A tonneau cover is an important accessory for any pickup truck, protecting cargo from weather and theft. However, the hinge bushings on tonneau covers can crack over time from regular opening and closing. Cracked bushings will cause the cover to sag, creak loudly, and eventually stop working completely if left unrepaired. Fortunately, you can easily fix cracked tonneau cover hinge bushings yourself with a few simple steps.
What causes hinge bushing cracks on tonneau covers?
Several factors can lead to cracked bushings on your tonneau cover hinges:
The repeated opening and closing motion puts stress on the hinge bushings, eventually causing cracking from metal fatigue. Hard folding covers typically see more wear than soft roll-up covers.
Exposure to weather
Temperature fluctuations, moisture, and UV rays from sunlight can deteriorate the bushing material over time. Vinyl and rubber bushings are more prone to cracking than nylon or polyurethane bushings.
If the bolts securing the hinge bushings become loose, it allows excessive movement that can split the bushings. Periodically checking hardware tightness reduces cracking.
Poor quality materials
Lower quality tonneau covers may use thinner, inferior bushing materials that crack easier. Stick with reputable premium tonneau brands for maximum durability.
Carrying heavy cargo in the truck bed puts added stress on the hinge joints. Overloading your tonneau cover voids the warranty.
Why replace cracked tonneau cover bushings?
It’s important to replace cracked bushings to:
Maintain proper opening and closing
Allow smooth, easy lifting of the tonneau cover without loud creaking or grinding noises from damaged bushings.
Stop the cover from sagging
Cracked bushings will cause the cover to droop down, often unevenly. New bushings will return it to its original tight fit.
Prevent further damage
Cracked bushings eventually break further, damaging hinge plates and mounting holes requiring more repairs.
Replacing cracked bushings restores the cover’s original aesthetic appeal for better resale value.
The tonneau cover will last longer before needing replacement by servicing worn parts like bushings.
What you’ll need for this repair
Gather the following tools and supplies before starting:
- Replacement bushing kit specific to your tonneau model
- Socket wrench with compatible sockets
- Combination wrench set
- Screwdriver set
- Silicone spray lubricant
- Clean rags
- Plastic or rubber mallet
- Drill with bits (if rivets must be drilled out)
- Pop rivet gun (for re-riveting bushings)
- Needle nose pliers, tin snips
Follow these key steps to safely replace cracked tonneau cover hinge bushings yourself:
1. Lower the tailgate
Providing clearance to access the underside of the tonneau cover. Remove any cargo in the truck bed.
2. Release both sides of the tonneau cover
Detach the clamps or latches so the cover is free to lift. This takes the tension off the bushings.
3. Inspect hinge bushings
Look for cracked, worn, or missing bushings, especially near pivot points. Note which ones need replacing.
4. Release bushing fasteners
Remove any screws, bolts, or rivets securing the damaged bushings using the proper wrench or driver bit.
5. Remove old bushings
Pry out the cracked bushings with a screwdriver or mallet. Use pliers or tin snips if bushings won’t detach easily.
6. Clean hinge areas
Remove any debris and clean hinge knuckles with a rag. Apply silicone lube to prevent seizing.
7. Install new bushings
Align and insert new bushings according to your cover’s design. Confirm they fit into brackets snugly.
8. Refasten bushings
Reinstall the same fasteners and tighten to OEM torque specs. For pop rivets, use a rivet gun.
9. Test operation
Close the tailgate and reattach both sides of the tonneau cover. Open and close several times, ensuring smooth operation.
10. Make any adjustments
If the cover binds or misaligns, loosen the bushing fasteners and adjust as needed until operation is correct.
Tips for preventing future bushing cracks
To maximize the longevity of new bushings and avoid repeat cracking:
- Use silicone or Teflon spray lubricant on hinges every 6 months
- Check hinge hardware tightness yearly
- Wipe off any rain or snow sitting pooled on the cover
- Park in the shade or use a tonneau cover when not in use
- Avoid overloading the cover with excess cargo weight
- Use proper vinyl protectants to avoid UV damage
- Have worn seal gaskets replaced to reduce cover stress
- Use smooth action when opening/closing and take care in windy conditions
Replacing cracked bushings can seem daunting, but is actually a straightforward DIY repair project for most pickup truck owners. Following the proper steps will get your tonneau cover opening and closing smoothly again. Be sure to inspect bushings regularly and re-lubricate them to maximize the cover’s lifespan. Investing in quality tonneau components from trusted manufacturers will also help avoid premature cracking issues down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common problem areas for cracked bushings?
The hinge knuckles near the cab and tailgate typically see the most wear. Also check where ladder racks or other accessories mount to the cover.
My bushing broke into pieces. Can I just glue it back together?
No, damaged bushings must be replaced fully. The constant movement will quickly split glued bushings apart again. Always use new OEM parts.
Do I need to keep the tonneau cover raised while replacing bushings?
No. With the tailgate down and both sides released, the cover can rest on the truck bed safely without tension on the bushings.
My old bushings are stuck. How can I remove them easily?
Applying lubricant around the edges overnight can help loosen stuck bushings. Gently work a flathead screwdriver under the bushing to pry up without scratching the metal.
I lost the bolts for my tonneau cover bushings. What are my options?
Your dealer should stock the exact replacement fastener pack for your tonneau model. If not, bring one of the remaining bolts to the hardware store to get matching pieces.
The new bushing kit doesn’t fit my tonneau cover. What should I do?
Double check that you ordered the repair kit for your specific make and model. If it is still incorrect, consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s customer service for help.
How can I prevent my new bushings from cracking again later on?
Clean and lubricate hinges regularly, tighten hardware to specs, avoid overloading the cover, and operate it gently to maximize the durability of your new bushings.
Do I need any special tools to replace hard folding tonneau bushings?
A basic socket set with a torque wrench is ideal for precise fastener tightening. Impact tools can over-tighten and damage the bushing or mounting holes.
Is there a quick fix I can try to quiet a squeaky bushing
You may temporarily improve a squeaky bushing by lubricating it, but cracked ones must be replaced. The noise means it is critically failing.
Replacing damaged tonneau cover bushings requires proper preparation, patience, and care not to over-tighten components upon reassembly. Following the detailed install procedure step-by-step will ensure long-lasting repairs. With routine maintenance and cautious operation, your newly-rebushed tonneau cover should provide years more of reliable protection for your truck bed.