Pickup truck tonneau covers provide many benefits like weather protection, security, and improved gas mileage. But over time, the canister that houses the retractable tonneau cover may fall out of alignment with the truck bed. This misalignment prevents the cover from smoothly retracting and extending. Fortunately, realigning the canister is usually a straightforward DIY project.
What Is A Tonneau Cover Canister?
The canister is the hard case that houses the material of the retractable tonneau cover when fully retracted. It is typically mounted at the front of the truck bed. The canister contains the spring-loaded mechanism that allows the cover to retract.
Keeping the canister properly aligned allows the cover to coil back evenly into the container. If the canister is askew, the cover will bunch up or extend unevenly.
How Do I Know If My Canister Is Out Of Alignment?
There are a few clear signs that your tonneau cover canister needs realignment:
- The cover does not retract fully: If your cover gets stuck part way or does not coil cleanly back into the canister, the alignment is likely off.
- The cover extends unevenly: If sections of the cover extend out of the canister at different rates, it indicates the canister is not properly aligned.
- Closing the tailgate is difficult: You may notice resistance or gaps when closing the tailgate if the canister protrudes into the bed.
- The cover makes excessive noise: Grinding, clicking, or squeaking noises point to a misaligned canister restricting the smooth operation of the cover.
If you notice any of these issues, it’s time to realign the canister. Catching misalignment early makes the job easier.
What Do I Need To Realign The Canister?
Realigning the tonneau cover canister requires just a few basic tools:
- Ratchet wrench with metric socket set
- Flat head screwdriver
- Rubber mallet or hammer
You’ll also need a helper for certain truck bed covers that are too large or heavy to maneuver alone. Other than that, the realignment process is straightforward.
How Do I Realign The Canister?
Here is a step-by-step guide to realigning your tonneau cover canister:
1. Remove The Cover
The first step is accessing the canister by removing the cover from the truck bed:
- Fully retract the cover into the canister if possible. This gives you the most room to work.
- Release any clamps or tension clips securing the cover.
- Look for bolts along the side rails or front header panel and remove them with your wrench or socket set.
- With a helper, lift the cover straight up and off the bed. Set it aside carefully.
2. Loosen The Canister
Now that the cover is off, you can detach the canister:
- Locate the bolts holding the canister to the bed. Loosen them a few turns using your wrench but do not fully remove them yet.
- There may also be bolts along the bottom of the canister you need to loosen.
- The canister should now have some wiggle room for alignment adjustments. Be careful not to let it drop.
3. Realign The Canister
Here’s how to properly realign the canister:
- Sight down the length of the bed to determine how the canister deviates from parallel. Make sure it lines up evenly with the bed sides.
- Carefully tap or pry the canister back into alignment. Use a rubber mallet or screwdriver and small movements to nudge it into place.
- Have a helper hold the canister in proper alignment or place shims to keep it there.
- Inspect the position from all angles to ensure the canister is perfectly parallel and centered before tightening it down.
4. Tighten & Reinstall Cover
The final steps are to secure the realigned canister and reinstall the cover:
- With the canister properly realigned, tighten down the mounting bolts completely.
- Reinstall the cover and secure the side clamps and header panel bolts.
- Fully extend and retract the cover, making sure it coils smoothly back into the canister.
- Close the tailgate and check for gaps or resistance to ensure proper clearance.
- Your cover should now glide easily into the realigned canister!
What If The Canister Is Damaged?
If your tonneau cover canister is bent, dented or cracked, trying to realign it may not solve the issues. Damaged canisters affect the smooth operation of the cover. Some signs of canister damage:
- Deep gouges or holes – These weak points prevent the canister from holding alignment.
- Cracks or splits – Cracks create openings for dirt/debris to enter and cause binding.
- Severe dents or bends – Major damage prevents proper cover retraction and alignment.
In these cases, replacement of the canister may be the best option to restore full function. Carefully inspect your canister while realigning it to determine if damage warrants replacement.
Tips For Preventing Tonneau Cover Canister Misalignment
With your canister realigned, here are some tips to help prevent it from shifting out of alignment again:
- Check tension periodically – Ensure clamps and vinyl straps retain tension to avoid vibration shifts.
- Inspect after hauling heavy loads – Loads over your truck’s capacity can torque and twist the bed, shifting the canister.
- Have support installed – Some covers offer support legs that bolt to the bed and stabilize the canister.
- Park carefully – Repeated hard jolts against curbs or other obstacles can knock the canister askew over time.
- Test operation often – Fully open and close the cover regularly to confirm smooth operation.
- Consider upgrading mounting – Some cases may benefit from reinforced steel canister mounts for added stability.
Is Professional Realignment Needed?
Realigning a tonneau cover canister is usually simple enough for DIY completion if you have mechanical aptitude. But for some cover styles, professional help may be advisable:
- Heavy-duty aluminum covers – Large work truck covers may require professional equipment to handle safely.
- Modified alignment systems – Upgraded mounts or custom canister setups often need shop adjustment.
- Exotic cover materials – Realigning fiberglass, carbon fiber or leather-wrapped canisters takes extra care.
If you are unsure about safely and properly realigning the canister for your specific cover, expert service may give you peace of mind.
Enjoy Smooth, Secure Cover Function Again
With these steps for realigning your tonneau cover canister, you can get your truck bed cover gliding properly again. Take time periodically to inspect the canister alignment and make adjustments immediately if needed. Proper canister alignment equals years of easy opening and closing of your cover.
Your tonneau cover provides important protection and improves your truck’s performance. Keeping the canister properly aligned helps maintain the full benefits for the long run. With a little DIY dedication, you can keep your cover operating smoothly for years of service.