Tonneau covers are a great way to protect the truck bed and cargo from weather damage. But over time, the vinyl material can start to fade, dry out, or crack. Using a vinyl conditioner can help restore and maintain your tonneau cover, but is it safe for all types of covers? Here’s what you need to know about using vinyl conditioners on tonneau covers.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Vinyl Conditioner On A Tonneau Cover?
Using a high-quality vinyl conditioner on a tonneau cover provides several benefits:
Restores Faded Or Dry Vinyl
If your tonneau cover vinyl is starting to look faded or dry, a vinyl conditioner can help restore some of that color and luster. It moisturizes and rejuvenates the vinyl to make it look new again.
Protects Against UV Damage
Vinyl conditioners usually contain UV inhibitors that help protect the tonneau cover from damaging ultraviolet rays. This can prevent fading and cracking over time.
Creates A Protective Barrier
Quality vinyl conditioners leave behind a protective layer that shields the vinyl from pollutants, sap, dirt, and other contaminants. This barrier makes it easier to clean and maintain the cover.
By keeping the vinyl supple and flexible, vinyl conditioners help prevent cracking and splitting seams that can allow water to leak through.
Extends The Life Of The Cover
Using a vinyl conditioner provides all around protection and care to help your tonneau cover last longer before needing a replacement.
So in general, vinyl conditioners are very beneficial for tonneau cover maintenance and longevity. But it’s important to choose the right product.
Are All Vinyl Conditioners Safe For Tonneau Covers?
Not all vinyl conditioners are created equal when it comes to tonneau cover safety. Here are some things to look out for:
Some vinyl conditioners contain silicone which can cause vinyl to become gummy or sticky. It can also attract dirt and debris. Silicone-heavy conditioners are not recommended for tonneau covers.
Some conditioners use petroleum distillates as a softening agent. While these may work well on car tires and vinyl car seats, petroleum ingredients can cause vinyl tonneau covers to shrink or harden over time.
Citrus degreasers and conditioners rely on d-limonene as the active ingredient. While great for cleaning, limonene can break down the chemical bonds in vinyl tonneau covers causing brittleness.
Strong solvents like alcohol, mineral spirits, acetone, and turpentine help clean vinyl but are too harsh for routine conditioning. They can dry out and weaken tonneau cover vinyl with repeated use.
So you want to avoid vinyl conditioners with these problematic ingredients. Read labels carefully and look for tonneau cover-specific products instead.
What Are The Best Vinyl Conditioners For Tonneau Covers?
The safest and most effective vinyl conditioners for tonneau covers are water-based products free of silicone, petroleum, citrus oils, and harsh solvents. Here are some good options:
303 Aerospace Protectant
This is a non-toxic water-based formula that’s safe for tonneau covers. It blocks UV rays, repels dust and stains, and prevents fading and cracks. 303 Aerospace Protectant keeps vinyl covers looking new without leaving behind oily residues.
TruXedo Pro-Tex Cleaner
Specially formulated for TruXedo soft covers, this cleaner conditions vinyl while safely removing mold, mildew, dirt, and grease. It contains no petroleum or silicone and leaves behind UV inhibitors to prevent fading and drying.
Mex Rax Vinyl Conditioner
This ph-balanced, biodegradable formula is designed specifically for tonneau covers. It moisturizes vinyl and rallies the vinyl grain for increased water resistance and durability. The conditioner prevents cracking and fading.
Wolfgang Vinyl Conditioner
A salon-grade conditioner safe for car and truck vinyl. This premium lotion contains UV blockers and polymers to restore luster, strengthen vinyl, and protect against environmental damage. Won’t harm tonneau covers.
Chemical Guys Leather Conditioner and Cleaner
Despite the name, this eco-friendly cleaner and conditioner is safe for tonneau cover vinyl. The citrus-free formula moisturizes, protects, and restores vinyl while preventing drying and cracking.
So look for specialty tonneau cover products or gentle water-based vinyl conditioners free of silicone, citrus, and petroleum. Always test conditioners on a small hidden area first before applying to the entire cover.
How Should You Apply A Vinyl Conditioner To A Tonneau Cover?
