When I bought my first pickup truck 11 years ago, the dealer fitted it with a rigid plastic bed liner before I drove it off the lot. The liner was still fine with no maintenance when I sold the truck last year, but it was tough on the vehicle itself.
The liner was only secured to the bed in four places, so it bounced and shimmied with every bump and turn. Eventually the friction wore the paint down to bare metal in some places. To make matters worse, when I used the truck for landscaping projects, dirt and sand got under the liner along the tailgate and the moist grit ground away at the bed even further. To prevent the truck from rusting out, I removed the liner occasionally and primed the exposed metal so it wouldn't rust. The preventive maintenance worked, but I dreaded the chore.
Our Club's new truck won't have these problems because its bed and rails are permanently protected using a modern spray - applied liner system. Sprayed - on bed liners offer several key advantages over drop - in liners:
• They bond to the surface so they don't chatter and chafe the paint.
• They conform to the surface so you don't lose any space inside the bed.
• They are more resilient and less slippery than rigid liners so your load is less likely to slide around.
• They are available in several standard colors and a broad range of custom colors so you can extend the protection to rocker panels and bumpers.
Several companies offer sprayed - on bed liners (see SOURCES). Club member Mark Garcia installs spray liners for the Rhino Linings Metro dealership in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He agreed to show us how it's done.
Unlike most MODERN METHODS topics we cover, this is not a DIY process. But since nearly three out of four of you tell us you own a truck or van, we figured you would like to understand the new technology.
Mark begins by removing the tailgate, the cargo tie - down loops and the interior access panel for the tailgate latch. Some shops don't bother to remove the tailgate, he says, but he does because it enables him to spray the bottom of the gate, an area that is quick to rust if trapped debris scratches the paint.
Before Mark sprays the bed, he prepares the surface. First, he outlines the perimeter of the area to be sprayed with masking tape before sanding it to avoid straying over the line with his sander. Most Rhino Linings installers use a cup sander fitted with a plastic - bristle brush to degloss the surface. However, Mark worked in a body shop before becoming a Rhino Linings technician, and he prefers a DA (dual - action) sander. The plastic brush scuffs the surface of the clear coat and paint without exposing bare metal; the DA sander is more aggressive. Second, Mark vacuums the surface and removes the fine dust with acetone - soaked disposable towels. He uses acetone because it evaporates quickly.
"You can't blow off the dust with an air gun because compressor lines always contain moisture," Mark warns. If there is any moisture on the surface when he begins to spray, it will cause the poly - urethane to bubble up.
After Mark backs the prepared truck into the spray booth, only the bed portion is visible to him. The cab remains outside the booth, while the rest of the body, the rear bumper and the wheels are covered with paper.
Rhino Linings uses a proprietary two - part polyurethane formula. The pale yellow resin is tinted with pigment and mixed with a catalyst agent at the HVLP (high volume, low pressure) spray gun. The gun is fitted with a disposable nozzle that mixes the components. The chemical reaction that takes place causes the coating to exceed 200 degrees F during the spraying process. The coating begins to set up as soon as the components are mixed, so the flow from the gun is continuous.
Mark makes four passes with the gun. This gives each thin layer of urethane time to set up and bond before he applies the next layer. It also prevents sags.
As soon as he finishes the spraying, Mark removes the masking tape from the rails and trims the bottom of the tailgate with a utility knife before the liner cures completely.
Depending on the temperature of the truck, the conditions in the spray booth and the technique of the installer, a polyurethane liner can have a rough, finely patterned texture or it can level out to a slightly lumpy finish that resembles cottage cheese. Mark prefers the look of the finer texture.
When ordering a sprayed liner, you need to make two primary decisions: which color and where to draw the line. Rhino Linings come in five basic colors: black, gray, indigo blue, red and garnet (burgundy). Custom colors also are available for an added fee. If you provide your truck's color code, they probably can match it. By comparison, like the original Model T Ford, drop - in bed liners only come in black.
Some people prefer to stop the sprayed liner at the inside of the rails. For an added price, you can get the tops of the rails and even the rocker panels under the doors coated as well. Mark recommends the over - the - rails treatment. It protects the surface from abrasion if you install a topper or a tonneau cover. It also helps to prevent dings when side - loading equipment and materials.
The lining sets up in about one minute, but the truck bed should not be used for at least 24 hours to allow the polyurethane to cure completely and achieve its maximum strength. Rhino Linings recommends that the surface be kept clean and dry during that period.
Each Rhino Linings dealership sets its own prices, but they all must buy their materials and follow the procedures from the California - based parent company. Dealers typically charge $350 to $400 per truck. Rhino Linings Metro charges $350 for a small truck such as our new Ford Ranger and $400 for a full - sized truck, regardless of whether they have long beds or short. They charge $75 extra for the over - the - rails treatment. If you select a lighter custom color, they apply a UV - resistant coating to the finished bed to prevent oxidation, which can change the color. If the coating gets scratched from abrasion, you should have it renewed once a year to preserve the underlying color.
- Rhino Linings Twin Cities, (612) 653 - 5600 , www.rhinolinings.com
- Arma Coatings, (888) 762 - 2762, www.armacoatingssouth.com
- Bullhide Liner Corp., (800) 789 - 2855, www.bullhide.com
- Durabak Coatings, (800) 272 - 3312
- Ziebart International Corp., (248) 588 - 4100, www.ziebart.com
- Line - X Plus, (888) 546 - 3988, www.fitsweb.com
- Speedliner, (800) 766 - 3832, www.speedliner.com
- Rhino Linings USA, (800) 447 - 1471, www.rhinolinings.com