Canister system tonneau covers are a popular type of truck bed cover that roll up into a canister at the front of the truck bed. However, like any frequently used truck accessory, these covers can eventually develop cracks from wear and tear. Stress cracks typically form along the canister housing or side rails. So how do you properly repair cracks in a canister system tonneau cover? Here are some effective methods.
What causes stress cracks in canister system tonneau covers?
There are a few common reasons canister system tonneau covers develop stress cracks:
Frequent opening and closing
The constant rolling up and retracting of the vinyl cover into the canister housing can cause cracks over time. The frequent motion puts strain on the components.
Dropping heavy objects on the cover, trailers rubbing against it, and general impacts can cause exterior cracks.
Exposure to elements
Years of sun, rain, snow, and temperature extremes take a toll on the materials, making them more prone to cracking.
Lack of lubrication on the tracks or failing to clean the cover can allow dirt and debris to build up, resulting in excessive wear.
Can you prevent cracks in canister tonneaus?
While it’s difficult to prevent canister system cracks entirely, there are some things you can do to extend the life of your cover:
Keep the canister track lubricated with silicone spray to prevent excessive friction.
Handle with care
Try not to drop heavy items on the cover. Avoid dragging objects across it.
Park in shade
When possible, park your truck in a garage or shaded area to limit sun exposure and extreme heat.
Wash the cover and clean out the canister track to prevent debris buildup.
Inspect for damage
Check for cracks frequently and repair them as soon as you notice an issue.
What are the best ways to repair cracks?
If cracks do develop in your canister housing or rails, here are some effective DIY repair methods:
Fiberglass cloth and resin
- Sand the damaged area with 100 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface.
- Cut fiberglass cloth to fit over the crack and surrounding area.
- Mix polyester resin thoroughly and apply it liberally over the crack and fiberglass.
- Allow to fully cure for several hours before handling.
Plastic welding compound
- Use 100 grit sandpaper to open the crack into a V shape.
- Apply a plastic repair compound like Devcon Plastic Welder or Loctite Plastics Bonding System into the crack.
- Allow to cure fully per product instructions, usually 24 hours.
- Open crack into a V with a rotary tool, sandpaper, or scraper.
- Clean area thoroughly with alcohol.
- Fill crack with epoxy adhesive like JB Weld or Loctite Epoxy.
- Clamp pieces together until adhesive cures fully, usually 24-48 hours.
Fiberglass repair tape
- Sand damaged area to rough up surface.
- Cut fiberglass repair tape to size and apply over crack.
- Brush resin thoroughly over tape and allow to cure.
Weld with plastic filler rod
- Use a soldering iron to weld plastic filler rod into cracks and holes.
- Sand smooth once cooled. Can be painted for color match.
Tips for proper canister system tonneau repair
To ensure your tonneau cover repair is long-lasting, follow these tips:
- Completely clean and dry area before applying any repair product. Remove grease, dirt and debris.
- Be sure to open/rough up crack enough and fill entire gap so repair adheres properly.
- Allow full recommended cure times for repair products before handling cover. insufficient curing will weaken the repair.
- Sand and paint repairs for best durability and seamless appearance.
- If cracking reoccurs frequently in the same area, consider reinforcing from underneath with a metal plate.
- For large cracks, associated hardware repairs may also be needed, like replacing end caps or gaskets.
- Use plastic epoxy and adhesives safe for vinyl materials. Avoid harsh chemical products.
- Follow all safety precautions when using power tools, sanders, primers, resins, etc. Wear gloves and eye protection.
- Consider hiring a professional for structural cracking that affects the cover track system rails or canister housing.
When to replace vs repair your canister tonneau
For minor surface cracks less than 2-3 inches, DIY repairs are often possible. However, for long splits or cracks wider than 1/4 inch, replacement may be a better option than continually repairing the cover.
Consider replacing your canister system tonneau if:
- Cracks exceed 3 inches or cover more than 20% of the surface.
- The vinyl is warped, badly sun-damaged, or ripped in multiple spots.
- Hardware, rails, or canister housing have extensive damage.
- Repairs have failed repeatedly and cracking keeps returning.
- You want to upgrade to a newer, heavier duty model.
While repairs can extend the usefulness of your roll up tonneau for awhile, eventually replacement will be required. Evaluate the extent of damage and determine if it’s worth investing more money into repairs or time to replace.
Canister system tonneau covers are prone to cracking over time, especially with frequent use. But there are several effective DIY methods to repair stress cracks in the aluminum housing, vinyl cover, and side rails. Small cracks can be mended with plastic filler rods, epoxy, fiberglass cloth, or plastic welding compounds. Just be sure to prep the area properly and allow adequate curing time.
Minor repairs can restore the performance and appearance of your roll up truck bed cover, avoiding the cost of replacement. However, severe damage will likely necessitate installing a new canister system tonneau. With proper care and maintenance, you can maximize the lifespan of your cover. But know when to call it quits and invest in a fresh start with a new heavy duty model. Your truck’s cargo will stay protected from the elements for years to come.