If you drive a pickup truck, you’ve probably wondered whether adding a tonneau cover will help protect your cargo from things like rain, dust, and flying debris. But what about sticky tree sap? Can a tonneau cover prevent sap damage to your truck bed and cargo? Let’s take a closer look at how tonneau covers work and what level of sap protection they can realistically provide.
What Is Truck Bed Sap Damage?
Sap is a sticky, syrupy substance produced by trees and plants. It helps heal wounds and defend against insects. Sap oozes out when a tree’s bark or branches are cut or damaged. As sap drips down, it can end up on vehicles parked underneath trees.
Truck bed sap damage occurs when:
- Sap drips directly into the truck bed, sticking to the bare metal.
- Sap gets on tonneau covers, then transfers to cargo.
- Sap falls on cargo loaded in an open truck bed.
Sap is extremely sticky and difficult to remove once it hardens. It can eat away at paint finishes, stain cargo, and reduce a tonneau cover’s effectiveness. Preventing sap damage is much easier than trying to clean it up later.
Do Tonneau Covers Resist Sap?
Most tonneau cover manufacturers apply a protective surface treatment to help repel water, dust, and contaminants like sap. But can you rely on that factory coating to prevent truck bed sap damage over time? Let’s look at how well different types of tonneau covers resist sap.
Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Covers
Soft, roll-up tonneau covers are usually made from vinyl, which is naturally prone to sticking and sagging. Though coated for protection initially, the vinyl can degrade over time. Hot sun and regular use wears down the factory applied treatment.
Once the vinyl loses its protective coating, sap can more easily stick to the soft surface. Any sap sticking to the underside of the vinyl can transfer to cargo when you roll up the cover.
Hard Folding Tonneau Covers
Hard folding covers made from aluminum and plastic panels seem like they would resist sap better than soft covers. But the hinged joints between panels can be vulnerable.
Sap oozing between panels can cause them to stick together. And any sap drops on top of a folding cover can still seep downward with gravity.
Retractable Tonneau Covers
Retractable tonneau covers roll up into a canister at the front of the bed. The heavy duty vinyl or aluminum slats have an initial protective treatment. But sap spots can still stick to the material after time, eventually impeding the smooth operation of the retractable cover.
Hard Truck Bed Covers
Hard truck bed covers made from fiberglass or aluminum provide a sturdy, seamless barrier over the entire truck bed. The sleek, smooth surface is easier to keep clean. Sap has a harder time gaining a foothold on the cover.
But gravity can still pull sap through small gaps around a hard cover’s retractable rear seal, side seals, or mounting points. No cover system seals the bed 100% sap-proof.
Can You Remove Sap from a Tonneau Cover?
The good news is you can remove dried sap from a tonneau cover to restore its looks and function. But sap is stubborn, so it takes some work. Here are a few methods to try:
Use a Plastic Scraper
A plastic paint scraper or putty knife is useful to chip off any large, hardened sap chunks without scratching the tonneau cover. Be gentle to avoid gouging the material.
Apply an Oil or Citrus Cleaner
Spray an oil-based cleaner like WD-40 or a citrus-based solvent onto sap spots. Let it soak for 2-3 minutes to dissolve the sap. Then wipe clean with a soft cloth. Repeat as needed for stubborn sap.
Try Hot Soapy Water
Mix a few drops of dish soap into a spray bottle of very hot water. Spray the sap and let it soak for 30-60 seconds. Scrub with a soft brush and rinse clean with more hot water. Be cautious using heat on vinyl covers.
Lightly Scour with Baking Soda
Make a paste of baking soda and water. Gently rub it onto sap with a soft cloth or brush. After 5-10 minutes, wipe it off along with the dissolved sap. Rinse the area clean.
Seek Professional Detailing Help
For extensive sap damage, get professional assistance. Detailers have access to strong cleaners and power buffer machines to remove sap safely and effectively. This avoids DIY damage to the cover.
Can You Prevent Truck Bed Sap Damage?
