Pickup truck owners love tonneau covers for protecting cargo in the truck bed. But proper care is essential to keep your tonneau cover looking good and functioning properly for years. So a common question arises: can you use petroleum jelly on a tonneau cover?
What is Petroleum Jelly and How is it Used?
Petroleum jelly, also known as petroleum gel, petrolatum, or soft paraffin, is a byproduct of the oil refining process. It’s a mix of hydrocarbons, giving petroleum jelly a semi-solid consistency.
This versatile product has many uses around the home. It can lubricate, moisturize, protect, and more. Some common uses of petroleum jelly include:
- Moisturizing dry skin and lips
- Protecting minor cuts and scrapes
- Lubricating hinges, screws, tools, etc.
- Coating metal items to prevent rust
- Waterproofing fabrics and leather
- Polishing wood finishes
So at first glance, petroleum jelly seems like a handy product to have around. And you might think applying it to a tonneau cover is a good idea. But is it?
What are Tonneau Covers Made Of?
Tonneau covers come in different styles and are constructed from various materials. Here are some of the most common:
- Made of durable, flexible vinyl
- Offer a smooth, sleek look
- Resist cracking and peeling
- Require proper cleaning and care
- Made from aluminum sheets or panels
- Provide rigid, sturdy protection
- Withstand impacts and wear-and-tear
- Prone to dents and scratches if not cared for properly
- Constructed with vinyl, aluminum, or polycarbonate top panels
- Roll up or retract to allow complete bed access
- Frames made of powder coated aluminum
- Utilize panels made of vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass composites, or Sailcloth fabric
- Fold up toward cab for partial or full bed access
So in most cases, tonneau covers contain vinyl, aluminum, fabric, or fiberglass components. These materials require proper maintenance to stay looking good and resist damage.
Why Petroleum Jelly is Not Ideal for Tonneau Covers
Now that we know what materials modern tonneau covers are made of, let’s discuss why petroleum jelly is not the best product to use on them.
1. Petroleum Jelly Can Damage and Discolor Vinyl
Vinyl tonneau covers should be cleaned and protected according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Often, special vinyl care products are recommended, not household products like petroleum jelly.
The ingredients in petroleum jelly can cause vinyl surfaces to break down prematurely. And over time, the vinyl can become brittle and discolored.
2. Jelly Residue Can Attract Dirt and Debris
Applying petroleum jelly leaves an oily residue on the tonneau cover surface. This residue attracts dirt particles, road grime, pollen, and other debris.
This buildup can lead to accelerated wear, abrasion, and even staining if the cover isn’t cleaned regularly.
3. Petroleum-Based Products Can Dry Out Fabric
On tonneau covers using Sailcloth or other fabric, petroleum jelly can cause the material to dry out and stiffen over time. This accelerates wear-and-tear.
4. Chemicals in Jelly Can Damage Stitching
The stitching that holds tonneau cover panels together is vulnerable to damage from chemicals. Petroleum jelly contains ingredients that can deteriorate thread material.
This stitching is crucial for proper fit and performance. Compromised stitches can allow water intrusion and eventual failure of cover seams.
5. Silicones in Some Jelly Can Leave Residue
Some petroleum jelly products contain silicone compounds. When used on tonneau covers, the silicone leaves a residue that’s nearly impossible to remove completely.
This residue attracts more dirt and also causes vinyl to become gummy and degraded.
6. Petroleum Jelly Offers No UV Protection
Tonneau covers need periodic UV protection to resist sun damage. But petroleum jelly does not contain UV blockers or stabilizers.
So it provides no protection against the sun’s harsh ultraviolet radiation which can accelerate aging of vinyl, fabric, and other tonneau cover materials.
Proper Tonneau Cover Care and Maintenance
To keep your tonneau cover looking new, protect the finish, and extend its life, follow these tips:
- Use a mild soap and water solution
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water
- Allow to air dry completely
Vinyl Protectant/Cleaner Products
- Use products specifically made for vinyl care
- Do not use petroleum jelly or household cleaners
- Avoid products with alcohol, ammonia, or silicone
- Protectant adds UV blockers to resist sun damage
Fabric Tonneau Cleaner
- Use a mild cleaner recommended by manufacturer
- Allows fabric to breathe and resists water stains
- Refresh water repellency routinely
- Periodic pressure washing removes stubborn dirt
- Use lowest pressure setting to avoid damage
- Never power wash stitching or seals
- Wax 2-3 times per year to protect the finish
- Use a product formulated for tonneau covers
- Avoid household waxes and polishes
- Address cracks, tears, loose stitching right away
- Leaks can lead to water damage, mildew, rust
- Seek professional repairs if needed
Recommended Tonneau Cover Care Products
Here are some products tonneau cover manufacturers recommend for proper cleaning and protection:
- TruXedo Pro-Tex Ultra Cleaner – cleans vinyl without residue
- 303 Aerospace Protectant – protects vinyl, rubber, plastic, and finished leather
- Colourlock Leather Cleaner – water-based vinyl/leather cleaner
- Harley VLRD Vinyl Cleaner and Protectant
- 3M Marine Ultra Performance Paste Wax – water-based paste wax
- Meguiars Mirror Glaze Synthetic Sealant 2.0 – polymer sealant
- Rainex Vinyl Cleaner and Vinyl Protectant
By using the right products and techniques, you can keep your tonneau cover functioning like new for many years. Avoid petroleum jelly and follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. With proper maintenance, your tonneau cover will continue protecting your truck bed in all weather conditions.