Paint doesn’t just make a truck look good – it’s crucial to maximizing cab life. Here are some tips for your fleet.

Your fleet’s trucks and trailers are rolling billboards for your company’s image – that’s why it’s important that they look good, says Eugene ‘Gene’ Ivey, commercial marketing manager for DuPont Automotive Finishes.

Yet the paint that goes on a truck can affect its life cycle, as can the chemicals used to clean the dirt and grime off your fleet’s vehicles. Here are some tips for truck fleets to get the most out of their vehicle coatings and help preserve them over the life cycle of the unit.

First, some terminology: Three factors intrinsic to paint affect your vehicle’s appearance – these are gloss, distinctness of image (DOI), and ‘orange peel’ or the roughness and texture of the paint.

Gloss is the percent of reflected light from a painted surface, usually measured at a 20- or 60-degree angle. A good gloss reflects 85% to 90% of light. DOI is the ability to see yourself in the painted surfaces. The ‘orange peel’ of a painted surface is measure on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely rough and 10 being mirror smooth. A level of 6 to 7 or higher is considered acceptable by most truck OEMs and fleets.

‘Cost per gallon’ used to be how truck paint expenses were calculated. Today, however, ‘cost per truck’ is what most OEMs and aftermarket paint specialists use, says Ivey, factoring in the material and labor cost to paint one vehicle.

Ivey said a fleet should conduct a thorough ‘value analysis’ to balance the price versus the performance of particular paints, including the service and support a fleet will receive from its paint supplier. Most paint systems for trucks, he adds, are a combination of a base color or colors along with a clear ‘top coat’ that acts as a sealer to protect the base colors from damage.

To take care of the paint coatings on your trucks and trailers, Richard Petrut of paint maker R. H. Sheppard has a few suggestions. First, wait 30 days after the date of manufacturing before waxing your trucks – that gives the paint time to cure. To clean your vehicle, spray the entire surface with cold water first to loosen dirt, then wash with mild soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and wipe dry with a soft cloth.

However, Petrut warns fleets not to use caustic cleaning compounds. Designed to remove bugs, tar and other forms of tough road grime, such compounds can actually damage both the paint and other truck components, such as chrome, aluminum, rubber seals, etc. Do not re-use dirty wash or rinse water to clean another truck, as the dirt and grime and damage the paint. Be careful with high-pressure washing devices, as if the pressure is too high, you can actually remove paint from the vehicle, he says.

Do not wash or wax vehicles in hot sunshine, Petrut warns, as that can damage the truck’s paint. Also, do not dust off a dry truck surface with a cloth, as the dust can scratch the paint finish.

Remember, too, that selecting the right paint is critical not just for how it looks but for how easily it can be repaired. Some re-painting jobs can cost as much as a full in-frame engine rebuild, depending on the combination of base paints and clear coat top sealers, Petrut says – close to $6,000 per truck in some cases. It’s also important to repair dings and chips on a truck’s painted surface in order to avoid peeling of the top coat.

Follow those tips, Petrut says, and fleets can keep their trucks looking good and avoid expensive re-painting stops down the road.