The second step taken to improve the look of the 1996 F-250 project truck involves ripping out the ugly wooden box liner someone spent a lot of time and effort installing years ago. The wood has begun to delaminate and look weathered. Even at its best, the wooden liner didn’t look that great.
When the wood was removed, it was clear that all the screw holes and trapped debris between the liner and the metal box created starting points for a serious rust problem. Once all the wood was out, the box had to be treated with a rust inhibiting paint product to try and prevent the cancer from spreading. Some of the holes had grown so large they required patches.
Because the box was pretty rusty, I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time trying to create invisible patches. Using some 20 gauge sheet metal pieces cut from an old fender, I made patches to fit the contours by simply placing them on top of the box floor and hammering them into shape. Sheet metal screws were used to hold them in place. The screws also help the metal pieces form to the correct shape over the box floor.
The paint-in liner used for this project is Dupli-Color Bed Armor. It’s available in a kit that comes with a gallon pail of product along with the tools required to apply it — in this case, that means a special roller. You can use a spray gun, but you’ll need a wide aperture tip for the gun. The company has a YouTube video on the net that provides a step-by-step guide to the process. The instructions that come in the kit are also pretty comprehensive.
There is nothing too difficult about the process. Basically, if you can roll on paint, you can do this. Getting the box prepared created most of the hard work, just like applying any paint product. Remember, the better job you do preparing the surface, the better your finished result will be.
Before you begin, clean the box thoroughly. I took the truck to a local car wash and blasted the inside of the box for several minutes, removing all the dirt. But you’ll also need to apply a wax and grease remover to ensure there are no contaminants remaining that can interfere with adhesion of the liner. Dupli-Color sells its own brand, so we purchased a can of it and applied liberal amounts, wiping the surface clean.
The Bed Armor kit includes a red autobody Scotchbrite pad to scuff the existing paint. The pad works like medium-grit sandpaper and creates fine scratches, which makes it easier for the liner to stick to the surface of the box. If you skip this step, you’ll likely have problems with the coating flaking off, because it can’t stick very well to a polished, smooth surface. Don’t cut corners at this stage. It will take some sweat and elbow grease, but you’ll end up with a better job if you pay attention to detail here.
The truck was originally used to pull a stock trailer, so it had an electrical trailer plug attached to the left-side bed wall. Because the old wooden box liner was several inches in from the metal box, the connector could be flush mounted. But now a bracket had to be made to accommodate the thickness of connector. Another piece of 20 gauge metal was cut from an old fender and formed into a bracket to hold the connector in place. Sheet metal screws were used to attach it to the wall of the box.
The electrical plug wires were beginning to fray from the old installation, because no rubber grommet was used to protect them at the point they went through a hole cut in the metal wall of the box. It was a short circuit waiting to happen. To correct the problem, I wrapped the wires with electrical tape and fitted a new grommet into the opening in the metal box. That will prevent any further chafing.
Stir the bed liner coating, mixing it thoroughly, very thoroughly. It contains rubber fragments to add texture to the box. You want those pieces to be applied as evenly as possible to give the coating a consistent appearance. Using the roller, getting the kind of even coating the company advertises was very difficult. The roller tended to create ridges. The end result on this project was more of a random texture pattern rather than an even one. But it still looked good. Spraying the liner on might have resulted in a more consistent texture.
The liner is designed to go on in two coats. The instructions recommend putting a light coat on first. It’s difficult to say why, but the first coat on the F-250 took a very long time to dry. So long, in fact, I gave up waiting and applied the second coat while leaning over the edges of the box rather than climbing in, which actually worked well.
The end result looks pretty good, don’t you think? The cost of materials for this phase of the project amounted to about $140.
Next time we’ll take a look at a more unusual way to use a protective bed liner product. †