Freshen up the inside of your pickup and preserve the metal by rolling on a rubberised liner. By Mike Allen
Degree of difficulty – Easy
I’ve always wondered why pickups have painted loadbeds. Hauling anything immediately scratches a brand-new pickup bed. It’s slippery as heck when wet. Of course, there are alternatives: old pickups used to use wood, which rotted in a few years. You can buy a drop-in plastic liner that covers the entire loadbox, but it might rub off paint and trap moisture underneath, which leads to rust. I’m starting to think the best solution is an applied surface that’s tougher than paint, like an epoxy concrete-floor coating.
In the industry, these coatings are called spray-in liners, and several companies will do the job for you. Using catalysedurethane- based polymers at 50 to 150 bar, these liners are thicker and tougher than the driveway-applied roll-in liners – they’re also considerably more expensive. This is a perfect DIY project: in only 4 hours, we did the job ourselves for a few hundred rand. Here’s how.
It's all in the prep
Start by washing the vehicle, paying special attention to getting the bed squeaky clean. Skip the wax setting at the car wash, because the bed-liner material needs bare, clean paint to stick. Give the box a full day to dry completely.
Find a shady, outdoor place. Trust me, you won’t want to work indoors – this stuff stinks like dead dinosaurs when it’s drying.
Wear old clothes. And old shoes. Rubber gloves are a very good idea because it takes days to come out of your fingerprints. (Don’t ask.)
Use a leaf blower or a workshop vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of the bed of any dust, leaves or water. If you’ve spilled any oil, ever, it’ll need to be cleaned with mineral spirits. If there’s any loose, peeling paint or rust on the sheet metal, you’ll need to wire-brush, sandpaper or sandblast down to clean metal. Don’t leave any loose rust around. Then blow out or vacuum the debris again. Prime the bare spots with a zinc-based primer, which you can spray from an aerosol can or even brush on.
More helpful hints
You’ll need to apply two coats. Do both on the same day, but wait long enough – an hour or two – to allow the first coat to set up. Wait too long and the second coat may not bond properly. Achieving a consistent texture isn’t trivial. It’s a constant juggling act between having enough and too much material on the roller, rolling out what’s there and backtracking to catch drips. Watch any inner corners, seams or fittings, as the liner material can sag several minutes later. No problem – just roller over it and catch the drips. Again, patience is the watchword. Use mineral spirits or lacquer thinner to clean up any spills.
Remove the masking tape within 4 hours or so. Let the bed dry for about 24 hours; longer if the weather is cool.
Be aware that the intense flat-black colour of your liner will fade within a few months to charcoal gray. But then, so will the expensive spray-in liner.
Brush on, Roller on
The real secret to doing a proper bed-lining job is patience. Don’t rush initial clean-up or proper scuff-sanding. Bonus: you can use leftover coating to touch up scratches periodically. If so, don’t forget to degrease the surface before recoating.
1 Once the bed is clean and dry and any bare steel is primered, mask off the bed tops, the tailgate, the hinges and the latch pins. Careful masking will considerably improve the aesthetics of the job.
2 Scuff the entire interior of the bed with either Scotch- Brite pad or some 150-grit sandpaper. Be thorough or the new liner will peel off in sheets later.
3 Here’s an example of paint that’s been scuffed properly. There will still be some shine, but you definitely need to leave a patina of scratches behind. I recommend a dualaction or orbital sander for most of the job and saving the Scotch-Brite for the inside corners.
4 Use solvent and fresh paper towels to degrease the bed. It’s vitally important to get every centimetre. Change the towelling when it looks dirty. Wipe in only one direction, from the front of the bed to the back, to keep any greasy spots from migrating to the back. Needless to say, work out of doors for this step.
5 Using a disposable brush, touchpaint any inside corners where the roller won’t fit. Starting at the front of the bed, roller on the liner material. For the first coat, you won’t see the final texture, so simply concentrate on getting an even coat without any missed spots, drips or sags.
6 The second coat will show a uniformly rough hightraction surface left behind by the roller. Texture areas you can’t roller by dabbing with the end of the slightly wetted brush.