A tonneau cover is an extremely useful truck bed accessory that provides protection, security, and improved gas mileage. However, one common issue that tonneau owners face over time is the deterioration of the snaps that hold the cover closed. So what actually causes the snaps on tonneau covers to break down?
Why Do Tonneau Cover Snaps Wear Out?
There are several key factors that can lead to snap deterioration on soft tonneau covers:
Weathering of Materials
The vinyl, canvas, or other fabric used on tonneau covers can gradually become damaged from exposure to sunlight, moisture, and temperature fluctuations. This weathering over months and years can cause the fabric to weaken, dry out, or become brittle. As a result, the snaps attached to the cover lose their durability and anchoring.
UV rays from the sun are especially harmful and accelerate deterioration. Using tonneau protectants can help shield the fabric from UV damage.
Simply opening and closing the cover repeatedly puts stress on the snaps each time. The constant twisting, flexing, and pulling forces involved in securing the snaps and unsnapping them again contributes to material fatigue over time.
Even with normal careful use, the snaps endure a lot of mechanical wear and tear.
Poor Quality Materials
Some tonneau covers may use snaps made of cheap plastic or thin metal that are prone to cracking, breaking, or popping open unexpectedly after minimal use. Buying a reputable brand with sturdy, thick snaps can extend the life of the cover.
Neglecting to clean and use vinyl conditioner on the cover regularly can allow dirt, grime, and debris to build up around the snaps, wearing them out faster. Use of harsh cleaners or chemicals can also degrade snap materials.
Extreme Weather Exposure
In areas with very hot summers, cold winters, heavy rain, snow, or ice, the cover’s snaps endure more intense expansion, contraction, water saturation, and freezing temperatures. This exacerbates any material deterioration over time.
Protecting the tonneau from frost in winter by removing snow buildup can help extend snap life.
How to Prevent Snap Deterioration on Tonneaus
While some minor snap wear is inevitable after years of use, there are ways to maximize the longevity of your tonneau cover’s snaps:
Choose High Quality Materials
Invest in a tonneau made with thick, heavy duty snaps and vinyl that can withstand years of outdoor exposure and repeated opening/closing. Cheaper covers will degrade faster.
Use Protective Sprays
Apply UV protectant sprays to shield the vinyl or fabric from sun damage. Reapply every few months. This protects the whole cover, including the snaps.
Clean and Condition Regularly
Every few weeks, give the cover a thorough cleaning, using the proper vinyl cleaners and conditioners. This prevents dirt buildup around snaps and keeps materials supple.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Never use harsh cleaners, bleach, or petroleum products like armor all on the cover. These can dry out and crack vinyl or fabric around snaps.
A dab of lubricant on the snaps every few months allows them to open and close smoothly without straining and cracking. Use a gentle lubricant like silicone spray.
Handle With Care
When opening and closing the cover, don’t yank or forcefully twist the snaps. Allow them to gently align into position to reduce wear.
Replace Damaged Snaps
As soon as you notice any cracked, loose, or deteriorating snaps, replace them promptly. This prevents further material damage around the snap.
Store Indoors in Off-Season
If possible, remove the cover and store it indoors when not in use for extended periods. This protects it from weathering damage.
Diagnosing Tonneau Snap Damage
How can you inspect your cover and identify snap wear before it becomes a serious issue? Here are signs of deterioration to look for:
Frayed or torn fabric around snaps
This indicates the material has become weak or brittle, providing a poor foundation for snaps.
Rust, corrosion, peeling chrome on snaps
This shows that snap materials are degrading from exposure or chemical damage. Rust also accelerates deterioration.
Cracked, peeling, or warped plastic on snaps
Cheap plastic snaps will begin showing cracks and warping after a year or two of use as they weaken.
Snaps won’t close all the way
Repeated strain causes snaps to become misaligned. They no longer align correctly to snap closed.
Snaps pop open unexpectedly
This demonstrates the snaps have become so loose and compromised that they don’t securely stay closed.
Cover corners sag
With no snaps holding the cover taut and aligned, the vinyl can begin to sag, especially around the tailgate.
By inspecting snaps for these warning signs every few months, you can proactively repair or replace deteriorating snaps before major cover damage occurs.
How To Repair Snaps on Soft Tonneau Covers
If you’ve detected snap deterioration on your soft roll-up or folding tonneau cover, follow these steps to fix:
Step 1 – Remove cover
Fully unsnap cover and detach clamps or bolts to remove it from the truck bed for easier access.
Step 2 – Clean snaps
Use a tonneau vinyl cleaner to thoroughly clean grime from damaged snaps. Gently scrub with a soft brush.
Step 3 – Dry completely
Ensure snaps are fully dry before attempting any repairs. Moisture will compromise adhesives.
Step 4 – Apply adhesive
For plastic snaps with minor cracks, apply a flexible vinyl repair adhesive to bond cracks and strengthen.
Step 5 – Replace damaged snaps
For corroded metal or severely damaged snaps, unscrew or pop them out and install new replacement snaps in the same holes.
Step 6 – Reinstall cover
Carefully align the cover on the bed rails and reattach all clamps. Ensure all snaps are closed correctly.
Step 7 – Seal and protect
Apply vinyl protectant spray over all snaps and cover fabric to seal and shield from UV damage.
With these simple repair steps, you can restore your deteriorating snaps to full function. Be sure to also address the underlying causes like sun exposure or harsh cleaning methods to prevent recurrent snap damage.
Solutions for Other Tonneau Cover Types
The snap repair process differs slightly depending on your specific tonneau cover:
Folding Hard Covers
Inspect along hinges for cracked or eroded rubber sealing. Replace strips of rubber weather sealing to restore a tight seal.
Damaged aluminum or plastic slats along the rolling end will need professional replacement. Lubricate roll bar periodically.
Lubricate the interior sliding rails, clean out debris, and replace any retracting end seals that become cracked or detached.
Rely on adhesive rubber gaskets around the toolbox lid to seal. Replace with new cohesive weather stripping as needed.
When To Replace The Whole Cover
If deterioration is very advanced and snaps are popping open across the entire cover, or if the vinyl is extremely sun damaged and you notice:
- Brittle, cracked vinyl
- Large holes/tears throughout
- Cover won’t stay aligned on rails
- Missing mounting bolts
- Severe corner sagging
In these cases, it is probably time to replace the whole cover rather than continuing to sink money into repairs. A full replacement will restore weather protection and security.
Maintain Your Tonneau Investment
Your tonneau cover secures your truck’s cargo, protects it from weather and theft, and improves gas mileage. Follow the maintenance tips in this article to keep your cover’s snaps and materials in peak condition for years before needing replacement. Perform quick snap inspections and minor repairs as soon as any wear becomes evident. Investing a little time upfront will ensure your cover lasts its full lifespan!