Tips for Getting Your Truck Show Ready
By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
Mid-America Trucking Show or MATS is the unofficial, yet very official kickoff to the truck show season. Yes, it IS a thing! If you want to take your truck and/or trailer to a show just pick a weekend, you should be able to find one someplace.
Iowa 80, of course, has the world famous Walcott Truckers Jamboree the weekend following the 4th of July every year, which includes the truck beauty contest, and it is one of the most exciting, fun filled events of the entire season, so all of you should definitely try to attend this year’s event. We are both planning on being there again, and the entire staff at Iowa 80 do everything they can to make it an event to remember since it is their gift to us, the drivers. The Moon family does this to thank us.
Getting your truck ready to be judged is a huge undertaking, but the rewards for driving a truck that sparkles and shines after a show are just as big! It’s like getting a new truck over and over again, only better, because showroom shine isn’t clean enough to win a competition these days. It’s got to be much cleaner than that to be serious. To get it show truck shiny requires serious work, every nook and cranny has to be touched, but because you are touching all these places, you are much more likely to find a potential problem BEFORE it becomes a problem, so all that hard work does have its rewards. Another advantage is more often than not when you are pulled in to a DOT checkpoint they will be awestruck by your equipment rather than looking for something to pick apart.
There are so many new products for cleaning and shining everything these days that it really is up to each individual and the look he/she wants to achieve. Do you want your tires finished with a shiny, wet look or a dry, clean finish? Paint pens have been used to letter tires for many years and can be purchased at lots of places and in lots of colors and brands. They work well, but tires need to be clean and free of dust, then lightly wiped with a small amount of paint thinner where the lettering will be applied. This will remove any oils and allow the paint to adhere to the rubber. When dry, apply a very light coat of spray-on clear acrylic sealer. After this entire process is complete, you can carefully stage your tires and use whatever tire protectant you choose and your lettering will look perfect.
Waxes and polishes are too numerous to count, again, personal preference will win out. Use whichever products you like best for a base, but on judging morning, a quick detail product works great so you can spray and wipe down the entire unit. If you have the chance beforehand to get all of your aluminum buffed out to a pristine finish, it helps greatly, but you still need a quick detail product so you’ll be able to wipe down everything, aluminum included, because water spots will be there from a wash or dew or something. It’s really a must have.
If you are entered in an interior class, the same applies, clean as if it were brand new. The more miles on the truck, the more points it gets, the dirtier it is, the more points you lose, so clean it up. Make sure you don’t overlook those hard to reach places, clean things you don’t generally think about, pull out your seat belt and wipe it down, it gets dusty. The seat bases get dirty too in everyday use, whether or not you have a skirt to cover them, make sure they are spotless. The pedals and the boot for your shifter; those two places gather a LOT of dirt and muck yet were most often overlooked when we were judging interiors, and those places are right out in the open! Don’t worry so much about scratches or wear, be concerned with DIRT, cleanliness, or lack thereof. Another thing to be aware of when entering an interior class is the smell inside your truck. You want it to smell inviting, not irritating. Add some air freshener or aftershave, a freshly baked item, something pleasant and not overpowering, just enough that’s hardly noticeable, that would be a winning move!
Under the hood a good degreaser and power wash is a must. If you want to add little things to your engine to dress it up you could start with a few nut covers and some colored wire loom on hoses that match your truck. Looming is sold in a variety of colors and sizes and can be complemented with ties of the same or contrasting colors. This is an inexpensive way to get started dressing up your engine if you don’t get too carried away. If you can afford it, then, go ahead, get carried away! You can also take your paint pens and paint your belts to match the loom and tires if you get really into it.
During the show, be sure to start up the truck from time to time, many a show truck have needed a jump at the end of a show because they’ve forgotten to do that. Take part in the light show whenever you can, they are SPECTACULAR!
Go out there and enjoy the compliments you get when you leave the show! The real fun of having a show worthy truck is driving it every day all across America, day and night!
Stay Safe out there and Keep It Shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.