Tonneau covers help protect the truck bed and any cargo inside. But is it okay to use vinyl or rubber protectants on these useful truck accessories? Let’s explore this topic in-depth.
What are the Benefits of Using Vinyl/Rubber Protectants on Tonneau Covers?
Vinyl and rubber protectants offer several potential benefits for tonneau covers:
Prevent Fading and Cracking
The UV rays from sunlight can cause vinyl tonneau covers to fade and crack over time. Using UV-resistant vinyl protectants can create a protective barrier to minimize damage from the sun. This helps maintain the cover’s appearance and extends its usable life.
Restore Faded Covers
If your vinyl tonneau cover has already started to fade or show its age, vinyl protectants can often restore color and luster. Using protectants regularly can make an older cover look new again.
Keep Covers Flexible
Vinyl and rubber protectants keep tonneau cover materials supple and flexible. This prevents brittleness and cracking to maintain proper function.
Repel Dirt and Debris
Protectants help vinyl and rubber tonneau covers shed dirt, dust, tree sap, bird droppings, and other debris. This keeps your cover cleaner between full washings.
Protect Against Salt, Acid Rain, Tree Sap
Chemicals and pollutants in the environment can degrade vinyl over time. Using protectants forms a barrier against damage from salt, acid rain, tree sap, and other hazards.
Vinyl protectants contain oils and conditioners that hydrate the material. This keeps it from drying out to prevent shrinkage, brittleness, and cracking.
In addition to preventing fading, protectants help restore luster and provide enhanced UV protection. This keeps your tonneau cover looking new longer.
Are Vinyl/Rubber Protectants Safe for All Tonneau Covers?
Protectants designed for vinyl, rubber, leather, and plastics are generally safe for most tonneau cover materials. However, it’s important to:
- Choose a protectant designed for your specific cover material (vinyl, canvas, rubber, etc.).
- Check your cover manufacturer’s care instructions for any warnings or recommendations about protectant use.
- Spot test an inconspicuous area first before applying any product to the entire cover.
- Avoid petroleum-based products like armor all that could potentially damage vinyl or rubber covers over time.
- Use only as directed and allow proper drying time before closing cover or driving.
As long as you select the proper product and apply it correctly, vinyl/rubber protectants are safe for most tonneau covers. But when in doubt, check your owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer.
What Areas of the Tonneau Cover Should Be Protected?
Any exposed vinyl or rubber components are candidates for protectant use, including:
- The top vinyl cover surface.
- Side flaps, snaps, bows or roll-up areas made of vinyl.
- Seals, hinges, clamps or slats that include rubber gaskets.
- Retractable canister housing and tracks made of vinyl or plastic.
- Rear tailgate seals and bumpers.
Basically, any vinyl or rubber sections that are exposed to the elements can benefit from occasional protectant use. Avoid applying to any interior fabric or carpeting.
How Frequently Should You Apply Vinyl Protectants?
Most tonneau cover manufacturers recommend applying vinyl or rubber protectants every 2-3 months. But frequency depends on:
- Exposure to sun, rain, snow, and other elements.
- Geographical area – more often in extreme climates or coastal regions.
- Mileage driven – covers on long haul trucks need more frequent application.
- Material type – canvas may need more protection than vinyl.
- Existing condition – faded or cracked covers need added moisture.
- Buildup of dirt, debris, bird droppings, tree sap, etc.
Check your cover after rains or messy drives, and reapply protectant anywhere water is no longer beading. Also inspect covers seasonally and before long-term storage.
What Are Some Good Vinyl/Rubber Protectants for Tonneau Covers?
Some top-rated tonneau cover protectants include:
- 303 Aerospace Protectant
- MEGUIAR’S M40 Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner
- CHEMICAL GUYS TVD_109 Silk Shine Sprayable Dressing
- Griot’s Garage Vinyl and Rubber Care
- Truxedo Soft Roll-up Tonneau Cover Cleaner
- Covercraft UV Block-It Tonneau Cover Protector
Look for UV blockers and moisturizers. Avoid oil-based or petroleum products not designed for vinyl.
How Do You Apply Vinyl Protectants to a Tonneau Cover?
