Life and Family

Doing Your Job


The Shining

by Duff McCutcheon
Untitled Document

So the summer show-and-shine circuit is just around the corner and your rig has got smiley faces etched into all the winter road grime from the neighborhood kids. It's gonna take some serious elbow grease and a solid Saturday to get the truck into show condition.

"Washing your truck and getting it ready for the shows isn't that much different from detailing a car, there's just a lot more of it," says Lacey Dalton, president of LA Dalton Systems Inc. in Caledonia. Ont. Dalton should know. He and his bobtail Peterbilt are a familiar sight at the various truck shows, including a win at last year's Fergus and an appearance at this year's Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.

"I basically start at the top - the stacks - and work down," he says.

If you're competing at the elite Stars & Stripes level - the United State's largest working truck beauty events - then your truck had better be blemish free.

"All the chrome has to be top notch, even the pipes shouldn't be blue," says Dalton. "And glass has to be spotless in and out. Check out your engine compartment - some engines look like a dog's breakfast - so be sure to tidy your hoses up. You might get a couple of bonus points if you highlight the letters on your tires. But at the very least, make sure they're clean and the lettering is lined up. I even line up every valve stem on every wheel. And make sure there are no stones in the tires. If it gets down to one or two points between competitors, then they'll go inspect again and look underneath the truck."

So how do you get your truck into such tip-top condition, especially after six months of hard driving through salt and slush?

Shaun Linder, a professional truck detailer with Kitchener, Ont's Spin Fast, says the first step is a good surface cleaning to remove road grime and bugs. Linder uses a multipurpose cleaner called Citraclean that works well on both stainless steel and aluminum. (Citraclean is marketed in Canada by Lazer Chem - 800 233-2933.)

Once you've got the metal bits clean and dry, it's time for the sandpaper. "You start with a grit that's coarse enough to quickly remove imperfections on the surface," says Linder, "and then go over it again with finer grits." Each successive grit scrubs out the scratches of the coarser one before until they're undetectable. Linder says he can remove any blemish using 220, 320, or 400 grit paper. "The key is to be patient, work with the grain of the metal, and keep moving so you don't overwork an area. And don't use a grinder when you can do the job by hand."

For polishing up your aluminum and stainless steel to a mirror-finish shine, Linder suggests buffers, pads, and sticks of jeweller's rouge and other iron oxide-derivative cutting compounds that cut away at the oxidized surface of the metal.

"There are probably 20 or 30 colors of rouge on the market, all varying in greasiness or abrasiveness," says Linder, who buys his aluminum-polishing supplies from North Carolina's JacksonLea (www.jacksonlea.com). Aluminum can be easily damaged during polishing or buffing so it needs more frequent applications of greasier-than-usual compounds. "The greasier the compound, the more of a cut it has; the drier the compound, the more of a color it has."

But be sure you know what you're getting into before setting to work on the aluminum. Linder says it's hard work and can get pretty frustrating if you don't know what you're doing. He says he's spent anywhere from six hours to 20 hours - just on the aluminum.

When it comes to aluminum and stainless, there are a couple of amateur mistakes that you should take pains to avoid. Never use a scrub brush on your aluminum tanks and wheels. Aluminum is a remarkably soft metal that can get scratched even with a scrub brush, and when you scratch it, it stays in there. You can sand it out, but it takes a lot of aluminum with it.

And be careful not to use anything too abrasive on the stainless. "I've seen stainless that was destroyed because they used the wrong cloth," says Linder.
For the chrome, Dalton suggests using a good polish like Autosol, with a good car wax applied afterwards.

And if you've got some paint chips, be sure to get a matching paint touch-up kit from your dealer, or get one made, and touch up those little dings.

Truck Accessories
The sky's the limit on interior and exterior truck accessories. You can go far in dressing up and customizing your ride.

Linder says the hottest things now are laser etchings in stainless steel parts. "You're seeing flames etched into exhaust guard covers, light covers - it's pretty cool," he says.

LED lights from makers like Grote, Truck-Lite, and Peterson's Pirahna are jazzing up trucks across the continent. "The latest LEDs are square stop/turn tail lights, and LED cab lights that go on the roof are a pretty hot item," says Barbara Karolides of West Palm Beach, Fla's Pink Lightning truck accessories shop.

Regarding interior trim, Karolides says guys are really starting to dress up their CB radios with things like jeweled switch extensions that go on the buttons. And some drivers are laying down hardwood floors in their cabs. Even the ceiling is no longer sancrosanct - at the Mid-America Trucking Show this year, Randy and Jona Rebillard of Gimli, Man. cashed in with their punched-tin ceiling.