A tonneau cover is a great way to protect the cargo bed of your truck and improve gas mileage. However, if you start to hear flapping, rattling, or other noises coming from the tonneau cover at highway speeds, it can quickly become an annoyance. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the most common reasons a tonneau cover may make noise on the highway and how to troubleshoot the issues.
What Causes Tonneau Cover Wind Noise?
There are a few key factors that can lead to a noisy tonneau cover while driving at higher speeds:
Loose Fasteners and Tension
One of the most common reasons for a loud tonneau cover is loose fasteners or lack of tension. Tonneau covers are secured to the truck bed with snaps, clamps, rails, or tension adjustment knobs. If any of these fasteners become loose over time, it allows the vinyl cover to flap freely in the wind. This creates an obnoxious flapping sound.
Double check that all snaps, clamps, and knobs are tightened down properly. For covers with automatic tensioners, ensure the tension knob is adjusted properly to keep the vinyl taut. Overtightening can damage the cover, so find the right balance of snugness without straining the material.
If a tonneau cover is not installed properly from the start, the fastening points will not align correctly. This allows excess material to flap around at speed. Re-read the installation guide and ensure all rails, snaps, and clamps are lined up according to the manufacturer’s directions. Using a buddy to help tighten clamps while aligning the cover can make installation much easier.
Cover Style and Design
The actual design and style of tonneau cover also plays a role in noise potential. Soft vinyl roll-ups and tri-folds tend to be louder than hard folding covers. The flexible vinyl naturally flaps more vigorously at high speeds. Upgrading to a hard herculiner or aluminum tonneau cover can provide a quieter driving experience.
Low profile covers that sit flush to the truck bed also tend to be quieter than covers that sit high above the bed rails. The sleeker aerodynamic shape helps reduce wind resistance. Installing a tonneau cover seal or weather stripping can help reduce airflow noise as well.
If you frequently haul loose cargo or equipment in your truck bed, be sure to secure items properly before driving. Unsecured cargo can bounce around, causing the tonneau cover to rattle or flap. Use cargo nets, straps, or truck bed dividers to keep everything locked tightly in place to prevent a ruckus from back there.
Age and Wear
Over time, exposure to the elements can degrade the vinyl material of soft tonneau covers. The vinyl may become brittle and cracked. The fastening snaps can corrode and loosen up. As the cover ages, it becomes more prone to flapping noise at speed. If your cover is over 5 years old, replacement may be the most effective solution.
Strong crosswinds, storms, and driving over rough terrain can all contribute to tonneau cover noise while driving. There is little you can do to prevent wind noise in poor weather. But for normal highway driving, address any underlying fastener, installation, or tension issues with the cover to reduce noise. Adding a tonneau cover seal may also help.
How Can I Diagnose the Source of Tonneau Noise?
Pinpointing exactly where the noise is coming from is the first step to addressing it. Here are some tips for diagnosing tonneau cover noise:
Listen Closely While Driving
Have a passenger ride along so you can safely focus on listening while driving at normal highway speeds. See if they can visually identify which area of the cover is flapping or loose. Noise coming from the front is likely loose clamps or poor alignment. Noise from the sides indicates wind whipping underneath the cover. Listen for any rattling that could signal unsecured cargo.
Conduct a Visual Inspection
With the truck parked, do a thorough visual inspection of the entire cover, fasteners, rails, and seams. Look for any cracking, loosening, gaps, corrosion, or areas of wear. Try tugging on the cover fabric and see if you can replicate the noise or detect loose spots. Make note of any potential issues to address.
Test at Lower Speeds
Conduct some test drives at lower speeds to isolate speed-related noise issues. Get up to 30-40 mph and see if noise occurs. Then slowly increase speed while listening closely for the speed at which noise begins. This can help you rule out environmental factors. If noise only happens at 60+ mph, it’s likely wind related.
Check for Contact Points
Wind noise is often amplified when a loose cover can vibrate against the truck bed or cab. Inspect where the tonneau contacts the bed rails, tailgate, and cab rear. Add protective bumpers or adjust the spacing to prevent contact that transfers noise.
