A tonneau cover is an important accessory for any pickup truck owner. It provides protection for cargo in the truck bed from weather elements and prying eyes. But like any truck accessory exposed to the elements, a tonneau cover can get dirty over time. This raises the question – is it okay to pressure wash a tonneau cover?
What Is A Tonneau Cover And Why Do You Need One?
A tonneau cover refers to a hard or soft protective cover that goes over the truck bed. Tonneau covers come in different styles like retractable, hinged, foldable, snap on, and roll-up.
The main benefits of having a tonneau cover are:
- Protection from weather – It shields cargo from getting wet in the rain or snow. Tonneau covers also provide shade from the hot sun.
- Security – A locked tonneau cover prevents theft of items in the truck bed. It keeps belongings out of sight.
- Improved gas mileage – Tonneau covers improve gas mileage by reducing air drag when driving. Less wind resistance equals better fuel efficiency.
- Versatility – Different tonneau cover types allow access to the bed from different sides like rear, sides, or front. You can choose what works best for your needs.
- Enhanced looks – Tonneau covers give trucks a smoother, sleeker appearance compared to an open truck bed.
So in short, tonneau covers are very useful for truck owners. Keeping them clean is important to maintain their appearance and function.
Can You Pressure Wash A Tonneau Cover?
The short answer is – yes, you can pressure wash a tonneau cover but with some precautions.
Pressure washing uses a high-pressure water stream to remove dirt and debris from surfaces. It is more powerful than a regular garden hose. Many truck owners rely on pressure washing to keep tonneau covers clean.
However, there are some factors to consider before pressure washing a tonneau cover:
What Is The Tonneau Cover Made Of?
Tonneau covers come in soft fabric types like vinyl or hard types like fiberglass. The material affects how it withstands pressure washing.
Soft Tonneau Covers
- Vinyl, canvas – More prone to damage from high-pressure water. The fabric can weaken or tear.
- Rubber, plastic polymer – More durable but still risk of harm over time.
Hard Tonneau Covers
- Aluminum, fiberglass – Can withstand higher water pressure and force. Low risk of damage.
- ABS plastic – Durable but may get superficial scratches from pressure washer.
So hard covers are generally safer for pressure washing than soft ones. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines too.
Water Pressure And Nozzle Types
Using excessive water pressure increases the risk of damage to a tonneau cover. Lower pressure around 1500 PSI is gentler. Adjustable nozzles let you control water flow.
Wide fan nozzles spread the impact over a larger area. Narrow high-pressure nozzles concentrate force in a small spot. Avoid holding narrow nozzles close or in one spot for too long.
Method And Frequency Of Pressure Washing
Don’t aim nozzle directly at fabric seams or hardware. Use broad side-to-side motions without lingering in one area. This reduces risk of weak spots developing.
Limit frequent pressure washing. Once or twice a year is fine for most tonneau covers. More frequent washing accelerates wear and tear over time.
Inspect For Pre-Existing Damage
Check for any cracks, weak seams, loose hardware or compromised spots on the tonneau cover. Avoid aiming high pressure water stream at damaged areas as it can make them worse.
Follow Manufacturer Guidelines
Review the tonneau cover owner’s manual for any pressure washing recommendations or restrictions. Following their advice is safest for the cover.
With proper precautions, pressure washing is generally okay for most tonneau covers, whether hard or soft. But material type, water pressure, nozzle style and frequency of washing are important factors to consider.
What’s The Best Way To Pressure Wash A Tonneau Cover?
Here are some tips to safely pressure wash a tonneau cover:
1. Inspect And Prepare The Area
- Clear the truck bed of any items that could blow away.
- Ensure the tonneau cover is securely attached to the truck bed before pressure washing.
- Check for damage and note areas to avoid aiming the water nozzle.
- Cover electrical components or sensitive areas from water exposure.
2. Select The Right Nozzle And Settings
- Use a wide fan nozzle to spread the water pressure over a larger surface.
- Adjust nozzle to under 1500 PSI, especially for soft covers.
- Avoid narrow high pressure jets. They concentrate force in a small area.
3. Pressure Wash Carefully
- Keep the nozzle 6-12 inches away from the tonneau cover surface. Don’t get too close.
- Move nozzle slowly in wide side-to-side motions. Don’t linger in one spot.
- Rinse fabric seams and joints carefully without focusing nozzle on them.
- If needed, use a soft brush attachment to gently clean stubborn dirt.
4. Dry And Protect The Cover
- Allow the cover to air dry completely before driving the truck.
- Apply a protectant like vinyl conditioner to soft tonneau covers after washing.
- Inspect for damage and get any issues fixed right away.
With the right nozzle, pressure, technique and aftercare, you can safely clean your tonneau cover at home with a pressure washer. Avoid excessive pressure and protect problem areas.
What About Using Automatic Car Washes?
Many truck owners opt for the convenience of automatic car washes instead of home pressure washing. But are automated washes safe for tonneau covers?
The answer depends on these factors:
Type Of Car Wash
- Touchless car washes use high-pressure water jets and soap to clean the vehicle. The lack of physical contact reduces risk of damage to tonneau covers.
- Touch car washes have cloth brushes that scrub the truck surface. This contact may harm soft tonneau cover fabric.
Water Pressure And Temperature
- Look for car washes with adjustable water pressure settings. Around 1500 PSI or lower is gentler for tonneau covers.
- Very hot water or steam spray can damage vinyl or canvas fabric covers. Ensure temperatures stay under 180°F.
