Pressure washing your truck can get it looking shiny and new again. But when you’ve got a tonneau cover over the truck bed, you may be wondering if the pressure washer could damage it. The short answer is – it depends!
Whether a tonneau cover can withstand pressure washing depends on several factors. We’ll explore those key considerations in this article to help truck owners decide if pressure washing with a tonneau cover is safe or risky.
What Types of Tonneau Covers Are There?
What are the main categories of tonneau covers?
There are three primary types of tonneau covers to choose from:
- Soft tonneau covers – Made of vinyl, canvas or other fabric. Less expensive and easier to install than hard covers.
- Hard tonneau covers – Made of aluminum, fiberglass or ABS plastic. More durable than soft covers.
- Retractable tonneau covers – Roll up or retract for flexible bed access. Pricier but offer the best of both worlds.
How durable are soft tonneau covers?
Soft tonneau covers are affordable and simple to install. But the vinyl or fabric material is vulnerable to damage from abrasion, punctures, and excess moisture.
Friction from automatic car wash brushes could scratch or wear holes in a soft tonneau over time. And the weight of soaked fabric could cause it to sag.
Are hard tonneau covers more pressure wash friendly?
Hard covers made of aluminum, fiberglass or durable ABS plastic are better equipped to withstand pressure washing.
The rigid material is abrasion-resistant and withstands moisture well. Hard covers also securely latch to protect against flapping at high speeds.
Overall, hard tonneau covers can tolerate pressure washing far better than most soft covers can.
How do retractable tonneau covers compare?
Retractable tonneau covers provide versatile truck bed access by rolling up or retracting rearward.
They combine the easy-access of a soft cover with a hard lid that protects when closed. But the rolling mechanism may be prone to moisture damage if pressure washing isn’t done with care.
Are Automatic Car Washes Safe for Tonneau Covers?
Can brushes in automatic car washes harm tonneau covers?
Many automatic car washes use stiff brushes and abrasive chemicals to scrub vehicles clean. This can potentially damage the surface of a tonneau cover over time.
Vinyl or canvas soft covers are at highest risk of scuffing and wearing from constant friction. But even hard covers could suffer scratched or faded paint from car wash brushes.
Is a touchless automatic car wash gentler on tonneau covers?
Touchless automatic car washes use high-powered water jets and detergent to clean – without brushes ever touching the vehicle.
The pressurized water can still be intense, especially for soft covers. But avoiding direct contact with brushes is gentler overall for tonneau covers.
What risks do high-pressure dryers pose to tonneau covers?
After the soap and rinse cycles, automatic car washes use powerful dryers to blast away moisture.
High-velocity air combined with heat can prematurely dry out and damage vinyl soft covers over time. The flapping motion against the hard dryers could also weaken the fabric.
Do I Need Special Precautions When Pressure Washing?
Why is tonneau cover attachment so important when pressure washing?
A tonneau cover that isn’t properly secured could get blasted loose under intense water pressure.
Double checking that the cover is locked into place will help avoid a pressure washing mishap. Keep an eye out for loose fabric or sections pulling up during washing.
Should I remove my tonneau cover beforehand?
The manufacturer’s instructions will often specify if the tonneau cover should be removed before pressure washing. This is advisable for soft covers.
Even rugged hard covers should be removed if recommended. It’s better to take a few extra minutes to avoid any risk of moisture damage.
What’s the best way to pressure wash the truck bed with a tonneau?
If washing with the tonneau installed, focus the pressure washer nozzle on the exterior surfaces only. Avoid directing water into any fabric seams or rolling parts that could allow moisture ingression.
Use lower pressure and wider spray nozzles to gently clean tonneau cover exteriors when still attached.
Factors That Impact Tonneau Cover Pressure Washing Risks
Does tonneau cover water resistance matter?
Some premium soft tonneau covers are coated with thick water-resistant layers on the underside. This helps repel moisture from pressure washing or rainstorms.
Vinyl covers treated with UV protectants may also better tolerate car wash chemicals and sun exposure over bare vinyl.
How does tonneau cover material affect pressure wash risks?
Marine grade vinyl stands up well to wet environments, while basic vinyl can become dry and brittle when repeatedly soaked.
Aluminum hard covers resist pressure washing damage thanks to their rigid structure. Fiberglass offers good strength too, but may be more prone to cracking from exposure over time.
Does my tonneau cover have special washing requirements?
Consult the tonneau cover owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website for specific pressure washing guidance.
Some covers have certain soap, chemical or water pressure limitations. Using a foam cannon or no-pressure rinse method may be advised instead.
Following the manufacturer’s washing recommendations is the safest bet.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Pressure Washing a Tonneau Cover
What are the potential benefits of pressure washing a tonneau cover?
- Thorough cleaning that gets into crevices
- Restore faded/oxidized surfaces
- Remove grime hard bristle brushes can’t
- Faster than hand washing
What are the possible drawbacks to consider?
- Risk of moisture damage on soft covers
- Excess pressure could loosen seals
- Harsh chemicals may degrade vinyl over time
- Dryer heat weakens fabric & dulls painted finishes
Should I hand wash my tonneau cover instead?
If you’re concerned about how pressure washing could impact your tonneau cover, hand washing is a gentler cleaning method.
Using automotive detergent with a soft cloth or sponge allows you to safely spot clean the tonneau exterior as needed. No risk of harming seals or materials.
The Bottom Line: Is Pressure Washing Recommended for Your Tonneau Cover?
The condition of your specific tonneau cover and the type of pressure washer or car wash being used both play a role in determining if pressure washing is a smart idea.
Here are some final tips on deciding whether to pressure wash a tonneau cover:
- Check manufacturer guidance before pressure washing
- Stick to touchless wash for soft covers, if needed
- Remove cover beforehand if recommended
- Inspect for damage, reapply protectants after washing
- Consider hand washing for custom covers you want to protect
Scrutinize the durability of your tonneau cover when figuring out the safest washing methods. With care taken to avoid excess pressure or heat, most modern hard covers can handle occasional pressure washing without issues. But well-maintained soft covers might be better off only seeing a manual wipe down.
Assess the risks based on your cover material and factory washing directions. And when in doubt, gently hand wash your cover instead to get it looking crisp while avoiding any pressure wash pitfalls. Your tonneau cover protects a valuable truck bed after all, so care for it accordingly.