Pickup truck bed covers, also known as tonneau covers, are a great way to protect cargo and improve gas mileage. However, driving with a loose or poorly installed cover can result in annoying flapping, whistling, and other noises that can drive you crazy on the road. Here’s a deep dive into the causes of a noisy tonneau and how to stop the racket for good.
Inspect Cover Installation and Fit
The most common source of driving noise from a tonneau cover is an ill-fitting or improperly installed cover. Here are some key things to check:
Ensure Proper Cover Style
- Make sure you have the right type of cover for your truck. Soft roll-up covers and vinyl tri-folds are more prone to flapping than hard folding covers. Ensure the cover you have installed is designed to minimize noise at driving speeds.
Check for Looseness
- Inspect the cover and look for any looseness or gaps, especially along the sides, tailgate, rails, and rear cab. Loose or poorly fitted covers will flap and whistle from wind force when driving.
Verify Attachment Method
- Covers attach in various ways like clamps, rails, snaps, Velcro, etc. Make sure all attachment components are tightened down securely according to instructions. Any loose fasteners can lead to a vibrating, noisy cover.
- Many covers have tension cables, straps, or bows to keep the cover taut. Check that these tensioning components are adjusted properly and not too loose.
Test for Movement
- Have a friend observe the cover while you drive at moderate speed. If they see the cover flapping, vibrating, or whistling, there are likely fit issues causing the noise.
Check Seals and Gaskets
- Seals or gaskets that run along the sides, tailgate, and cab may become loose or deteriorate over time. Replace damaged seals to prevent whistling from air leaks.
Carefully inspecting cover installation is the first step to diagnosing and eliminating driving noise. If all looks good, further investigation may be needed.
Address Underlying Vehicle Issues
In some cases, cover noise may result from other problems with the truck rather than the cover itself. Consider these possibilities:
- Parts underneath like a loose tailgate, bed panels, bumper, or defective latches can all cause the cover to vibrate while driving. Have a mechanic inspect and tighten chassis components as needed.
Damaged Body Panels
- Dents, gaps, or bent metal in the bed sides, tailgate or cab can lead to poor cover fit. Address body damage or alignment issues to improve cover attachment.
- Aftermarket cab deflectors may interfere with cover fit at the cab. Adjust or remove deflectors if they are causing cover flap.
- Certain overhead roof rack systems can create turbulence that leads to cover noise. Consider removing the racks as a test.
Truck Bed Accessories
- Items like bed rail caps, lights, tie downs, and power inverters can all potentially interfere with proper cover alignment and attachment, causing noise issues.
Inspect around the cover installation area and truck body thoroughly to identify anything that could be indirectly causing the cover to make noise while driving. Resolving those other issues may provide a fix.
Choose the Right Cover
If your current cover seems prone to driving noise despite proper installation, it may be time to consider switching to a different cover that is designed to stay quiet on the road. Here are some cover considerations:
Hard vs Soft
- Hard covers like retractable, folding, and solid lid models tend to offer the quietest operation while driving, resisting wind flap and vibration. Soft covers are more prone to driving noise issues.
Roll-Up vs Tri-Fold
- Roll-up covers can be noisy as wind catches the vinyl along the length of the cover. Tri-fold covers segment that vinyl surface into hinged panels that are less affected by airflow.
- Research brand reputation for noise specifically. Covers from Retrax, BakFlip, and UnderCover tend to be highly rated for minimizing driving noise.
- Look for thick, rigid panels on folding covers and thick vinyl on roll-ups. Covers with premium materials and robust construction tend to stay quieter at highway speeds.
Choosing a cover designed for quiet operation can help resolve persistent noise issues experienced with soft covers or budget models not built for noise reduction. Investing in a premium retractable or tri-fold tonneau is often the solution.
Perform Regular Maintenance
To prevent cover noise from developing over time, be diligent about performing regular maintenance and inspection of your cover:
- Periodically check clamps, bolts, rails, snaps and other attachment components to ensure they are tight and secure. Look for signs of loosening.
Check Seals and Gaskets
- Examine seals around the perimeter and ensure they are intact and pliable. Replace any seals that are damaged, cracked or leaking air.
