The bed of a truck is one of the most abused parts of a vehicle. After all, it is designed to haul just about anything. There are a few options out there to protect the bed. Some companies make thick rubber mats to protect the bottom of the bed from damage. Depending on how you use your truck that might be all you need. Another public option in many new pickups is a plastic bedliner that rides on the inside of the bed and protects the mattress from damage. The biggest downside to these bedliners is the destruction they cause themselves. These liners rub the paint off the foundation of the truck and primarily help rust get a foothold.
One of the best options for protecting the bed of a truck is a spray on bedliner. These adhere to the bed and create a shielding layer that bonds with the paint and metal. While these are deemed permanent, they do no damage to the truck and offer a great deal of protection. We thought we would take a more in-depth look at bedliners so that we could give a little better knowledge as to what they are, the differences between them, and how to take care of them. For that, we reached out to Rhino Linings, Line-X and ArmorThane Corporation.
Pay attention to the gauges and trouble lights on your cars dash. Learn to recognize the warning signs of a car that is overheating, low on oil or not charging the battery. Knowing which of these indicators need immediate attention can prevent damage to your car and save you cash in the long run.
Understanding The Differences
Polyurea coatings are hard and have a high tensile strength that opposes abrasion and splitting but is not very flexible.
Make sure that you wash your car frequently to reduce rust and corrosion. While cars are going to rust eventually, you can definitely slow this down by ensuring all chemicals are cleaned off your car as quickly as possible. Waxing your car helps protect the paint.
Polyurethane coatings are ordinarily more flexible and much softer than polyurea. But similar to polyurea coatings, polyurethane coatings also provide excellent protection from damage such as tearing, gouging and puncturing.
Aromatic is a term used to describe the shape of the compound (organic chemistry) that is the shape of a ring. These isocyanates are used in polyurethane foams, elastomers, adhesives, and coatings. Aromatic isocyanates are under catalyzed conditions extremely fast cure time.
Be open to asking any questions that cross your mind. Auto repair is a very complex thing. You will have questions, and don’t feel intimidated about asking them. If you don’t, you may not completely understand why the repairs were needed in the first place or how costly the current situation really is.
Aliphatic is also a term used to describe the shape of the compound (organic chemistry) with the form of them being either straight or branched. They are used predominately in coating applications because they produce polyurethanes with excellent UV resistance and exterior durability. Compared to Aromatics, Aliphatics have a delayed cure time.
Types of Bedliners:
Check online for reviews of local mechanics. This lets you know how other people who have tried this mechanic before have felt about their experience. Use this information to choose a shop that you’re comfortable with giving money to.
Bedliners can be broken down into three main categories; hot/high pressure, cold/low pressure, and DIY (Do It Yourself). “A high pressure or hot spray is referencing the temperature of the product, not the air temperature as some may think,” says Hank Strathman, Senior Manager for ArmorThane. “The warmer the product is, the quicker the curing. That also means the colder the product is, the longer it will take to cure fully.”
Even within these three main types, there are different subsets or elastomers used to create the end product. “Most spray-on bedliners are either 100% polyurethane, 100% polyurea, or a hybrid (combination) of both polyurethane and polyurea. A true polyurea bedliner delivers high results in important constituents of bedliner performance: tensile toughness, tear strength, elongation, and hardness,” says Troy Bacon, head of marketing for ArmorThane.
Follow your car’s tune up schedule. Each car is different, and that means each has different needs. A tune up schedule for one will not be the same for another. Look into your car manual for details on a proper tune-up schedule for your model. Otherwise, you could have more problems in the future.
“All of these are available in aromatic or aliphatic chemistry,” says Jenny Clifford, Marketing Manager for Rhino Linings Co. “Each one of these has several different features and benefits for both the end consumer and the applicator. Some have better elongation, chemical, or abrasion resistance, where others feature better color and gloss memory. The one being applied to a customer’s vehicle should be chosen based on how the vehicle will be used. The applicator may also prefer a different elastomeric product based on where the product is implemented. For instance, to spray polyurethane in humid conditions, you must have good environmental controls, whereas a polyurea could be sprayed in the rain.”
Make sure your auto technician is qualified to work on your specific car. Motor vehicles are complex machines and each brand has unique characteristics. Some brands require special tools, parts, and procedures. Many standard auto technicians either lack these items or don;t have them easily available. Without these items, they can’t fix your vehicle.
