Drop-in plastic pickup bedliners are great . . . until you remove them. While they are durable and relatively inexpensive, they trap dirt, moisture, road salt, and trash between the bottom of the plastic liner and the pickup bed. Over time the plastic can wear off the bed paint and galvanization, allowing rust to form that can eventually rot holes the bed.
That was the case with the 2001 Tacoma I inherited from my dad. He installed the factory Toyota over-the-rail plastic bedliner right after he bought the truck new off the lot. However, after I relocated the vehicle from Massachusetts to California, the liner started warping a bit in the strong SoCal sun. Plus, I wanted to install a Yakima BedRock system and needed access to the bedrails, which the over-the-rail plastic liner obscured. But when I pulled the plastic liner out, I was greeted by a few rust spots and generally worn and scuffed paint.
This pickup has 330,000 miles on it, so a full-bore bed restoration with professional paint and body work wasn’t really in order. But I did want to fix the rust and protect the bed when hauling auto parts and bed toys so I could eventually pass this truck down to one of my kids. Like most off-road enthusiast, I can weld, so the sheetmetal repair wasn’t a big deal. But unless it comes out of an aerosol can, paint isn’t my forte. And a professionally installed spray-in liner would cost nearly a third of what this old truck is worth.
I found a great compromise between price and performance with Durabak’s roll-on poly bedliner. At roughly $120 a gallon, the Durabak 18 has increased UV resistance for outdoor use and the textured granules promised a good no-slip surface for the Tacoma bed. I bought some 20-gauge sheetmetal and a cheap plastic paint tray at my local hardware store for a couple bucks, hit Sherwin Williams for Pro Thinner to degrease the bed surface at $9, fixed the rust, rolled on the Durabak in a lazy weekend, and had my Tacoma bed restored for less than $150.
The biggest question I have gotten on social media is, “How does a roll-on bedliner you apply yourself at home work?” I did fairly meticulous prep, but you can’t buy the Xylene that Durabak strongly recommends for surface prep in California. I substituted Specialty Thinner Pro Thinner by Crown, as suggested by the company, but when sliding a heavy wooden transmission crate into the bed, the sharp corner of the crate caught and I peeled up a section of liner just smaller than a pinky fingernail. At first I suspected it was due to improper prep on my part, but after seeing that the rest of the bedliner surface survived unscathed by the heavy crate, I checked the depth of the gouge and realized I hadn’t applied the Durabak nearly as thick as the company’s website suggests for high-traffic, heavy sliding useage. I had enough liner left in my gallon to do one more coat, and I am convinced that had I done it, I would not have created the nick. Thankfully, the Durabak is easy to repair – just reprep, degrease, and roll or brush on more liner, so I’ll do that and add a third coat for good measure.
The second most-asked question is, “Is it slippery?” The answer is an emphatic no! There is a very large amount of granules in the textured product, and the finished Durabak bed surface is one of the grippier bed finishes I have encountered. It feels more like extremely coarse sandpaper than anything.
So, I am happy with the end result. Aside from the one spot, which honestly seemed to be my fault due to applying too thin, it has so far proven a tough, durable, and good-looking addition to my old Taco’s bed.
Durabak is available in smooth or textured versions and comes in a variety of colors. Since my truck sits outside in the strong SoCal sun, I ordered a gallon of textured Durabak 18, which adds UV inhibitors to prevent fading. One gallon comes with two special 4-inch application rollers. I ordered an extra quart just in case I needed it, but wound up not even using the whole gallon to coat the 6-foot Tacoma bed.
I discovered two places in the bed where the plastic bedliner rubbed the paint off and allowed the bed to rot out: one at the rear near the tailgate and one where the bed floor meets the passenger-side inner fender. These would have to be cut out and fixed before the Durabak was applied.
I used a combination of a Snap-On Crud Thug (pneumatic wire wheel stripper), a cutoff wheel, and a spot-weld drill bit to remove the offending rot and scale without destroying the good sheetmetal underneath.
Once the majority of the rotted section was cut out, I used a pneumatic angle grinder with abrasive pad to remove all the paint and galvanization so the patch panel could be welded in.
I cut a patch template from heavy-stock paper. Once happy with the fit, I transferred it to the 20-gauge sheetmetal I picked up at my local hardware store and welded the patch in place using a low-heat setting on my Millermatic 212 welder.
The patch at the passenger-side wheelwell was a bit more complex, but by carefully positioning the patch panel, making sure it was tacked in place exactly as my template had been, I was able to massage it from the bed floor upward to follow the rounded contour of the lower wheelwell.
I relied on a series of small tack welds rather than a full weld bead because even on its lowest setting, the big Millermatic 212 wanted to blow holes in the factory sheetmetal with my 0.030-inch welding wire. I usually keep a spool of 0.023-inch wire for lighter jobs like this, but naturally I was all out when this project rolled around. This patch is plenty strong, and the thick Durabak fills any gaps and hides the patch anyway.
With the patch panels tack welded in place, I sprayed the repairs top and bottom with self-etching primer and allowed it to dry for a few days. Durabak should only be applied to fully cured paint. To prep the bed, I roughed up the area to be lined with sandpaper and washed the bed, allowing it to air-dry for a day. Then I degreased the whole thing with Specialty Thinner by Crown. Durabak strongly recommends using Xylene, but mere mortals aren’t allowed to buy that product anymore in Commiefornia. If you don’t live in the land of nuts and flakes, by all means, grab some Xylene and go to town.
The factory plastic over-the-rail bedliner had chewed up some of the bed paint, so I just masked off using that already-scuffed line as a guide. The Durabak rolls on without a lot of splatter, so this is all the masking I bothered to do. Any small drops will easily clean up with the same thinner you use to prep the surface while the product is still wet.
The Durabak instructions say several times not to shake the can but, rather, to use a paint stirrer to mix the product and ensure that all the granules are properly suspended. I stirred the gallon for a good couple of minutes, varying the drill speed and level for a good amount of overkill.
I poured some Durabak into a plastic paint tray immediately after stirring and began rolling it on with the supplied application roller. I let it dry overnight but you can apply the second coat after 1-2 hours. Be aware that you won’t be able to get the roller into tight corners and crevices, so be prepared to use a brush for hard-to-reach areas.
I discovered I had absentmindedly left the roller and pan out overnight and I had to cut the applicator off the roller because the Durabak had completely set up like a rock. D’oh! Make sure you leave your brush submerged in Xylene (or the California equivalent) overnight if you want to reuse it.
The second coat went on much thicker than the first coat, leading me to observe that the Durabak product really likes to stick to itself. After applying the second coat, I let it set up and then went back with a brush to hit all the areas in which the roller would not fit. In all, I am really happy with the grip and durability, and I am thrilled with the price.