A Spotless Image
A rotary buffer can often be used to effectively remove scratches from the finish.
Truckers who take pride in their ride drive clean trucks. Image is the No. 1 reason truckers say they wash their trucks, but there are other important benefits: appearance is key for attracting business and keeping DOT inspectors at bay, and a clean truck maintains a rig’s value, which helps at resale and trade time.
But there are right and wrong ways to keep your truck shining bright. Truckers News visited Jeff Byler’s shop, Jeff’s Large Truck Detailing, in Bethel, Pa., to witness firsthand how finish care and restoration are done. Byler, his wife Kelly, his son Josh and his father Marvin make up the team at Jeff’s.
Keeping the paint bright
You don’t have to wash your truck by hand, but you should ask truck wash workers what detergents are being used in their process. The wrong detergent can damage your truck’s finish. Clear detergents are usually mild, and it’s a good sign if the truck wash removes most of the dirt with elbow grease or effective automatic brushes.
The rinsing process is also important. Good washes either rinse by hand or flow plenty of water over the truck and allow time for that water to work. Even mild soaps can damage paint if they are left on the truck after rinsing.
One of the worst things you can do to a truck’s finish over the long term is to clean it too aggressively.
“When you wash, do not use any kind of paint brighteners like they offer at truck washes,” Byler says. “It’s not good to use harsh chemicals to take off the dirt.”
These products, which are acid-based, will definitely remove dirt, but they will also dull the paint after years of use, Byler says. “You’ll end up with a film that can only be removed by buffing.” After a truck is washed repeatedly with harsh detergents, you can actually look at the finish at a sharp angle and see a film over it that reduces the brightness, he says.
Byler believes a weekly wash is ideal because it gives the dirt and chemicals less time to attack the finish. And if the truck gets coated with road salt, wash it off as soon as you can.
The best way to get a cleaner result is to keep a good polish on your paint. Wax protects the clearcoat, which OEMs put on the truck to protect the paint from the constant pressure of the wind, especially in areas such as the leading edge of the hood, Byler says. An effective clearcoat serves as armor, keeping the oxygen and chemicals in the air from attacking the paint, dulling the shine or fading the color. Wax allows the air to flow more easily, which could save you a tiny bit of fuel, too.
When the truck is waxed, dirt will come off easily, allowing use of a gentle detergent. “If you have a good wax on the finish, rain washes off the heavy dirt,” Byler says. And soaps that are less harsh will allow that wax to stay on longer.
But don’t just grab the first – or the cheapest – wax on the shelf. In this case, name brand stuff might actually be better; in Byler’s experience the cheapest wax doesn’t work as well as brands that cost more. Wax does not have to be specifically for a truck; a quality product designed for cars will work just fine.
“There are a lot of good products, and everybody has their own preference,” Byler says.
It’s best to wax or polish twice a year, in spring and fall. Fall is even more important than spring, because the wax will protect the truck from the combination of moisture and the chemicals used to melt snow and ice. If you can manage a couple extra coats during the summer, Byler says that will “enhance the protection.”