That is for business spray-on liners. When it comes to the DIY market, their chemical composition is a little different. “Our proprietary solvent-based formula—versus a water-based product—allows ArmorLiner to adhere better when cured to the exteriors it’s applied to. Because of its unique characteristics, it can bond to virtually any surface or material. ArmorLiner is the only polyurethane and rubber granule coating that is implemented in just three easy steps to your truck bed using rollers and a brush,” explained Bacon.
You can fix small dents with a suction cup dent puller. This usually works for very small dents that can easily be covered with the suction cup. If the cup does not work, you will have to apply some filler into the dent, sand and paint until it becomes invisible.
Tensile strength is the ability to resist breaking or failing when being pulled
When it is time to bring your car in for work, think carefully about whether you want to go to the dealer or a local repairman. The dealer often knows the most about your particular type of vehicle, but they generally cost the most as a result. Weigh your options and go with what is right for you.
Tearing strength is the ability of the material to hold together and resist tearing or ripping.
Elongation is the measure of the material’s increase in length under stress.
You do not necessarily have to go through your dealership if repairs are needed. There are great technicians everywhere, whether you take your car to the shop ten minutes from your home or whether you go on in to your dealer. Find someone who you are comfortable with and stick with them.
Hardness is the ability of the material to hold its shape without deforming. This refers to the materials ability to resist scratching and denting.
Preparation and avoiding “Peel”:
Even if you think your vehicle just has a minor issue, it pays to get it looked at just the same. An issue that might seem minor could end up turning into a nightmare down the road.
“In our industry, the motto is ‘prep is key,’” exclaimed Bacon. No matter which type of bedliner is used, surface prep is essential. “The more permeable the material is, the stronger the bond,” said Bacon. “Conversely, the less porous something is, the weaker the bond. We recommend that end users apply a self-etching primer to a non-porous exterior before applying ArmorLiner (like aluminum),” finished Bacon.
“Typically on a new vehicle, other than removing any hardware, the clear coat is scuffed using a nylon cup brush or 80 grit sandpaper. This is the most vital step as it ensures that material adheres enduringly to the entire truck bed. Then, after removing the dust and debris, it is wiped down with denatured alcohol to remove any remaining dirt and oil. Again, if this is done properly, it should create a permanent bond,” continued Clifford.
Don’t try to diagnose complicated issues. It’s important to remember that you’re not the expert. What may seem to be a simple task can be very complex, especially in the newer electric cars and also the newer computerized vehicles. Leave the diagnosing to your auto repair shop. Give them all the details on what occurred and what you heard, but leave the final diagnosis to them.
Clifford then added, “If it is an older truck with rust present or large scratches through the paint to the metal, the applicator will choose to apply a primer after scuffing and cleaning. This usually ensures that future rust is hopefully prevented. What most people don’t understand is that rust will ‘find a way’ if not properly taken care of. If a lot of rust is present, the applicator might recommend sandblasting first.”
In addition to ensuring that the surface is prepped accurately before implementing, other things are done to ensure that liners don’t peel. “The key to minimizing the ‘peel-off’ effect is to reduce the amount of ‘peel-points,’” explained Pe. “Peel point is when there is an edge of the coating disclosed that can be separated from the substrate. Our coating is thick and will operate together rather than sheer/tear from itself.”
You should always look for a warranty when you’re working on a car problem and need a part that costs quite a bit. If your mechanic orders parts for you, ask about warranties. Inquire as to how long it is for and get a printed copy.
Another thing to be conscious of is what type of material you are trying to apply the bedliner to. “Polyurea coatings need additional prep for adhering to plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene,” warned Pe.
If you are repairing your vehicle at home you must be sure to put everything that you take off of the vehicle in one safe place. One of the biggest problems that people run into is they lose a part from their car and can not put everything back together. Do not let this happen to you.
For most of us, we aren’t going to be the people applying the bedliner in our trucks, with the exception being the DIY’ers. It is essential to know the differences between how they are involved and what is happening.
Take some time to learn about your vehicle and how it works. This can prevent your from falling victim to auto repair fraud when you need to bring it to be fixed. It could also lead to you being able to fix simple problems on your own, saving you a great deal of money.
According to Pe, “Typically, the hot/high-pressure spray system yields the best performance. High pressure and increased heat allow better mixing because the heat thins the fluid and when impinged with high pressure, ensures proper mixing. Polyurea systems usually have higher viscosities and need the heat and oppression. Cold/low-pressure systems typically need some static mix assembly and air atomization attachment to spray. The overall look and feel are very different compared on the heated high-pressure system. Cold/low-pressure systems usually result in a rougher, irregular texture.”
