A Look at Pick-Up Truck Bed Liner History

January 12th, 2018 by

Love pick-up trucks? You can thank Gottlieb Daimler for his self-named motor, as well as penchant for creating vehicles. At the tail end of the 19th century, he modified the typical car chassis for the time, making it possible for consumers to lug more stuff efficiently.

Not too much has changed with the basic premise of the pick-up truck since Daimler’s model hit the stage. However, over the years, drivers have rapidly become aware of several issues facing the pick-up market.

The first is that hauling irregularly shaped items like stone, sand, gravel eventually causes more than just surface scratches in the truck’s bed. Smooth-bottomed loads just slide around and can do the same amount of damage. Eventually, not only the paint is eaten away, but the metal as well. This exposes the bed liner to the elements, leading to rusting and peeling. Even with a lot of TLC, the bed is doomed to become pocketed, compromising its ability to effectively work.

This leads to the second problem with basic pick-up trucks: They only perform at peak capacity for a limited time. As soon as their beds begin to corrode and pit, they become harder to count on. Who wants to exert lots of muscle and sweat to load sandy fill into a truck bed, only to have some of it leak out during the trip? Even putting blankets and tarps on the bed liner doesn’t avoid some inevitable damage.

And that damage makes the pick-up look lousy. That’s the third concern with truck beds. Even if the truck itself is in pretty good condition, a rusty, pock-marked bed just doesn’t say, “Look at me!”… at least not for the right reasons.

Fortunately, pick-up truck owners didn’t have to deal with these frustrating dilemmas. Why? Science found a way to intervene in the form of the truck bed liner.


Truck Bed Liners Hit the Scene

Obviously, pick-up truck owners didn’t just sit back and allow their trucks to become dented or destroyed; they’d make their own “liners”. Usually, these were constructed of wood and laid on top of the bed. Although they did extend the life of the bed, they were unwieldy and not always effective. After all, wood is a porous material. Bugs and moisture love to feast on wood. Additionally, it’s hardly impervious to destruction.

Enter science with the first solution to the pick-up bed problem.

For years, people had been toying with acrylics and plastics. In the early 1980s, production began on a mass-produced plastic truck bed liner than could be dropped into place. Basically, it operated much as the wooden models did previously, but retained a better seal against wetness and insects.

Taking the concept a step further, other manufacturers including leader Rhino Lining decided it was worth offering consumers an even longer-term, stronger, more effective choice: spray-in bed liners.

The spray-in bed liner combines a typical spraying device with liquid polyurethane or a polyhybrid. The compound hardens (some harden completely, others end up as a more rubbery surface,) becoming part of the pick-up truck bed. No other maintenance is required, and the liner never leaves the bed. It simply reinforces the stability and hardiness of the truck bed.

Today, Rhino (spray-on) and Line-X (drop-in) are some of the top players in the truck bed liner market. Both solve the issue of how to protect the truck from hauled items, but many consumers opt for spray-on instead of drop-in. Why? They have learned the benefits to the spray-on liner world.

Spray-on liners leave absolutely no room for gaps, whereas drop-in liners may not fit precisely. Certainly, they are molded to be as precise as possible, but human or machine error is always a possibility. In addition, drop-in liners may not offer the same skid-less surface that spray-on liners do. Spray-on liners dry to a roughness that grips objects, even if the objects have smooth surfaces. This minimizes damage caused by items moving around in the back of the bed during transit.

Are spray-on liners more expensive upfront? They can be. Still, as a long-term value, they tend to be preferred by serious pick-up truck users because they’re a more dependable investment.


What Does the Future Hold for Truck Bed Liners?

At this point, truck bed liner companies are experimenting in several different ways. Not only are they exploring new polymers to create unique liners for spray-in options, but they are experimenting with different sprayers, too. For instance, a more advanced sprayer system may allow the truck bed liner to be put into place faster and for less cost. The more liners that can be sprayed in a day, the higher the overall productivity.

Another aspect of liners that is going through the evolutionary process involves the way the polymers bond to the original truck bed. Again, science is leading the way in initiatives to figure out the right compounds to give an air-tight seal and an attractive look.

At the same time, consumers are having fun with truck bed liners and actually using them for off-label purposes. The Internet is filled with stories about consumers covering — yes, covering — older vehicles completely in spray-on bed liner. While these are outlying cases and really only appeal to a niche market of vehicle enthusiasts, they’re interesting to read about. They might even prove useful, as in the case of a truck’s underside chassis coated with a spray-on liner. The truck was often driven in hilly, rocky terrain, and the spray-on liner protected its “organs.”

As with most inventions, the truck bed liner has solved a huge issue for all truck owners. (But not El Camino owners, who may find the spray-on liners a distraction.) It has also provided a way to extend the lifetime of any pick-up truck.

Considering a new or used pick-up truck in your future? Be sure to ask about truck bed liners when you talk to your favorite dealer. The last thing you want is to end up having to pay for costly repairs because you loaded something in your truck bed without protecting it first.

Posted in Truck Bed Liner