Caring for Tonneau Covers and Convertible Tops

Tonneau Cover Classic carTonneau covers and convertible tops are some of the most versatile and durable options available for any truck bed. They are built to last and come in several different styles to provide users with versatile ways to protect and decorate their vehicles. Owners can invest in covers that fold back into thirds, allowing access to a section of the truck bed and keeping the rest of the bed’s contents covered. Drivers can also use this system to fold the top back all the way, uncovering the bed as necessary without removing the top. A keyless entry option is available for even quicker access to the bed. Many truck bed covers also reduce wind resistance and provide the system with an aerodynamic design for more fuel efficiency. No matter the purchased cover, all drivers should strive to care for their systems as efficiently as possible to avoid unwanted damage and wear over the cover’s life. By following a few simple maintenance tips, anybody can keep their covers safe and secure.

Visually Inspect the Covers

Tonneau Cover JaguarIt is recommended for drivers to always begin their maintenance with a visual inspection of the covers. This should be done in an area with plenty of lighting, whether outside underneath the sun’s natural light or in a garage, where the light is bright enough to highlight the top’s surface. During the inspection, drivers should watch out for bumps, nicks, debris and sections of corrosion. Some systems may also become loose and create potential breakages or ripping points in the future. Anything out of the ordinary should be documented and inspected to determine if it needs attention.

If the damage is particularly bad or obvious, the top needs to be replaced. A damaged top does not protect the truck’s bed from environmental damage efficiently enough, and it may even cause more damage to the vehicle, such as by allowing insects and small animals to nest within the truck’s bed if the driver parks the vehicle outside for extended periods of time. If the scuffing or damage is minor enough, drivers should consider a quick repair before proceeding with the rest of the maintenance.

Secure the Hardware Carefully

Preventative maintenance is another important aspect of caring for Tonneau covers and tops, as improper use may hasten potential damage to the system. Drivers should inspect their covers after use and make sure that all of the bolts, clamps and other articles of mounting hardware are secured in placed. If there is loose mounting hardware present around the system, the results can be particularly devastating to the covers, especially if they are older and less durable.

In addition to checking the mounting hardware and clamps, the functional mechanism within the cover itself should work as necessary. Owners should inspect the rails around the cover to ensure that it slides into the different positions smoothly. If slides do not allow for smooth opening or closing, drivers should check the inside to make sure that there is no debris or grime clogging up the interior. If there are no visible traces of debris or grime, drivers can simply add lubrication to the system to prevent the covers from sticking to the rails.

Avoid Improper Care

Tonneau Cover TruckSome of the biggest causes of damage to the Tonneau covers do not come from driving or usage wear, but from user error. Carelessness can cause tremendous amount of damage to the cover, sometimes enough to result in premature breakages and tears. One of the most important ways to prevent such damage from occurring is to avoid leaving heavy gear on the cover. Drivers should never set heavy objects on the surface because it can result in damage and sagging, especially if the items are set along a single pressure point on the surface of the top.

If drivers are planning to stack equipment on top of the covers as well as underneath them, it is important to consult the owner’s manual, which describes weight ratings and ratios to help distribute the load as evenly as possible. Additionally, it is vital to use the right types of ties to protect the equipment and make sure that it does not fall off the vehicle during transit. If there are any sharp edges or corners on the items, they should be covered to prevent ripping and tearing into the cover.

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Clean the Surface Regularly

Cleaning a Tonneau CoverIn addition to watching out for potential buildup, drivers can take a more hands-on approach and take care of their tops by using mild soap and water to keep the cover clean. How often this washing is performed varies depending on the owner’s preferences and how often they take their vehicle out into rough terrain. Performing the clean roughly once a week is recommended, as this prevents the system from developing other types of problems, such as the fabric thinning from excessive washing.

Always strive to use a soap that is easy on the truck’s cover surface and make sure that the appropriate products are used with certain specialty materials. Once the cover is washed, drivers should use a soft cotton cloth or a sponge to dry it and keep the surface clean. Soap scum and other types of grime that develop from washing should be wiped away carefully, and it is not recommended for owners to simply leave the cover alone to air dry, as this may wear away at the surface of the system. Additionally, the presence of excess water may also result in the appearance of rust in the truck’s bed.

Use Special Formulas for Deeper Cleaning

303 Auto Tonneau and convertible top cleanerSome cleaning products are specifically designed to provide drivers with the cleaning potential they need to overcome deeper staining and grime buildup. One of the most popular cleaners available is the 303® Automotive Tonneau Cover & Convertible Top Cleaner, which features a special formula designed to work well with all types of Tonneau covers and tops. It is safe, quick and very easy to use, and drivers can simply rinse the cleaner off when they are done. It leaves no residue behind and allows the natural fabric to shine through.

To use, drivers should rinse their covers thoroughly to remove debris and solid particles. After doing so and while the surface is still wet, owners should apply the formula by spraying. Rub the cleaner into the surface with a soft nylon brush or sponge, letting it stand for 10 to 20 minutes before scrubbing it lightly to loosen up the staining. If the weather is colder, drivers should allow the formula more time to work more efficiently.

With proper care and maintenance, it is easy to prolong the life of Tonneau covers and convertible tops. Like any other component of the vehicle, planning ahead is crucial to ensuring the stability and longevity of the product. If the cover is simply too old or too worn out for continued use, it is important to have it replaced as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the cover and, potentially, to the vehicle. Additionally, practicing defensive driving is another good way to avoid damage to the top, as there are fewer risks of collisions and debris damage. Drivers who are not sure about the installation process or have never maintained their covers and tops should consult with a mechanic or inspect the manual that comes with their Tonneau covers. All it takes is a little practice and any cover can last as long as desired.


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  • I never realized how important it is to be careful with putting things on the top of a Tonneau cover. I always put tools and things on the cover of my dad’s truck growing up and thought nothing of it. That’s probably why his covers always wore out so fast. At least I now know to be more careful with my own covers.

  • In winter, should I remove a soft/velcro tonneau or is it designed for that. Not much snow here, so no real weight issues

  • After the convertible top is washed off with 303 Automotive Convertible TOP Cleaner what is the preferred product to use for protection of the top. Is the preferred product the 303 Fabric Guard or the 303 Automotive Protectant? Of course they may be the same formula and only sold as two different products for marketing purposes. BTW I have used the 303 Marine Aerospace Protectant for many years on my BMW motorcycle and especially on the side bags. It is the best!!

    • It depends on the top’s material. If the top is fabric, then use 303 Fabric Guard. If the top is vinyl, then use 303 Automotive Protectant. Hope this is useful!