Having your tonneau cover blow open while driving on the highway can be a frightening and dangerous experience. Not only can it damage your cover and allow debris to fly out, but it can also obstruct your rear view and allow rain or snow into the truck bed. Fortunately, with some preventative measures and proper maintenance, you can keep your tonneau cover securely shut while driving at high speeds.
Why Tonneau Covers Open on the Highway
Tonneau covers can open while driving for a few key reasons:
If the cover is not properly aligned and fastened per the manufacturer’s instructions, it may not be secured tightly enough. This can allow it to vibrate loose and pop open under high wind forces.
Damaged or Worn Components
Over time, things like hinges, latches, and fabric can become damaged or worn out. This allows the cover to sag or develop gaps, making it more likely to catch air and open up.
High Wind Forces
The faster your drive, the more wind passes over the tonneau cover. At highway speeds, the wind can apply hundreds of pounds of force to the cover, potentially overpowering insecure latches or seals.
If the cover latch is not fully locked in place, the wind force can cause it to pop open. Older latches may also lose their spring tension over time.
Tips to Prevent Tonneau Cover Opening
Luckily, there are many things you can do to make sure your tonneau stays securely closed on the highway:
Ensure Proper Installation
Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions to align the cover and tighten all clamps, bolts, and latches to spec. Improper installation is a top cause of highway tonneau failures.
Inspect and Repair Any Damage
Regularly check the hinges, fabric, seals, latches, and mounting hardware for damage. Repair any issues immediately to prevent further problems.
Lubricate and Maintain Components
Keep hinges, seals, and latches cleaned and lubricated to prevent wear, cracking, and loss of effectiveness.
Check Latch Operation
Test the latches to ensure they snap tightly into place without extra effort needed. Replace any weak or worn latches.
Use Additional Fasteners
Consider adding extra fasteners like velcro straps or snap-on tie downs to provide secondary security in case the main latches fail.
Drive at Reasonable Speeds
The faster you drive, the more force the tonneau must withstand. When feasible, keeping your speed under 75 mph can significantly reduce the wind forces acting on the cover.
Avoid Carrying Tall Cargo
Items that rise above the bed sides act like sails, catching more wind that can pry the cover open. Keep cargo low for better highway stability.
Step-by-Step Inspection and Maintenance
To maximize tonneau cover security on the highway, follow this checklist:
Step 1 – Visually Inspect Overall Condition
Look for any sagging fabric, damaged hinges, cracked latches, gaps at the tailgate, bent rails, or torn seals. Make repairs as needed.
Step 2 – Check Latch Operation
Open and close the cover while testing each latch. Make sure they snap closed tightly without extra force required. Replace worn parts.
Step 3 – Confirm Proper Installation
Remove the cover and ensure all clamps, bolts, and rails are tight per spec. Realign any components not properly positioned.
Step 4 – Clean and Lubricate
Use mild soap and water to clean the fabric, seals, hinges and hardware. Lubricate tabs and bushings with silicone spray.
Step 5 – Inspect Seals and Adjust
Look for any warped, loose, or torn seals, and replace if damaged. Tighten cover clamps gradually until seals compress without buckling.
Step 6 – Add Secondary Fasteners
For extra assurance, install temporary snaps, straps, or tie downs across the cover between the front and tailgate.
Step 7 – Confirm Latches Lock Tightly
With the secondary fasteners in place, latch the cover and vigorously shake it to confirm the latches are fully engaged. Remove fasteners when done.
Step 8 – Do a Test Drive
Drive at 45-50 mph with the secondary fasteners attached. Make sure the cover remains secure. Increase speed gradually as comfort allows.
By thoroughly inspecting and maintaining your tonneau cover using these tips, you can have confidence that it will remain firmly shut no matter the highway speeds. Always stay alert and pull over if you ever hear flapping or feel the cover trying to open. Taking preventative action will allow you to drive worry-free and avoid a hazardous open cover situation.
FAQs About Tonneau Covers Opening on the Highway
Can driving with the tonneau cover open damage it?
Yes, allowing your tonneau to flap open at highway speeds can definitely damage it. The wind force can bend rails, tear fabric, crack latches, and apply stress to components not designed for such conditions. Always secure or remove the cover before trailering or high speed driving.
What is the fastest you should drive with a tonneau cover?
It depends on the specific cover, but in general try to keep speeds under 75 mph with a secure, properly maintained tonneau. Higher speeds greatly increase wind forces, so drive faster at your own risk.
Do hard covers stay closed better than soft covers on the highway?
Typically yes, since hard covers use stronger materials and locking mechanisms. But soft covers can perform well too if properly installed and secured with additional fasteners.
Should I remove my tonneau cover before driving on the highway?
That is one option, but should not be necessary if you inspect and maintain your cover properly. Driving without the tonneau reduces fuel economy, bed protection and security.
Can I add any devices to help keep my cover closed?
Yes, many aftermarket options like cover locks, straps, or hydraulic struts can add extra security on the highway. Choose products specifically designed for your cover.
What should I do if my cover starts to open on the highway?
Stay calm, reduce speed gradually, and pull over as soon as safely possible. Depending on traffic, you may need to hold the cover closed with one hand while maneuvering to the shoulder.
How do I realign a cover that shifted while driving open?
If the cover rails get bent or joints misaligned from opening on the highway, remove the cover and gently bend components back into position by hand or by tightening mounting hardware.
Can I drive faster with one tonneau cover brand versus another?
It depends – premium brands like BakFlip and Extang tend to have stronger construction and locking mechanisms that may allow slightly higher speeds. But any cover can fail if not properly installed and maintained.
Is a tonneau cover warranty void if the cover opens at high speed?
It depends on the manufacturer’s specific warranty terms. Some warranties exclude damage from high speed driving or improper use. Always review the warranty details closely.
Driving with an open tonneau cover can be dangerous, but thankfully it is easily preventable with proper installation, maintenance, and common sense speed limits. Be proactive and you can confidently keep your tonneau shut and avoid hazards, damage, or lost cargo – even at highway speeds.