by Duff McCutcheon
Whether you’re giving your truck a good spring-time scrub to clean up the winter’s road grime or detailing it for the summer show n’ shine season, be prepared for a solid day with a pressure washer and lotsa suds.
Your first step should be to give the truck a good solid surface clean to remove road grime and bugs. Ross Huggins, a Moncton, N.B.-based supplier of truck wash equipment recommends using a mild alkaline truck wash with a pH of between 3 and 11. “Dilute the wash to whatever the manufacturer recommends for a thorough surface wash and apply with a pressure washer or a very soft brush,” says Huggins. (His own truck wash, RFR8000, is available at www.rhuggins.ca).
Degrease every part you can get at: the frame, rear ends, engine, transmission, brake drums, between the drum and wheels, and rear-end housings. This is especially important if you’re planning on showing the truck, according to long-time show n’ shine contestant Mike Duffy of Crystal Falls, Ont. His much-lauded 1989 International day cab has a stack of trophies to back this advice.
“It’s not uncommon for judges to put on white gloves and run their hands under frames to check for grease and dirt. It’s not as important if you’re in a working truck category, but it could make the difference between you and your competitors,” says Duffy.
Find yourself a chemical-based degreasing product (like full strength RFR8000 or a similar product found at Canadian Tire or truck stops), and apply using a pressure washer or “one of those old-fashioned pump sprayers you use for spraying your garden,” says Duffy. “You let it sit for three minutes, then take your power washer and some hot water and wash it off.” Never let this stuff dry as it’s almost impossible to get off once it’s baked-on. Duffy says it’s best to wash and detail your truck in the shade.
Once you’ve given all the metal a good wash and degreasing, it’s time for the sandpaper. “You start with a grit that’s coarse enough to quickly remove imperfections on the surface,” says Shaun Linder, a professional truck detailer with Kitchener, Ont.’s Spin-Fast. “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.”
On stainless steel parts, Duffy recommends using cutting compounds starting with coarser grits and then stepping it down. “Always try a spot in an out-of-the-way corner and if it happens to scratch it then go with something finer.”
For polishing up your aluminum, 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.”
And be aware of what you’re getting into before going at the aluminum. Linder says a good job can take anywhere from six to 20 hours – just on the aluminum.
Unlike stainless steel and aluminum, your chrome bits are pretty resistant to oxidation, so a good scrub with soap and solvents – using immaculately clean, soft cloths – should suffice to uncover the chrome’s natural shine.
When you’re at a show looking down a long line of equally admirable large cars, you come to realize that truck shows are ultimately won or lost according to who’s got the cleanest, shiniest ride.
“That’s the whole key to truck shows,” says Duffy.
When you get to a show, the first thing you do is wash the truck – yet again – to get off as much road grime you accumulated on the ride over as you can. “Try going through a commercial truck wash on the way over,” says Duffy. “And then find out where the judges want you parked and don’t let them move you around once you start cleaning because that’s going to make things a lot harder – a gleaming truck can pick up dust going from one end of a field to another.”
Then turn your attention to the insides. Check out your engine compartment and tidy up your hoses, if need be.
Get inside the cab and clear out all those old candy wrappers and copies of highwaySTAR, and go through it with a bottle of Armor All – or whatever brand of wipe you like – and shine up the dash. Ditto for the windows; get the Windex or even plain vinegar and get them shining. “Use some scent so it smells good, too, and make sure your blankets and pillows are arranged just so,” Duffy advises.
You’ll get a couple of bonus points if you highlight the letters on your tires. Make sure they’re clean and the lettering is lined up - some pros even line up every valve stem on every wheel. “Oil them up inside and out. Jack your truck up and spin the tires to ensure all grass and stones are out of the treads. Soap and water is good for a first wash and then go over them with thinners and a rag,” says Duffy.
“If you plan on showing your truck for the summer, every time you’re home for the weekend, you should degrease it and power wash it. Once you’re up on it, it’s just a matter of maintaining it and keeping it clean.”
So pick a nice weekend, park your rig in the shade and get to work. Remember, if you get the kids involved you can pay them a few bucks that’ll come in handy at tax time (ask your accountant about that). Hopefully we’ll see you at the shows. And if you’re lucky – and your ride’s in tip top shape – maybe it’ll grace the pages of this magazine sometime soon.