Truck bed maintenance isn’t something you necessarily think about on a daily basis, but if you happen to haul with your pickup regularly, your truck bed takes a lot of abuse from the gear, cargo and general use—not to mention the fact that it may be exposed to year-round elements. Putting a little effort into keeping it in great shape can extend the life of your truck and help preserve value over time. Here’s three truck bed maintenance tips to keep your work horse going for years to come.
Consider a Bed Liner
One of the easiest truck bed maintenance tips is to have a bed liner installed. A bed liner fits over your truck’s steel or aluminum bed and provides a direct layer of protection in the form of plastic, vinyl, or other polymers that act like a second skin. Some bed liners come preformed to the contours of your pickup and simply drop-in. Other bed liners spray or roll in and then harden so that they perfectly match your truck’s shape. Hard plastic insert style bed liners give great protection from dents, while bed liner coatings offer universal fit and easy application. As with most protective coverings, proper preparation and installation is the key. Make sure there’s no way for dirt or moisture to get under the cover once it’s in there. Trapping junk under the bed liner is great way to invite corrosion. For hard plastic bed liners give the bed a thorough cleaning and let it dry thoroughly before dropping it in. If there are any paint scratches that reach metal treat them with touch-up paint now to prevent future corrosion. For bed liner coatings give the same squeaky clean treatment, then follow the application instructions exactly. You want good bed liner coating adhesion. One plus to bed liner coating is it can be touched up later
Don’t Forget the Underside
Truck-bed maintenance doesn’t just mean taking care of the shiny side. The underside of your truck bed is exposed to an entirely different set of potential hazards, most notably the presence of corrosive elements like water and road salt, especially mixed together. Areas under the truck bed around the frame tend to collect all kinds of road grit, slush, and ice that just sits. Over time this can seriously rust out not just the bed panels themselves but also the bed supports that link it to your pickup’s frame. If you live in an area where winter weather means salt on the road, an undercoating or other water-displacing films should be added underneath your vehicle’s bed and chassis. It will be by a messy process but make sure to clean everything completely before applying any sort of undercoating. Wear safety goggles and a face mask to keep debris out of your face and eyes, as rust scale has a habit of showering down at the worst time.
Cover It Up
Don’t want to get a bed liner? Looking for an all-weather hauling solution? A truck cap or tonneau cover can keep moisture out of your truck bed and protect not just your pickup, but also whatever you’re hauling. A cap is a large plastic or fiberglass “bubble” that fits over your truck bed, while a tonneau cover lies flat and can be made of vinyl or plastic, with one or several locking compartments built into it. There are lots of tonneau cover options depending on how you want to access the truck bed cargo area. You can also install a tonneau cover at home in your down driveway with simple tools. No more drilling tons of holes to install button snaps (unless you want that style). The one you choose will be linked to the type of hauling you do with your truck and how much is in your budget to spend on a cap or tonneau.
Keep It Clean
If you don’t want to install a bed liner or bed cover, try to keep your truck bed clean when not in service. Loose junk rattling and banging around is not only dangerous to other motorists, it creates unnecessary wear on the truck bed sheet metal. Caked on mud or frozen slush gives moisture a place to sit and fester into corrosion if the paint has been compromised. You don’t need to break out the carnauba wax, just remove any loose items and give the bed a rinse. Use a plastic bristle brush to remove any crusty dirt. You can also hit it with the pressure washer as long as you keep the pressure low (or else you may blow the paint right off).
Your truck bed takes a lot of abuse. Isn’t it worth protecting with the right maintenance? It is true that your truck was meant to do work, but keeping the bed in good shape means not only better resale value but also many more years of dependable service.
Check out all the truck accessory products available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on truck-bed maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.