Have you heard of the term OEM? Well, OEM is a term used to describe car components that come from the original manufacturer. You need to know this when replacing parts. Talking about OEM parts makes you look knowledgeable. This will allow you to have less of a chance at getting used parts from someone.
Clifford added, “Also, most well-known spray-in bed liner companies typically apply their products between 62 and 125 mils. The thicker areas are usually the floor of the bed.” This extra thickness helps to protect the bed of the truck from damage.
Over properly prepared substrates, ArmorThane achieves up to 1500-3000 psi adhesion on a mixture of surfaces. Substrates incorporate cold/hot rolled steel, fiberglass, wood, concrete, and other polyurethanes.
If you have to drop your car off at a garage or dealership, instruct the mechanics that you wish to be called with an estimate before they do any work on your car. Do not let a mechanic convince you to pay for expensive repairs because the vehicle is already partly dismantled.
ArmorLiner is applied in three simple steps. Step one, scuff the surface. Step two, clean the surface and use the first coat. Step three, apply additional coats and remove masking.
Ask your mechanic if he is willing to use re-manufactured or salvaged parts. Using these parts can save you hundreds of dollars and is good for the environment as well. If he is unwilling to use them you may want to find someone else to work on your vehicle, as there really is no reason not to.
Because DIY bedliners are applied differently, they aren’t usually as thick. Depending on how many coats are employed and how thick each layer will vary the final thickness. The coatings typically fall into a range of 10 to 30 mils (1 mil = 0.001 inches) thick.
One nice aspect about spray on bedliners is the ease of which they are applied. They usually need three steps, “Prep the surface thoroughly and implement at least two coats of ArmorLiner,” says Bacon. “ArmorLiner adheres to itself, while other layers do not.” This means that over time, further coatings can be added to increase the thickness and fix any damage that may have been done to the liner.
If they do great work at a auto shop you’ve been to, try going to them when you need future work done. If you have a positive relationship with your auto repair shop, you can feel sure your car will be repaired properly. You might also receive a loyalty discount.
Try not to idle the car for too long at one time. This is even more important to remember during the first 1,000 miles off of the dealership. When idling your car during the break-in period, the oil pressure may not be entirely capable of pushing the oil to each component necessary throughout the engine.
Bedliners look great when they are initially applied to the truck because the dark black color against the vehicle color makes it stand out. But over the years, that thick black can turn into a dull grey, and it loses some of its appeals. While the color is not an indication of its quality or performance, it still doesn’t look as good. “UV stability is 100% dependent on the chemistry. Aromatic coatings fade and aliphatic coatings do not. Most standard spray-on bedliner products are aromatic. That means that they are sensitive to UV light from the sun which causes the bedliner to lose its finish and lose some color over time. Aliphatic coatings are not susceptible to UV light and thus are more color stable. Our ArmorLiner bedliner utilizes aliphatic chemistry to protect against UV exposure,” says Bacon.
You only want to buy the best gas possible for your vehicle, so ask at the pump if they filter your gas. Some stations don’t actually filter the gas at the pump and your car may be at a higher-risk for dirty gasoline. Poor gas is not a good thing for any car, new or old.
“An aromatic pigment is added to the resin before spraying. Just like the paint on your walls, air and time will cause the bedliner to fade and oxidize. Some aromatic pigments have more UV inhibitors in them than others so that the fade rate could be different, but they will always fade,” continued Bacon.
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Properly preserve your vehicle if you know that you won’t be driving it for some extended period of time. This involves filling the gas tank to prevent unwanted condensation, waxing the body and windows, and disengaging the parking brake. This keeps all the different components in the best possible condition until you return to driving.
Over the past few years, we are starting to notice more and more vehicles using a bedliner type coating on the exterior of their car instead of paint. This is especially handy for those vehicles that spend a decent amount of time off-road or in harsh conditions.
Carefully read over your owner’s manual. This manual contains a lot of useful information on how your car operates; however, many car owners neglect this important tool. You may even prevent an unnecessary trip to the auto shop by discovering a small problem that you can resolve yourself. Being familiar with this owner manual can help you save a lot of time and money.
Clifford then added, “The other more expensive and permanent option is to choose an aliphatic based product. Aliphatics are like the paint on your car. Not only does it have excellent color and gloss stability, but the fade is also so gradual, you wouldn’t even notice it over time. In industrial/commercial applications, aliphatics are even used as a paint replacement to reduce cost over time.”
The other option if you don’t have a top UV coat added to your bedliner is to take better care of it. “We recommend cleaning your bed with a stiff scrub and a product like Simple Green. You want to use a product that doesn’t contain any oils or harsh ingredients that can build up over time and dry and break down the liner,” explained Clifford.
