Roll-on pickup truck bed liners have become quite popular over the last several years for a number of reasons. Applied well, they look just as good as the “real” thing, and there are a large number of additional options available to truck owners who want a textured surface or a color other than black.
Perhaps the most important factor in the popularity of roll-on bed liners is the expense. They are far less expensive than traditional bed liners or even sprayed-on solutions. Therefore, it’s an easy choice for many when you consider how good they look and how long they last. It’s also the perfect choice for an old truck, where one doesn’t want to spend a great deal of money.
Most roll-on bed liners are self-applied because if you’re willing to pay the cost of installation you may as well have purchased a sprayed-on liner or a shell. The good news is that applying one’s own rolled-on bed liner is not that difficult. It does, however, consist of some hard work, and those who take the process for granted will encounter some common pitfalls.
Let’s start with the basics: the tools. Many of the leading brands sell a complete roll-on bed liner kit that includes applicators and even sandpaper. However, it’s usually cheaper just to buy some sandpaper or abrasive pads, painter’s tape, a roller, several sleeves, and a paintbrush or two. You’ll also need the paint. Professionally applied bed liners generally use 5 gallons, but you won’t need nearly as much for the rolled-on variety.
However, they do generally require more than the 1 gallon that many kit instructions suggest. Shops and tutorials often suggest an additional quart, but due to the cost-savings of a gallon, an extra quart here or there and you’re nearly at the cost of the second gallon anyway. Make life easy on yourself by buying that second gallon before you start the process.
After gathering your supplies, the next step is the cleaning process. This is a critical phase, so don’t skip it or half-ass it. Clean the bed thoroughly, and use the proper solvents in order to remove substances such as automotive grease or wax. If you don’t, the liner won’t bind to those areas properly, which will compromise the entire surface. If the surface is compromised, it will begin to peel.
Now it’s time for sanding. This is aggressive not light sanding, but don’t overdo it to the point of altering the shape of the bed. The goal here is to give the bed liner a lot of surface area to bind to by heavily scratching it. Once the sanding is done, you’ll have to clean it all over again. Many people try to streamline the process by sanding once and cleaning once but that laziness often ends badly.
Once you have thoroughly cleaned and then dried the bed of the truck for the second time, it’s time to apply the painter’s tape. The goal here is to make it so you can paint the bed without doing a lot of worrying about being perfect. Use the tape the cover any area in vicinity of the bed where you don’t want the paint. You can use newspaper to cover the larger sections.
That is essentially it. The most difficult aspect of applying roll-on bed liner is in the preparation. If you perform the preparation properly, the bed liner will roll on quickly and easily. Don’t stress out over roll marks and brush marks because most of these will fade as the surface dries. However, it helps to roll and brush in one direction in long strokes as much as possible.
Spray coats of bed liner can dry instantly, but this isn’t the case with the rolled-on variety. For best effect let the liner dry for 3 days (72 hours). This means not driving it, and having it parked in an area where it’s protected. So, don’t start the process until you know you’ll be able to be without it for three days. It you follow these steps, you’ll be able to avoid the most common mistakes.