A tonneau cover is an important accessory for any pickup truck, providing protection, security, and improved gas mileage. However, over time wear and tear can occur, including tearing around the mounting bolts. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the common causes of tearing around tonneau cover mounting bolts and how to prevent it.
What Are the Main Causes of Tearing Around the Bolts?
There are several key reasons tearing can happen around the mounting bolts that secure the tonneau cover to the truck bed:
Rust Buildup Around Bolts
- Rust is enemy #1 when it comes to tonneau cover mounts. Rain, snow and road salt can cause rust to form on the mounting bolts if they are not properly cared for.
- As rust builds up around the bolts, it can cause seizing and corrosion. This makes the bolts extremely difficult to remove when you need to take the cover off.
- Excessive force used trying to remove rusted bolts can lead to tearing around the mounting holes in the cover.
- Using a rust penetrating lubricant like PB Blaster on the bolts can help avoid seizing and make removal easier.
Loose Mounting Parts
- If any of the clamps, bolts, brackets or other mounting hardware underneath the tonneau becomes loose over time, it allows too much movement.
- This movement and “play” in the mounting system leads to the cover shifting back and forth slightly during driving.
- The cover rubbing on the mounting bolts with thousands of small movements can eventually cause fraying and tearing near the mounting holes.
- Checking for any loose mounting components during regular tonneau maintenance and tightening when needed helps avoid this.
- If the tonneau cover is not installed properly and securely in the first place, it puts stress on the mounting locations.
- Bolts that are overtightened or undertightened lead to extra tension on the cover material around the mounts.
- Likewise, misaligned mounting brackets or rails also add abnormal forces.
- This constant strain leads to premature tearing around the bolt holes.
- Carefully following the installation instructions can help prevent improper mounting.
Missing Mounting Hardware
- If any bolts, clamps or other mounting components are missing, it allows the cover to shift and move excessively.
- This abnormal movement leads to tearing around the remaining mounting bolts as the cover is not properly secured.
- Missing mounting hardware can happen over time as parts vibrate loose or get knocked off accidentally when taking the cover on and off.
- Regular inspections of all mounting components helps identify any missing pieces so they can be replaced.
Careless Handling of the Cover
- Carelessly removing the tonneau or letting it fall shut instead of slowly lowering can damage the cover over time.
- Likewise, roughly handling the cover when installing or removing leads to microscopic tearing that worsens gradually.
- This damage around the stress points like bolt holes can ultimately lead to visible tearing and holes.
- Exercising care when operating the cover and handling it during removal avoids unnecessary wear.
How Can I Prevent Tearing Around the Mounting Bolts?
While tearing around the mounting bolts is common, there are many preventative maintenance steps you can take to avoid it:
Keep the Mounting Bolts Rust-Free
- Apply corrosion resistant sprays or lubricants regularly to the mounting bolts to avoid seizing. PB Blaster works great.
- Hand-wash the mounting bolts when washing your truck to prevent road salt buildup.
- Wax or seal the bolts occasionally as an added protectant layer against rust.
- Check the bolts for rust buildup or corrosion periodically and treat any problem areas immediately to avoid seizing.
Ensure Mounting Parts Are Tight
- When installing the cover, carefully follow directions and torque all clamps, bolts, and brackets to spec.
- Visually inspect mounting parts for looseness before driving, especially after initially installing the cover.
- Every month, check under the cover and ensure all mounting hardware is still tight. Tighten anything loose.
- For retractable covers, also check the canister, rails, and end caps for any loose pieces and tighten as needed.
- This prevents the small movements that can cause tearing.
Install Properly from the Start
- Don’t take shortcuts – carefully follow all manufacturer directions during first-time installation.
- Use shims if needed to account for bed rail gaps or other inconsistencies in the bed.
- Have a second set of hands to help with alignment and preventing overtightening during install.
- Take your time and periodically check alignment and fit as you go.
- This avoids abnormal forces on the cover that lead to tearing over time.
Never Drive Missing Any Mounting Hardware
- If you notice a missing bolt, clamp, or bracket don’t ignore it. Replace it before operating the cover.
- Inspect mounting components every time you remove the cover. Replace anything missing immediately.
- For soft covers, also check the horizontal crossbars that sit on the bed rails for any stripped out or missing bolts.
- Driving without properly secured mounting hardware guarantees eventual tearing.
Handle the Cover With Care
- Don’t let the cover slam shut. Always slowly and smoothly lower it closed.
- When opening retractable covers, gently and evenly pull to avoid stressing the material.
- Avoid shifting cargo against the cover fabric excessively. Use corner protectors if needed.
- Follow the manufacturer cleaning directions to avoid damaging the fabric. Don’t use harsh chemicals.
- Being cautious operating the cover prevents microscopic damage that worsens over time.
Fixing Tears Around the Mounting Bolts
If you do experience tearing around the mounting bolts, here are some tips to repair it:
For Vinyl Covers
- For small vinyl tears, use an adhesive vinyl repair kit to patch holes. Larger holes or seams may need professional patching.
- Loose vinyl can be re-secured to the cover frame using automotive trim adhesive. Don’t over-apply.
- Badly torn vinyl panels likely need complete replacement. Most manufacturers sell replacement vinyl cover pieces.
- Sewing tears can work as a temporary fix but doesn’t look very neat. Only recommended for small tears.
For Retractable Covers
- Use vinyl repair kits to patch small tears on the canister side panels or between crossbars.
- Badly torn corner material may need a new replacement panel. Verify the tear is not under warranty first.
- Lubricate the rails and ball-bearings if cover is hard to open and close. This prevents further tearing from forcing.
- Adjusting the rail tension may allow retracting with less stress on the vinyl to prevent new tears.
For Hardshell Covers
- For fiberglass covers, professional patching kits are available to mend small cracks or holes.
- Tears around the mounting bolts on folding covers can be patched with reinforced vinyl tape.
- Severely cracked fiberglass panels often need total replacement. Hinge bushings may also need replacement.
- Keep hinges lubricated on folding covers to prevent further cracking from the tension.
When to Replace the Entire Cover
If tearing and seam failures become widespread across the entire cover:
- It may be time to replace the entire cover instead of continual repairs.
- Constant need for repairs usually indicates irreversible material failure.
- Severe cracking, crumbling, warped panels, and totally failed seals are all signs to replace fully.
- Compare costs – continual repairs can exceed replacement cost on cheaper covers.
- Improper use, age, or environmental damage reach a point where overall replacement is needed.
Tearing around the tonneau cover mounting bolts is a common frustration. But with proper installation, maintenance, and care you can significantly extend the life of your cover and prevent premature failure around the mounts. Follow the tips in this article to stop annoying tearing and get the maximum usage from your tonneau investment. With the right preventative care, your cover should last for many years and miles of reliable service protecting your truck’s cargo area.