Clean the Cover
- Dirt buildup, debris, bird droppings, and grime on the cover surface can interfere with smooth operation. Perform regular cleaning.
Adjust and Tighten
- Over time, tensioning components like straps, cables and latches may need to be adjusted or tightened to maintain proper fit.
Lubricate Moving Parts
- Keep hinges on folding covers and canister rollers on retractables lubricated to prevent sticking and uneven movement.
- Use vinyl protectant sprays to keep vinyl pliable and strong, preventing cracking or wearing that leads to flapping.
Staying vigilant with basic tonneau maintenance helps ensure years of rattle-free, quiet driving with your cover. Addressing problems early prevents bigger issues down the road.
DIY Noise Reduction Solutions
If you need to quickly address a tonneau cover that is flapping and making noise at highway speeds, here are some effective DIY fixes:
Lubricate Rubbing Surfaces
- Use silicone spray on surfaces where cover fabric or vinyl rubs against rails, bed sides or tailgate to quiet friction noise.
Tighten Up Gaps
- Self-adhesive foam strips can help seal gaps along rails or at tailgate/cab junctions that cause wind whistle.
- Strategically placed Velcro strips on loose cover corners or sections can eliminate flapping noise.
- Securing loose cover edges with bungee cords during highway driving prevents wind flap vibration and noise.
- A temporary fix – use heavy duct tape to tighten small gaps where wind whistles through.
With a few DIY tricks, you can often troubleshoot cover noise issues in a pinch. But long term, addressing underlying installation problems or getting a new cover designed for quiet operation is best.
Questions for Truck Owners with Noisy Tonneau Covers
Here are some key questions for pickup owners struggling with a tonneau cover that flaps and makes noise while driving:
What Type of Cover Do You Have?
- Soft, roll-up, vinyl covers tend to be noisier than hard folding or retractable covers. The cover design may be the root cause.
When Did the Noise Start?
- If noise developed gradually, attachment issues are likely the culprit. Sudden onset could indicate damage or a loose part.
Under What Conditions is the Noise Worst?
- Cover noise at high speeds indicates wind flap. Noise when starting from a stop could mean loose chassis components.
Does the Noise Worsen Over Time?
- Noise that increases on longer trips signals a cover loosening from vibration and needing re-tightening or tension adjustment.
Does Anything Reduce the Noise?
- If tightening clamps, straps or seals decreases noise, it zeroes in on the solution. No change points to an incompatible cover.
Have You Inspected the Attachment Components?
- Make sure to check clamps, bolts, snaps, rails, seals and tension components to identify any looseness causing noise.
By answering these questions, truck owners can better pinpoint the factor allowing the cover to make noise on the road, whether installation issues, vehicle problems, or just an incompatible cover design. This leads to faster resolution.
Professional Assistance for Persistent Tonneau Noise
For pickup owners who have thoroughly inspected their cover installation and made adjustments but still battle noise issues while driving, seeking professional assistance is the next step. There are options to quiet things down:
Return to the Dealer
- Many tonneau dealers offer professional installation services. Bring it back to the experts to ensure proper, noise-free fit.
Local Truck Accessory Shop
- Visiting reputable truck outfitters can provide another set of experienced eyes to identify issues and fine-tune your cover installation.
- If truck mechanical issues like body alignment or loose chassis components are causing the noise, a mechanic can make necessary repairs.
- Contact the cover maker directly for troubleshooting tips or to order replacement parts like clamps, seals or gaskets to eliminate noise.
- Search for mobile tonneau installers in your area to come out and professionally diagnose and address the noise problem.
While most cover noise can be fixed with DIY adjustment, sometimes you need a truck pro to resolve persistent noise issues. Seeking professional help ensures your cover finally operates noise-free.
Don’t Tolerate a Noisy Tonneau
Driving a pickup truck does not have to mean noisy flapping and whistling from a loose cover. With the right cover properly installed and maintained, your tonneau should provide silent protection against the elements. Follow the tips here to stop cover noise for good and enjoy a peaceful ride. And if your cover continues to make noise even after troubleshooting, replace it with a premium tri-fold, retractable or other cover designed with quiet performance in mind. Don’t tolerate noise – a quiet tonneau makes all the difference, and options exist to fit any budget. You and your cargo will stay protected in peace and quiet.