Big Rig Basics

Fighting Corrosion

Thorough cleaning helps safeguard your equipment from destructive natural and artificial agents

Jeff Byler and his wife Kelly operate Jeff’s Large Truck Detailing and Truck Wash in Bethel, Pa. Jeff explains that it’s the dirt, as well as the ice-melting chemicals used on the roads, that cause all the parts of your truck to become dull and corroded. So, he says, “The cleaner you keep your truck, the less corrosion you will see.”

Obviously, regular washing is critical. Do it every two weeks in winter, if you can. When winter comes, it’s ideal if you can time the washes right after storms or after driving along pre-treated roads. Dry roads pre-treated with chemicals can be especially harmful, he says, because the calcium chloride and other ingredients form a dust that gets all over everything.

In addition to regular washing, having the truck cleaned professionally, or equipping your garage so you can do this yourself, every few months or at least once a year will keep the vehicle looking youthful and ready for profitable resale.


power-washUse a pressure washer to clean the frame and other undercarriage parts. Use a water temperature of at least 100 F in warm weather and of 140-150 F or more in colder weather. Once temperatures get down in the teens, don’t try washing.



CombineCombine the pressure washer with a water softener, as Byler has done with a portable unit he uses to service customers at their locations. Pressure washing won’t work right unless the water is soft. Soft water allows the detergents to dissolve in the water. Otherwise, they can’t do their job. Depending on operating conditions, even pressure washing with soft water and detergent may not get the job done. If you run your own trailer, be aware that trailer manufacturers generally recommend occasional manual scrubbing to remove accumulated salt and calcium chloride.



rustedLook for rusted areas and spot-paint them. First, clean off rust. Tap gently with a flat-faced hammer to loosen peeling paint, then sand thoroughly with coarse sandpaper. Finally, coat with a high-quality enamel spray paint, first using primer and giving it 10 minutes to dry.




hubIf aluminum tanks and wheels get dull, clean them up or have them cleaned with a brightener, which Byler says gently strips off the thin layer of oxidized aluminum that inevitably accumulates when they are neglected. You should always polish aluminum parts right after brightener is applied. Regular polishing will prevent, or at least delay, the need to apply the solution. But using it too often without polishing will turn aluminum an ugly white. (Using an orbital power unit to buff the surface works even better than a rag with polish on it.) So polish, polish, polish. Above find before and after shots of a wheel Byler was detailing.

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sandFrame paint often peels off around bolts and boltholes. Cleaning off rust with sandpaper and spray painting will greatly slow corrosion.



lastEspecially right before winter, apply wax to the painted parts of the cab, and wipe clean. Wax, says Byler, not only protects the finish by providing a protective film, it keeps dirt from sticking, making the cab easier to keep clean.