Once you’ve identified the primary trouble spots, you can move on to the repairs.
How Do I Fix a Noisy Tonneau Cover?
Here are some step-by-step tips for resolving a loud, flapping tonneau cover while driving:
Re-Tighten the Fasteners
Use the appropriate hand tools to ensure all clamps, snaps, screws, and knobs are tightened down properly. Be careful not to overtighten tension knobs or you may damage the cover. Have a helper press down on the cover fabric while you work to take up the slack.
Adjust the Tension
Covers with automatic tensioners often have a knob or bolt on the front crossbar. Tighten this knob in incremental turns until the cover is taut but not strained. Try adjusting tension before fully reinstalling the cover to make positioning easier.
Realign the Cover
Loosen the fasteners and carefully realign the cover, following the manufacturer’s install directions precisely. Use chalk to mark the ideal position of rails and clamp locations before re-securing. Have a friend help hold the cover flush while you tighten clamps.
Add Protective Bumpers
Self-adhering rubber bumpers can help prevent metal-on-metal contact between the cover and truck bed. Place bumpers anywhere the cover makes contact to reduce vibration noise.
Replace Loose Snaps
If cover snaps are corroded or popping open, replace them with fresh snaps secured tightly with pliers. Use silicone sealant to help secure the snap heads and prevent moisture damage.
Upgrade the Cover
If your cover is aging or inherently noisy, consider upgrading to a newer low-profile hard cover that is less prone to wind noise. Shop for quiet, sleek covers from reputable brands.
Add Weather Stripping
Self-adhesive weather stripping can help seal out wind, dust, and moisture that enters below the cover. Apply weather strip seals along the top of the bed rails and tailgate for a tighter seal.
Prevent loose cargo from bouncing around and rattling the cover by using tie-downs, nets, and bed-liners. A truck bed toolbox can also help contain smaller items.
With persistent troubleshooting and correct tonneau adjustments, you should be able to resolve noisy cover issues and enjoy a peaceful ride. But if noise persists despite your best efforts, contact the manufacturer to determine if replacement under warranty may be needed.
FAQs About Noisy Tonneau Covers
What is the quietest type of tonneau cover?
Hard folding covers or low-profile hard covers offer the quietest tonneau cover experience for most truck owners. The sleek, snug design produces very little wind noise. Soft covers will flap more at speed.
Where is tonneau cover wind noise most likely to occur?
The leading edge near the cab and the sides of the covers are prime spots for wind noise issues. Use bumpers, seals, and proper alignment to reduce noise here.
Should I replace or repair a noisy old cover?
It depends on the severity and cause of noise. Minor alignment adjustments may quiet an older cover. But upgrading to a premium cover is recommended if noise is due to age and deterioration.
Do tonneau cover seals really help reduce noise?
Yes, high quality seals can help block airflow under the cover that contributes to wind noise. Seal the tailgate, bed rail tops, and any gaps thoroughly.
How can I prevent cargo from rattling my tonneau cover?
Be diligent about properly securing cargo and using tie-downs. Truck bed toolboxes and dividers also help contain loose items that may shift and rattle while driving.
When should I worry about wind noise from my tonneau cover?
Some noise in poor weather is inevitable. But any persistent rattling, flapping or loud noise at normal highway speeds indicates an issue needing repair. Address problems promptly for a quieter ride.
Get Your Tonneau Cover Noise Under Control
Dealing with a tonneau cover that flaps and rattles at high speeds can quickly get on your nerves. But in most cases, the culprit is loose fasteners, poor alignment, or insecure cargo – issues that can be resolved with a few straightforward repairs and adjustments. Rattle-free tonneau covers are possible!
Use this comprehensive guide to track down the source of the noise through careful inspection and test drives. Then apply the right mix of realignment, tensioning, tightening, seals, and cargo containment to quiet things down. With a properly installed cover, secure cargo, and smooth aerodynamic truck bed, you’ll be back to smooth, peaceful highway cruising in no time.