Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that eliminates aggregated proteins and damaged organelles to maintain cellular homeostasis. A major route for activating autophagy involves inhibition of the mTORC1 kinase, but current mTORC1-targeting compounds do not allow complete and selective mTORC1 blockade. Here, we have coupled screening of a covalent ligand library with activity-based protein profiling to discover EN6, a small-molecule in vivo activator of autophagy that covalently targets cysteine 277 in the ATP6V1A subunit of the lysosomal v-ATPase, which activates mTORC1 via the Rag guanosine triphosphatases. EN6-mediated ATP6V1A modification decouples the v-ATPase from the Rags, leading to inhibition of mTORC1 signaling, increased lysosomal acidification and activation of autophagy. Consistently, EN6 clears TDP-43 aggregates, a causative agent in frontotemporal dementia, in a lysosome-dependent manner. Our results provide insight into how the v-ATPase regulates mTORC1, and reveal a unique approach for enhancing cellular clearance based on covalent inhibition of lysosomal mTORC1 signaling.