Vinyl tonneau covers are a popular choice for truck owners looking to protect their cargo area. However, vinyl can be prone to cracking over time from exposure to sun, dirt, and stress. Cracking not only looks unsightly but can lead to leaking and other problems. Luckily, there are steps you can take to stop your vinyl tonneau cover from cracking and extend its life.
Why Does Vinyl Tonneau Cover Crack?
Vinyl tonneau covers crack for a few key reasons:
Exposure to UV rays from sunlight causes vinyl to dry out and become brittle. This leads to small stress cracks that expand over time. Parking in direct sun speeds up the UV damage.
Dirt and Grime
Dirt, dust, sap, and other grime baking on the vinyl leads to staining and oxidation. Bird droppings are particularly damaging due to their acidic nature.
Using harsh cleaners, chemical solvents, or abrasive tools can degrade vinyl over frequent washing. Petroleum-based products like armor all can dry out vinyl.
If the vinyl isn’t pulled taut during installation, it can develop wrinkles and loose areas prone to cracking from wind stress.
Normal Wear and Tear
Opening, closing, and driving with the tonneau will stress the vinyl over thousands of cycles. Mounting hardware and friction with the rails adds more stress.
How Can I Prevent My Vinyl Tonneau Cover From Cracking?
You can greatly extend the life of your vinyl tonneau and prevent unsightly cracking by:
- Wash every 2-4 weeks with a mild soap and soft cloth, rinse thoroughly.
- Avoid dish soaps which can strip protective coatings.
- Use a vinyl protectant spray to add UV protection.
- Open, close, and handle the cover with care per instructions.
- Install correctly with proper tension to prevent flapping.
- Avoid resting heavy objects on the vinyl surface.
- Park in shade or use a sun shade to reduce UV exposure.
- Face the rear of the truck away from prevailing winds.
- Use specialized vinyl cleaners and conditioners. Avoid petroleum products.
- Choose reputable brands known for quality vinyl and durable hardware.
Fix Small Cracks
- Repair cracks up to 2 inches with vinyl repair kits before they spread.
- Replace the cover once cracks exceed repair kit capabilities.
What is the Best Way to Clean Vinyl Tonneau Covers?
Cleaning your vinyl tonneau regularly is important preventative maintenance. Follow these tips:
Inspect and Remove Debris
- Brush off loose dirt or other debris before washing.
- Check for sap, bird droppings, grime buildup to treat separately.
Wash with Specialized Cleaner
- Use a mild soap made for vinyl like 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner.
- Soft brush attachment on a hose nozzle can help provide gentle agitation.
- Rinse thoroughly to avoid residue.
Spot Treat Stubborn Stains
- Bird droppings should be washed off quickly before they etch the vinyl.
- Sap and grime may need an all-purpose cleaner or diluted isopropyl alcohol.
Protect and Condition
- Wipe surface dry and apply a UV protectant like 303 Aerospace Protectant.
- Conditioners fill micro cracks and replenish oils for flexibility.
Check Hardware and Seals
- Inspect tailgate seals, hinges, latches for worn parts or leaks to address.
Proper cleaning removes damaging contaminants while protecting the vinyl from further environmental damage. Be sure to use automotive grade cleaners designed specifically for vinyl.
How Do You Repair Cracks in Vinyl Tonneau Covers?
If cracks do develop in your vinyl tonneau cover, prompt repair can help stop them from worsening. Here are some DIY repair options:
Clean and Dry the Area
- Wash and thoroughly dry the affected area so adhesives bond properly.
Apply Self-Adhesive Patches
- Vinyl repair kits come with patches that bond to clean vinyl.
- Apply to cracks up to 2 inches long per kit instructions.
Use Vinyl Adhesive
- For longer seams or tears, vinyl adhesive creates a permanent flexible bond.
- Apply evenly along the entire crack and smooth gently.
Repair Kits with Heat Bonding
- Some kits use heat activated bonding for a super strong patch.
- Requires a heat gun or hair dryer to melt the adhesive backing.
Replace Vinyl Sections
- For large damaged areas greater than 4 inches, replace vinyl sections.
- Use adhesive promoter and vinyl cement for best bond.
Addressing cracks quickly with vinyl friendly adhesives can restore your tonneau’s appearance and prevent further cracking. But once cracks exceed repair kit limits, replacing the vinyl may be needed.
What Steps Should I Take to Improve Tonneau Cover Longevity?
You can maximize the lifespan of your vinyl tonneau cover by taking proactive steps to care for it:
- Follow instructions to keep vinyl smooth with proper tension.
- Periodically check clamps, bolts, hinges for looseness over time.
- Shade from trees, buildings, or windshield sun screens helps block UV rays.
- Face rear of truck away from strong winds and road debris when possible.
Wash and Condition Regularly
- Monthly cleaning prevents damaging buildup.
- Use cleaners and protectants specifically made for tonneau vinyl.
Handle with Care
- Open, close, and fasten the cover properly per instructions.
- Avoid resting heavy objects on the vinyl that could cause impressions.
Make Minor Repairs
- Apply self-adhesive patches to small cracks when they first appear.
- Catching it early prevents propagation and more costly fixes.
- Consider metal brackets or stainless steel hardware to avoid rust and wear.
- Lubricate hinges, clamps, and tracks periodically.
Taking steps to clean, protect, and handle your tonneau cover with care will help stop cracks and add years of life. Be diligent about repairs and upgrades to maximize longevity.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cracking Vinyl Tonneau Covers
What causes white spots on my vinyl tonneau cover?
White spots are typically caused by mineral deposits in tap water that are left behind when the water dries. Use distilled water or a vinyl protectant to help prevent water spotting.
Why does my tonneau pool water?
Poor drainage will cause water to pool, stretching the vinyl. Ensure the cover is installed flat and the drain tubes are clear. Adjust the tension if sagging occurs.
Can I use petroleum jelly on vinyl tonneau covers?
No, petroleum products like Vaseline should be avoided since they can break down vinyl over time, leading to cracking. Use tonneau-specific vinyl conditioners instead.
Will my tonneau cover leak with cracks?
Once cracks form, your tonneau is more prone to leaking in heavy rain. Repair kits can seal small cracks, but larger ones will require professional vinyl patching or replacement.
Can I use armor all protectant on my tonneau?
Armor all is not recommended for tonneau covers since it can dry out and damage the vinyl. Specialized vinyl protectants like 303 Aerospace Protectant are safer alternatives.
Cracking is a common issue with vinyl tonneau covers, but taking proactive maintenance steps can significantly extend their lifespan. Address small cracks quickly and care for your cover properly to get the most out of your investment.