A tonneau cover is a great way to protect the cargo bed of your truck and keep items secure. However, over time the hinges on a hard folding tonneau cover can wear out. Specifically, the plastic bushings inside the hinges can crack or deteriorate, causing the cover to not open and close smoothly. Replacing these hinge bushings is doable as a DIY project if you have the right parts and tools. Here’s a step-by-step guide to repairing hinge bushings on a hard tonneau cover.
What Are The Signs That The Hinge Bushings Need Replacement?
There are a few clear indicators that the bushings on your hard tonneau cover need replacing:
- The cover is difficult to open or close. You have to jerk it open or closed.
- The cover doesn’t sit flat when closed. There are gaps between panels.
- The cover sags when open instead of staying upright.
- There is play or wobble in the hinges when the cover is open.
- You hear squeaking or grinding noises coming from the hinges.
- You see cracks, splits, or deterioration in the plastic bushings.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to replace the hinge bushings. Driving with worn out bushings can further damage the hinges and tonneau cover over time.
What Do I Need To Repair Hinge Bushings?
Gather the following supplies before starting the repair:
- Replacement bushings – Check with the tonneau cover manufacturer to find the correct replacement bushings for your model.
- Small mallet or hammer – To tap bushings in and out of the hinges.
- Lubricant (silicone spray, white lithium grease etc) – To lubricate the new bushings.
- Hex key or socket set – To remove bolts/screws to access hinges.
- Clean rags – For cleaning hinge components.
Make sure you have a clean, dry work area with enough room to lay out the tonneau cover. Refer to your owner’s manual for details on removing the cover from your truck bed.
Step-By-Step Instructions To Replace Bushings:
Follow these key steps to properly replace the hinge bushings on a hard folding tonneau:
1. Remove The Tonneau Cover
- Take off tailgate seals, clamps, support bows etc. to fully remove cover.
- Place on a flat, stable work surface.
2. Inspect The Hinges
- Check each hinge closely to see which bushings are worn out.
- Look for cracking, tears, deterioration.
3. Remove The Old Bushings
- Use a hex key to detach hinge from frame if needed to access bushing.
- Tap out the old bushing with a hammer and punch.
- Thoroughly clean the hinge opening.
4. Install The New Bushings
- Spray lubricant inside the hinge and on new bushing.
- Carefully tap the new bushing evenly into the hinge opening with the mallet.
- Be sure the bushing is fully seated in the hinge.
5. Reattach The Hinges
- If hinges were removed, bolt them back into the frame.
- Check that each hinge moves smoothly.
6. Reinstall The Tonneau Cover
- Set the cover back into the truck bed.
- Reattach all clamps, bolts, seals etc.
- Ensure cover opens, closes, and latches properly.
Be careful not to damage the tonneau cover panels or frames when removing and tapping bushings. Having a partner can make the job easier.
Where Can I Buy Replacement Bushings?
Check with the manufacturer of your tonneau cover to find the correct replacement bushings. Many offer hinge repair kits.
You can also find universal bushing kits at auto parts stores and online retailers like Amazon. Bring your old bushing to match the size and type.
Make sure to buy high quality bushings made specifically for tonneau cover hinges. Plastic bushings are common, but you can also find options with nylon, graphite, and aluminum inserts for smoother opening and closing.
Do I Need Any Special Tools To Do This Repair?
Having a few specialized tools can make replacing the bushings easier:
- Hydraulic press – Allows you to press new bushings in evenly without damaging the hinge.
- Bushing driver set – Lets you tap the bushings in straight with a mallet.
- Hinge pin press – Presses hinge pins in and out without damaging the pin or hinge.
But you can also use basic DIY tools like a hammer, punch, sockets, and hex keys to get the job done. Just be cautious not to bend or warp the hinges.
What’s The Best Way To Remove Old Bushings?
Here are some tips for smoothly removing worn out bushings:
- Penetrating oil – Squirt some around the edges of the bushing and let it soak in for easier removal.
- Heat – Use a hair dryer or heat gun to gently warm and loosen the bushing.
- Patience – Work the bushing out slowly and carefully. Don’t force it.
- Support – Back up the hinge so the bushing can be driven straight through the opening.
- Clean – Make sure the hinge opening has no debris or burrs before inserting the new bushing.
Going slowly prevents damage to the hinge and ensures proper fit of the new bushing.
How Do I Prevent Bushings From Wearing Out Again?
To maximize the lifespan of new hinge bushings and avoid repeat repairs:
- Lubricate – Periodically lubricate hinges with silicone spray or lithium grease as directed.
- Adjust – Keep clamps and latching mechanisms adjusted properly so cover operates smoothly.
- Protect – Try not to let the cover flop open or slam closed. Handle gently.
- Clean – Use a mild detergent and soft brush to keep hinge components clean. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Inspect – Check bushings occasionally for cracks or wear and replace early as needed.
With proper care and maintenance, new bushings should last for many years of usage on your hard tonneau cover. But they will eventually require replacement, so knowing how to change them out yourself can save time and money.
Can I Just Repair Bushings Instead Of Replacing Them?
It’s usually best to replace tonneau cover bushings rather than attempting makeshift repairs. Here’s why:
- Cracked or torn bushings won’t properly reinforce and align hinges.
- “Gluing” bushings rarely lasts as they further deteriorate.
- Shimming worn bushings with tape etc. leads to uneven gaps and sagging.
- Bushings are under constant tension and friction, worsening any repairs.
- Replacement bushings are inexpensive relative to the cost of covers.
- A proper bushing replacement takes a short time and lasts much longer.
- Improper repairs can lead to further hinge damage.
Unless the bushing damage is extremely minor, replacement is the smartest option for optimal performance and longevity.
Can I Adjust The Hinges Instead Of Replacing Bushings?
You may be able to temporarily improve the function of a hard tonneau cover by adjusting the hinges if the bushings are still intact:
- Tighten/loosen hinge clamp bolts as needed
- Bend hinge plates slightly to improve alignment
- File down any small burrs or bumps on hinge components
- Add shims if hinge is sagging orBINDER SLB 260 -265
However, these measures are temporary fixes if the underlying issue is worn-out plastic bushings. Eventual bushing replacement will be needed for a quality, long-lasting repair.
How Much Does A Professional Repair Cost?
Prices from tonneau cover dealerships and repair shops can vary widely:
- Basic bushing replacement – $50 – $150+
- Full hinge replacement – $100 – $250+
- Covers still under warranty – Potentially free
- Add for shop fees, labor charges, etc.
DIY repair can save significant money, often $100+ over shop repair costs. But pros can replace bushings quickly if you don’t have the tools or expertise.
Can I Just Upgrade To A New Tonneau Cover?
Rather than repairing an older tonneau cover, you may want to upgrade. Some benefits of a brand new replacement cover include:
- Better design and materials than your existing cover
- Smoother, easier operation out of the box
- Improved security, protection, and utility
- May increase your truck’s value for resale
- Won’t have any existing wear or damage
- Full warranty from manufacturer
- DIY installation is straightforward
Check current prices both for new covers and for replacement bushings and hinge components to determine the better value for your needs and budget.
With some basic DIY skills and tools, you can replace the plastic bushings on your hard folding tonneau cover to restore smooth operation. Just be sure to use proper bushing installation and removal techniques. And maintain your cover well to maximize the lifespan of new bushings.
If you need additional guidance, torque specs, or part numbers, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer. Properly functioning hinges will keep your tonneau cover opening and closing like new.