Spray-on bedliners are well known to wheelers. Enthusiasts appreciate these durable, nonskid, chemical-resistant, rust-inhibiting coatings for a variety of reasons, from protection to traction to fashion. The liner material itself is usually a polyurethane elastomer. The main differences among brands seem to be the material’s grittiness or grip and how it’s applied. We explored some of the bed-and-beyond tricks offered by creative liner appliers so you can make decisions for your own 4x4.
DIY vs DIFM
With numerous do-it-yourself liner kits now on the market, many wheelers consider doing the job at home. Our firsthand experience with one roll-on kit revealed that the particular coating, applied as specified, lasts about five years on consistently used beds. However, once the poly peels, rust appears.
Having redone many DIY jobs, our local liner applier, Line-X of Conejo Valley owner Mike Cross, outlined some considerations. First and foremost, DIY roll-on kits often don’t apply enough material. Line-X’s minimum acceptable thickness for heavy-use areas such as bed floors is 0.125 inch; 0.085 inch is the bare minimum for surfaces that don’t see much abrasion.
Proper coverage for an 8-foot truck bed requires about 7 gallons of Line-X. Consumers who price out 7 gallons of DIY material often realize that having it done professionally doesn’t cost much more. Plus, most spray-on liner companies stand behind their work. (Line-X offers a limited lifetime warranty.)
Weight gain is a concern for some wheelers. Cross says that lining a fullsize pickup box adds about 56 pounds—comparable to the weight of a plastic drop-in liner.
Most commercial liner shops prefer to do their own prep. However, not all are up to speed on the latest tricks and techniques. For example, Line-X is applied hot, between 120 and 140 degrees F. Because of this heat the material flows into all the cracks and crevices. The deeper and wider the crack, the more material needed. Lower-cost chemicals can be used during prep to minimize waste. Cross uses non-siliconized caulk as a seam sealer to fill the gaps, and on wood he prefers spackling over Bondo as a sandable filler.
Poly elastomer also covers unwanted holes. Cross preps these with aluminized HVAC tape before applying the Line-X. The gist: Consumers might be able to save a few bucks by doing some of the prep, or apply these tricks should they choose to use a DIY kit.
The upshot is that professionally applied coatings cost more up front than the do-it-yourself systems. But an experienced shooter can use bedliner coating to overcome a multitude of other sins, including gouged parts and ugly welds. The money saved by doing the job at home might not be worth burning a day or more — and potentially having to redo it later.
Tricks of the Trade
Cross (whose core business is Cross Enterprises, which does custom fabrication and manufacturers hardcore off-road products) demonstrated some Line-X tricks on our ’75 Chevy Ultimate K10 Stepside. First, he decided to make the replacement 1⁄8-inch flat steel floor from Alternative Metal Supply fully removable. Second, both sides of the floor were lined, preventing rust and rattles underneath. The slide-out bed floor also theoretically makes exhaust and gas tank maintenance and service easier. Attention to detail included loosening up the bed support ribs and squaring the box, then trimming the bed plate to fit. Tailgate clearances were also massaged to account for the Line-X material thickness. Read on for more tricks.
Other Coatable Parts
With proper prep (and special primer in some cases), polyurethane bedliner material is well suited for these and other components.
• Toolboxes (wood and metal)
• Cargo racks
• Phone skins
• Tubs, trim pieces
• Plastic body cladding
• Fuel tanks
• Speaker boxes