model number to get the right repair parts you need. Generic parts can work in a pinch.
Keeping your roll-up tonneau cover properly lubricated takes only a few minutes but makes a huge difference in how well it protects your truck bed. Just be sure to use the right lubricant in the key friction areas. Avoid over-lubricating areas that can attract dirt. And perform the lubrication maintenance as part of your regular truck care routine. With a little DIY attention, your tonneau will continue rolling up and down smoothly for many miles of hauling.