- Air drying or towel drying are ideal for tonneau covers.
- Avoid car washes with intense blow dryers. The high heat and air velocity can damage fabric covers over time.
Maintenance And Precautions
- Ensure the cover is properly secured before entering the car wash.
- Ask the operator to avoid direct high pressure spray on the cover.
- Apply protectants to the cover regularly to maintain water resistance.
- Inspect for damage after each car wash and get issues fixed quickly.
With the right settings and precautions, automatic car washes can provide a convenient cleaning option for tonneau covers. But frequent washing may accelerate wear. Touchless washes tend to be gentler than touch washes.
Does Pressure Washing Affect The Tonneau Cover Warranty?
This is an important question for truck owners wanting to pressure wash their tonneau cover. Will it void the manufacturer’s warranty?
In most cases, pressure washing alone will not void the tonneau warranty but there are caveats:
- Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for pressure washing. Abusing the cover against guidelines could void warranty.
- Damage clearly caused by pressure washing may not be covered under warranty. So take proper precautions.
- More frequent pressure washing accelerates wear. The warranty may not cover damage from excessive washing.
- Use recommended cleaning solutions instead of harsh chemicals that could harm the cover.
- Don’t remove tags or branding that identify the cover and void the warranty.
- Get any minor damage from pressure washing repaired promptly. Neglecting issues can void warranty.
As long as truck owners take reasonable care when pressure washing, it should not affect most tonneau cover warranties. But always check with the manufacturer first.
Does Pressure Washing Damage Tonneau Covers?
Yes, pressure washing can damage tonneau covers if not done with care, as outlined below:
Potential Damage To Soft Tonneau Covers
- Fabric fade, discoloration from prolonged exposure to water and sunlight
- Weakening or tearing of fabric, accelerated deterioration of stitching
- Water leaking through degraded or torn fabric
- Stripping of protective coatings like UV inhibitors with harsh detergents
- Warping or swelling of the vinyl layers from excess trapped moisture
Potential Damage To Hard Tonneau Covers
- Chipping, scratching or dulling of the surface
- Growth of mold or mildew in crevices from moisture
- Corrosion and rusting of the aluminum frame
- Loosening of improperly sealed seams or caulk
- Dislodging of screws, clamps or hardware if already loose
How To Minimize Damage
- Adjust pressure washer PSI and nozzle settings
- Use broad motions and avoid concentrating stream
- Limit frequency of pressure washing to 1-2 times per year
- Dry cover thoroughly and apply protectants after washing
- Check for damage and get repairs done promptly
With proper precautions, pressure washing risks can be minimized. But frequent, intense washing can compromise cover integrity over time.
Final Verdict – Is Pressure Washing A Tonneau Cover Recommended Or Not?
Based on the above considerations, here is a summary of recommendations:
- Hard tonneau covers – Pressure washing is fine 1-2 times per year with proper precautions. The risk of damage is low.
- Soft fabric tonneau covers – Use caution when pressure washing. Consider alternatives like touchless car washes at lower pressures. Limit frequency to reduce wear and tear.
- Newer tonneau covers – Avoid pressure washing until the cover is seasoned and sealed properly to the truck bed.
- Poorly maintained covers – Don’t pressure wash covers with pre-existing damage or deterioration as it can worsen.
- Frequent washing – Limit washes to 1-2 times yearly. More frequent exposure to pressure washing accelerates damage over time.
- Improper techniques – Following the right pressure, nozzle, motions and precautions is key to prevent damage.
So in summary, pressure washing tonneau covers is generally okay if done properly and infrequently. Pay special attention to soft covers. Preventative care and timely repairs also help covers withstand occasional pressure washing. Use discretion and examine the cover closely before cleaning.
FAQs About Pressure Washing Tonneau Covers
Can you use soap or detergents in the pressure washer to clean tonneau covers?
Yes, using the right cleaning solution in a pressure washer can help remove stubborn dirt from a tonneau cover. Avoid harsh chemicals. Use a mild automotive soap and low pressure. Rinse thoroughly after washing.
How can you dry a tonneau cover quickly after pressure washing?
After pressure washing, air drying overnight is best. You can also use microfiber cloths to gently dry the surface. Avoid intense heat, direct sunlight or blow dryers which can damage the fabric.
What kind of protectant or treatment can be applied after pressure washing a soft tonneau cover?
A vinyl or rubber protectant/conditioner helps restore water protection, luster and suppleness after washing soft covers. Use products specifically made for tonneau covers. Avoid oil based products which can degrade the fabric over time.
Can leaving a wet tonneau cover in the sun damage it?
Yes, direct sunlight can degrade and discolor a wet tonneau cover. The combination of heat, moisture and UV rays accelerates the breakdown of materials like vinyl and rubber. Always dry the cover fully with shade before driving.
How can you prevent mildew growth on a tonneau cover after pressure washing?
After washing, dry the cover thoroughly before storing, especially along seams and edges where moisture collects. Use a mildew remover if mold develops. Maintain proper ventilation to prevent dampness.
The Bottom Line
Regular light-duty pressure washing can clean stubborn dirt off your tonneau cover and restore its appearance. But the risks of damage must be carefully managed, especially for soft covers. Using the right pressure and nozzle settings, technique, frequency, and aftercare is key. Avoid excessive pressure washing. Consider alternatives like touchless car washes for more frequent cleaning needs. With prudent precautions, you can safely pressure wash your tonneau cover.