Here are some application tips:
- Read all product instructions first and test on a small area.
- Wash and thoroughly dry cover before application.
- Use protectants in a well-ventilated area. Avoid breathing vapors.
- Apply a light mist to a microfiber towel, then wipe onto cover sections.
- Use gentle rubbing motion. Avoid heavy scrubbing or pressure.
- Treat seams, edges, crevices and both sides of vinyl flaps.
- Allow proper curing time before closing cover or driving.
- Re-apply every few months, or when water stops beading on cover.
- Wipe off overspray or excess residue.
Proper application is key to maximizing the benefits while avoiding potential damage to your tonneau cover.
Are There Any Risks of Using Vinyl/Rubber Protectants?
Vinyl and rubber protectants are generally safe when used properly on compatible cover materials. However, risks include:
- Product Damage – Oil-based or petroleum products like Armor All or kerosene can actually degrade vinyl over time. Always verify a product is vinyl-safe.
- Cover Damage – Improper scrubbing or harsh chemicals can damage cover material. Use gentle application and mild, tonneau-specific formulas.
- Residue Buildup – Too much product or inadequate drying time can leave greasy residues that attract dirt. Use sparingly and wipe away any excess.
- Slick Surfaces – Overspray on top cover surfaces could create a slick finish when wet. Apply protectants only to undersides and edges, or wipe overspray.
- Reactions – Rarely, individuals may experience reactions to protectant fumes or contact. Work in a well-ventilated area.
With proper selection and careful use per label instructions, vinyl and rubber protectants pose few risks to your tonneau cover. But mistakes in product or application can potentially damage your cover. When in doubt, contact your manufacturer for usage guidance.
What About Using Household Cleaners on Tonneau Covers?
Avoid using household cleaners like bleach, ammonia, or detergents meant for home use. The chemicals used in these products can damage vinyl and rubber components. They can also degrade stitching or other materials.
For best results, select a vinyl/rubber protectant designed specifically for tonneau covers or automotive use. Check your owner’s manual for any cleaning recommendations or warnings.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Tonneau Covers?
Here are some tips for safely cleaning your tonneau cover:
- Remove debris with a soft brush before washing.
- Use a mild soap and water solution and soft cloth or sponge. Avoid harsh scrubbing.
- For stubborn stains, use a specialty vinyl cleaner approved for tonneaus.
- Disinfect with a dilute bleach/water solution (1 part bleach per 10 parts water).
- Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely before reinstalling.
- Apply a vinyl protectant after cleaning for added UV and moisture protection.
Regular washing and protectant use will help keep your cover looking new while protecting it from the elements. Avoid harsh chemicals.
Can You Use Armor All on Tonneau Covers?
Armor All is not recommended for use on tonneau covers. The petroleum distillates in products like Armor All can actually break down and degrade vinyl over time. This can shorten the useful life of your cover.
For best results, use only tonneau cover protectants designed for vinyl or rubber and follow manufacturer directions. If your cover already has Armor All on it, wash the protectant off and switch to a cover-friendly product.
Will Vinyl Protectants Help Stop Tonneau Cover Flapping?
Unfortunately vinyl protectants won’t help stop a flapping cover at highway speeds. Flapping is usually caused by:
- Improper installation or gaps along rails, clamps, or edges.
- Broken, missing, or weakened bows on soft roll-up covers.
- Loose or detached securement straps.
- Damaged or missing rear tailgate seals.
- Ripped vinyl, detached grommets, or separated seams.
- Unlatched or partially open covers.
- Poor cover design or sizing.
While protectants help keep vinyl supple, they don’t provide enough weight or stiffness to prevent flapping. Have your cover inspected and re-secured or repaired as needed.
Using vinyl or rubber protectants specifically designed for tonneau covers can provide many benefits. Protectants help prevent UV damage, add moisture, repel dirt and chemicals, and keep your cover looking new longer. But avoid products like Armor All. Instead choose tonneau-safe formulas and apply them per label directions every few months. With proper care, your cover will last for years while keeping your truck bed protected in all conditions. Just be sure to take care of your cover, and it will take care of you!