You should not choose your repair shop only in function of the prices offered. A shop might offer low prices because they only work with used parts or are not hiring certified mechanics. If a mechanic gives you a quote that seems low, do not hesitate to ask why their prices are lower than other places.
If you notice there is something wrong with your car, you should pull over to the side of the road and stop. You might be tempted to keep driving until you get home before checking your vehicle but you could cause more damages if you keep driving. It is often less expensive to pay a tow truck driver than to replace more parts.
While there are chemical differences between the three different types of bedliners, the amount of use/abuse they can handle is where the significant differences lie between the spray-in liners and the DIY liners. When it comes to a commercially sprayed coating (no matter which type), the layers are designed to take a lot of abuse. No need to baby these.
“Most sprays applied products will stand up to personal use if the truck was prepped and sprayed properly. The durability of the coatings depends on the product that you sprayed. For example, you would want to spray the wood with a product with a lot of elongation, for expansion and contraction. Other times you may want a product that is more abrasion resistant or chemical resistant,” finished Clifford.
If you notice an unusual sweet smell in your car, you more than likely have an anti-freeze leak. Check the anti-freeze compartment and refill it if you need. Take the vehicle to your usual repair shop and let them know you suspect there is an anti-freeze leak. Do not wait too long before having this issue taken care of.
For DIY bedliners, while they are very functional, they aren’t necessarily meant for the roughest environments. Cholke recommends that people “Be careful when sliding heavy objects with sharp edges or feet. Temporarily use cardboard or plywood when needed. Be sure to clean it from time to time.” The advantage of the DIY liners is that as they wear thin or if scratches penetrate the coating and reveal bare metal, the user can always add more coats of bedliner.
Whichever way you end up going, there are some main points to know. “Most elastomeric require 24 hours to cure completely. This means we do not recommend you walk on it or put anything on it that may transfer dirt and oils for 24 hours,” Clifford mentioned.
It used to be commonplace for bedliners to be sprayed over all device. In the past decade, more and more companies are excluding the device, spraying the coating, and then reinstall the device.
During our conversation with Clifford, she mentioned that “Some of the same products we use for bed liners are used in numerous commercial and industrial applications. Also, ArmorThane has produced specific use products for applications such as secondary containment, tank linings, speaker boxes, etc. The application opportunities with the right elastomeric product are endless.”
He was also swift to point out that, “Spray-on bedliners are proven to be the best protection for the truck bed. The large OEM’s are beginning to do this at the factory level which further validates the advantages versus other types of vehicle bed protection or no protection at all. ArmorThane has been doing this for twenty (30) years, and we continue to evolve as the industry requirements. All of our goods are proven and tested, giving us both workroom and ‘real world’ data.”
So, what does all this mean?
There are quite a few different organizations that make a bedliner, but there are only three types of bedliners in the bedliner market; high, low pressure and DIY. While we just spoke with three companies; they do encompass the entire market.
So, when it comes time to apply a bedliner to your vehicle or whatever you are thinking about covering; there are a few things to consider besides satisfaction. Think about how you are going to be utilizing your liner and what type of environment it will be in. This should help you figure out which type of coating you need and if you should worry about fade resistance. From there, you can explore for the best deal and know you are getting what you want, not what someone sold you!
Make sure you don’t scrimp on the wiring. Use the appropriate gauge wire and include relays, breakers, and a manual shutoff switch for safety. A factory Ford inertia switch can shut your fuel pump down when in an accident. You can also run a manually operated ball valve, or normally closed solenoid valve. If power is shut down to the solenoid, it automatically closes.
Fuel Lines And Fittings
Never scrimp when it comes to fuel lines. Make sure you have quality hose that is designed for fuel. Vacuum line or heater hose is not the same. I went with AN fittings and top-quality hose in my system because I wanted peace of mind. Make sure any lines you run are protected from sharp objects, abrasion, and heat sources. If the fuel gets too hot, the liquid fuel will turn to a vapor and you will have vapor lock. A trick we used to do was to wrap the fuel line around the AC condenser. On hot days, you will be running the AC, and the condenser gets very cold, chilling your fuel.
I chose to run race-quality hose and aircraft fittings for safety and reliability. The new system taps into the factory hard lines.
Factory fuel systems are safe, and reliable, but they do have some drawbacks. If you want extra capacity, you might need to add an additional tank or swap out the existing one. Make sure you design a safe system that will provide the extra fuel you need without causing an unsafe condition. You will have a huge smile as you travel deep off the beaten path with your new reliability, and extended fuel range.