If you’re using your truck to ferry items, scratches will be inevitable, and maintaining its image will require quite the effort. The only way to protect it from the wear and tear caused by dirt, scratches, and debris and preserve its value for the long-term is to install a bed liner.
Bed liners come in two main types, drop-in liners and spray-on liners. Drop-ins are made of rigid plastic and are available in one or several pieces. Installing a drop-in liner is a straightforward activity because you don’t require to prepare the bed beforehand. If the bed liner has been designed specifically for your truck, it will fit with ease, and you’ll only need to tighten the bolts to lay it.
Spray-on bed liners, on the other hand, are made of polyurethane, which is applied to the truck bed with a brush, roll-on or low-pressure spray system. Installing a spray-on liner requires a lot more work and time than laying a drop-in bed liner. Nevertheless, if you want a reliable solution that won’t cause clunking in the back due to loosened bolts or trap water and dust underneath it, follow these steps to apply a spray-on bed liner.
Cleaning and Masking
Start by cleaning the bed thoroughly, preferably with wax and grease remover. Cleaning before masking promotes maximum adhesion and ensures you don’t ground surface contaminants into the bed. After the bed is spotless, mask it with 3M tape. You may also want to use plastic masking film to cover the body of the truck as well to avoid the headache of removing overspray later.
After cleaning and masking, you’ll need to sand the bed. Sanding helps to achieve a strong long-term bond with the liner. Carefully sand all the edges of the truck bed, making sure you don’t damage the previously applied 3M tape. You can use a cup brush attached to an electric sander to cut down sanding time.
When you finish sanding, use an air gun or fan, and a dry rag to remove dust, and if possible, give the bed a final wipe with a bonding agent to promote adhesion even further.
Getting the Spray-On Paint Ready
With the truck bed now prepped, turn your attention to the paint. If you purchased it in its natural state, you have to add pigment to the resin as per the instructions provided on the can and use a scale for accurate measurements. On the other hand, if you got your paint in a DIY-friendly package from a company like Durabak, it will be already be prepared, and you’ll only need to mix it with a stir stick or electric paint mixer to distribute the rubber granules evenly.
Applying the Liner
Once you’re satisfied the paint has mixed sufficiently, pour some of it into your roller tray, and roll on your first coat. If you’re using a low-pressure spray gun, ensure your source of air is in the best condition to provide dry compressed air. A faulty compressor will likely heat up the air and make it more likely to hold moisture.
Use a paintbrush to reach corners and hard-to-reach areas, and in the case of overspray, use Xylene to clean the surface. Let the first coat sit for a few hours until it’s touch-dry, and then apply a second coat.
Unmasking and Finishing
After coating the bed a second time, remove the 3M tape by pulling it gently, and do some final edge-trimming with a utility knife. Give your truck until the next day before loading back your usual accessories (tie downs, toolboxes, etc.), and at least four days for heavy rough and tough use.
Applying a spray-on bed liner will undoubtedly take significant effort, but down the road, you’ll be glad you spared the time to give your truck bed the fortification it needs to stay in excellent condition for years to come.