Take the following precautions when conditioning your tonneau cover vinyl:
Read The Instructions
Follow manufacturer’s directions for best results. From cleaning the vinyl first to letting it fully dry before reinstalling your cover, its best to follow their step-by-step guidance.
Work In A Shady Area
Heat and sun can cause vinyl conditioners to evaporate too quickly before they have a chance to penetrate and work. Park in the shade and do smaller sections at a time.
Use A Soft Cloth
Microfiber cloths work best to gently apply conditioner over the entire vinyl surface. Avoid using brushes or abrasive pads.
Buff Off Residue
Don’t let conditioner puddle or build up on the vinyl. Buff off any excess for a thin, even coat.
Go Light With Initial Coats
It’s better to start with very light, thin coats of conditioner. You can always add additional coats for increased protection and shine.
Let Fully Dry
Before folding up, rolling, or installing your cover, let the vinyl fully dry after conditioning. Check manufacturer’s dry time estimate.
Reapply As Needed
How often you need to reapply a vinyl conditioner depends on climate and exposure. Every 3-6 months is a good rule of thumb for tonneau covers in regular use.
Are There Any Risks With Using A Vinyl Conditioner?
When used properly, high-quality vinyl conditioners are safe for tonneau covers. However, a few risks include:
Using The Wrong Product
As discussed above, using a vinyl conditioner with silicone, petroleum, harsh solvents or citrus oils can actually damage the vinyl over time. Always read labels carefully.
It is possible to oversaturate the vinyl if you apply too much conditioner or don’t fully buff off residue before it dries. This can leave the cover gummy and attract dirt. Moderation is key.
Trapping Moisture Against Vinyl
If you roll up, fold, or install a cover before it’s completely dry, trapped conditioner moisture could potentially lead to mildew growth on the underside.
Interfering With Proper Fit
Over time, over-conditioning could theoretically cause vinyl to expand and distort, impacting the fit of covers like snap-on styles. But this would take a lot of buildup.
So just use high-quality conditioners made specifically for tonneau covers per the manufacturer’s recommendations, and you should have no issues keeping your cover protected and looking like new. Perform regular vinyl care and your cover should last for years!
What About Using Conditioners On Tonneau Cover Seams and Snaps?
In addition to the vinyl top surface, you also need to take care of seams, folds, and hardware underneath tonneau covers. Here are some tips:
Use Silicone Lubricant On Snaps
A small dab of silicone lubricant on snaps and pivot points prevents squeaking and sticking, allowing smooth opening and closing.
Try Sealant On Seams
For seams that leak, special vinyl sealants fill gaps and create a watertight barrier. Let fully cure before reinstalling cover.
Clean Velcro And Fraying
Use a stiff brush and mild soap solution to clean dusty, dirty Velcro. Fraying edges can be sealed with a flameless vinyl repair kit.
Check For Rust On Metal Parts
Use a vinyl/plastic compatible rust inhibitor spray to prevent corroded snaps, clasps, and frames if rust spots start to appear.
So be sure to care for all aspects of your vinyl tonneau cover – top, bottom, and hardware too! With the right tonneau-specific vinyl conditioner and regular maintenance, you can safely keep your cover looking and performing like new for years of reliable service.
Additional Tonneau Cover Care and Maintenance Tips
Beyond using a quality vinyl conditioner, here are some other tips for tonneau cover care and maintenance:
Use a mild soap and soft cloth or sponge to keep your cover clean. Avoid harsh abrasives. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.
Inspect For Damage
Check for cracks, rips, loose stitching, rust, etc. and repair immediately to prevent bigger problems.
Use silicone spray to keep hinges, slides, and other moving parts operating smoothly.
Ensure clamps, latches, and other hardware are tightened properly so the cover remains secure and aligned.
Park In The Shade
When possible, get your truck and cover out of direct sun and extreme heat which can accelerate vinyl fading and drying.
Use A Cover
For long-term protection during storage, use a breathable cover specifically sized for your truck bed when cover is off.
Never Use Harsh Chemicals
Avoid things like tire cleaners, bleach, citrus degreasers, and abrasive wash brushes which can permanently mar the vinyl.
With the proper care and maintenance, your tonneau cover will last for years and continue protecting your truck bed in all conditions. Just be sure to use the right tonneau-recommended vinyl conditioner and keep your cover clean!