Soft tonneau covers are a popular pickup truck accessory that provide a range of benefits like weather protection, security, and improved gas mileage. However, many truck owners find the snaps on these vinyl covers can deteriorate over time.
So what causes the snaps on soft tonneau covers to break down? There are several factors that contribute to snap deterioration.
Cold Weather Can Cause Snaps to Loosen
Soft tonneau covers are usually made of vinyl, which contracts in cold weather. This shrinking of the vinyl cover can make it difficult to fully close and secure soft tonneau covers during winter months or freezing temperatures.
The cold causes the cover to shrink while the snaps remain the same size, leading to a loose fit. Attempting to force the cover closed stretches the contracted vinyl and puts extra strain on the snaps, which can cause them to pop open or break.
Vinyl covers should be kept above 60 degrees Fahrenheit when not in use to prevent excessive shrinking in cold temps. Allowing the cover to warm up before closing it can also help prevent undue stress on the snaps.
Applying vinyl protectant sprays per the manufacturer’s instructions can help the vinyl remain supple in cold weather.
How to Prevent Snaps from Loosening in the Cold
- Allow tonneau cover to warm up before closing
- Keep cover above 60°F when not in use
- Apply vinyl protectant spray regularly per instructions
- Close cover gently without forcing in cold weather
Exposure to Sun and Elements Can Deteriorate Snaps
The vinyl material of soft tonneau covers can also be damaged by long-term exposure to the sun and elements. The UV radiation from sunlight can degrade vinyl over time, causing it to become brittle and crack.
This makes the cover less flexible overall and decreases its ability to withstand the normal opening and closing motions. The degraded vinyl leads to weakened snaps that are more prone to popping open or breaking off entirely.
Environmental factors like rain, snow, dirt, dust, and pollution can also wear down tonneau cover vinyl and snaps. The abrasive effects of blowing dirt and dust particles degrades the vinyl, while road salts, acidic rain, sap, and bird droppings chemically attack the vinyl’s integrity. The damaged, weakened vinyl transfers stress to the attached snaps with repeated opening and closing of the cover.
Protecting Against Environmental Damage
- Park in the shade to limit sun exposure
- Use vinyl protectant sprays to protect from UV rays
- Wash the cover regularly to prevent chemical buildup
- Avoid exposing underside to harsh elements
- Replace degraded vinyl to take stress off snaps
Natural Stretching and Shrinking Stresses Snaps Over Time
Even with proper care, vinyl soft tonneau covers experience slight stretching and shrinking over years of use. The repetitive opening and closing slowly stretches the vinyl. On hot days, the vinyl expands slightly when the cover is closed.
In cold weather, the vinyl shrinks when open. This constant expand-and-contract puts chronic stress on the cover’s snaps and can lead to premature snap deterioration and failure.
The slight change in vinyl size from temperature changes also means the snapped closure is looser in cold weather and tighter in hot conditions. The looser fit in winter allows snow, ice and dirt to get under the cover, while also allowing more wind flap that fatigues the vinyl and snaps. The tighter fit in summer heat further strains the stretching vinyl.
Coping with Natural Vinyl Expansion/Contraction
- Use gentle closure pressure in very hot or cold weather
- Clean undercover frequently to avoid loose debris issues
- Apply vinyl conditioner and protectant to maximize pliability
- Have worn snaps replaced to reduce closure tension
Peel & Seal Covers Are Affected by Temperature
Peel & seal soft tonneau covers use a rubber gasket along the sides and tailgate to create a weatherproof seal. This gasket material will stiffen and contract in cold temperatures, making it difficult to create an airtight seal during winter months.
The contracted gasket leaves gaps for moisture and debris to enter under the tonneau cover. This allows the snaps to get corroded and fail prematurely.
Trying to forcefully seal the cover when the rubber is stiff in cold weather will overly strain the gasket and snaps. Allowing the truck bed and cover time to warm up before sealing can help improve gasket pliability and reduce snap stress in low temps. Using gasket conditioner or protectant can also enhance flexibility in cold weather.
Maintaining Peel & Seal Snaps
- Allow warming time before sealing in cold weather
- Use gasket conditioners/protectants for cold flexibility
- Have gasket replaced if overly stiff or cracked
- Avoid forcing cover closed when seals are stiff
How to Extend the Life of Soft Tonneau Snaps
While snap deterioration is inevitable over the life of a soft vinyl tonneau cover, proper care and maintenance can extend the lifespan of the snaps. Here are some key ways to get the most out of your tonneau cover snaps:
- Use vinyl conditioner and protectant regularly to maintain cover flexibility and resist UV damage
- Clean under the cover often to prevent snap corrosion
- Lubricate the snaps occasionally with silicone spray
- Avoid harsh cleaners, petroleum products, or abrasive brushes
- Close cover gently, don’t force it when vinyl is stiff
- Replace severely degraded vinyl covers
- Have worn or broken snaps replaced promptly
With proper care and maintenance, soft tonneau cover snaps can last for years before needing replacement. But natural wear will eventually take a toll. Watching for early signs of snap deterioration like difficult closure, loose fit, popping open, or vinyl cracks around the snaps can allow for prompt repairs. Addressing issues early on will extend the life of your soft tonneau cover.