Removing dried sap is tedious, so prevention is key. Here are some tips to stop sap in its tracks:
Avoid parking under trees in areas prone to sap drips. Move vehicles daily so sap has less time to stick. If possible, keep the truck bed covered or empty when sap is in season.
Frequently wash the tonneau cover and fully clean the truck bed. This removes fresh sap spots before they have time to harden and spread. Be sure to use automotive shampoo and avoid harsh cleaners that could strip protective coatings.
Apply Protective Treatments
Use tonneau cover conditioners and protectants to renew water and sap resistance between washes. Or apply a thin layer of carnauba wax, which repels sap while giving the cover a glossy shine. Re-treat the cover every few months.
Inspect and Remove Sap Promptly
Check over and under the tonneau cover regularly for any sticky sap spots. Remove fresh sap as soon as possible with diluted soap and water to prevent buildup and damage.
When hauling sap-sensitive cargo like fabrics, rust-prone metals, or polished finishes, add an extra layer of protection such as a bed rug or moving blankets. Remove cargo immediately if you spot sap drips.
Will a Tonneau Cover Completely Protect Against Sap?
Based on their design and materials, most tonneau covers provide only limited protection from truck bed sap damage over time. Even with frequent cleaning and re-treatment, sap can still penetrate and stick to all types of soft and hard covers.
Gravity causes sap to seep into cracks and layer on top surfaces. Environmental wear reduces factory applied coatings. Vinyl covers are prone to sap-induced sticking, staining and accelerated aging. Seams on folding covers offer places for sap to congregate and ooze through.
The most sap-resistant covers are smooth, rigid materials like aluminum or fiberglass. But no tonneau cover can guarantee your truck bed and cargo will stay 100% sap-free forever. The best defense is washing and protecting your cover frequently, parking carefully, and checking for fresh sap often.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tonneau Covers and Sap
Still have questions about the ability of tonneau covers to withstand sap damage? Here are answers to some common queries:
Can Sap Seep Through Gaps in a Tonneau Cover?
Yes, gravity causes sap to slowly seep through the smallest gaps in tonneau covers around tailgates, side rails, and mounting hardware. Sealing gaps helps, but small drips can still penetrate imperfect seals over time.
Will a Plastic Tonneau Cover Resist Sap Better Than Vinyl?
Rigid plastic covers generally resist sap better than vinyl initially. But plastic can become brittle and degrade over years of sun exposure. Once the plastic loses its slick surface, both new and old plastic covers become prone to sap adhesion and staining.
Can I Apply a Protective Coating to My Tonneau Cover?
Yes, you can renew your cover’s sap resistance by applying tonneau conditioners or protectants containing chemicals that cause water to bead up. Avoid using thick, glossy coatings like Armor All that could turn slick or sticky in the sun.
How Soon Should I Remove Sap From My Cover?
Remove sap spots from your tonneau cover as soon as possible, even if they are small. The longer sap sticks, the more it etches into the cover material, spreads, and causes damage. Quick sap removal saves you heavy cleaning efforts later.
Will Home Remedies Like WD-40 Damage My Vinyl Cover?
WD-40 or other light solvents are reasonably safe for dissolving sap on vinyl covers when used sparingly. But repeated heavy use of harsh chemicals could degrade vinyl over time. Test cleaners on small hidden areas first. Seek professional help for extensive sap removal jobs.
Can I Prevent Sap Drips With Masking Tape on My Cover?
Applying strips of masking tape may catch some initial sap drips. But gravity will cause sap to run down and coat the edges of the tape over time. And tape adhesive can damage covers when removed. Frequent washing is a better preventive method.
Sap falling from trees can be a nuisance for pickup truck owners. Tonneau covers may repel small sap amounts initially, but provide limited long-term protection against sap damage. Gravity enables sap to seep through cover seals and stick to materials as surface treatments wear off.
The most effective way to avoid truck bed sap damage is parking strategically, washing frequently, and applying rejuvenating protectants. Removing sap promptly also helps prevent etching and spreading. Though not sap-proof, tonneau covers do add an extra line of defense when maintained properly. With smart prevention and prompt cleanup, you can keep sap damage at bay.