Having a truck is cool on its own but not always unique. Most truck owners want theirs to stand out, look cool, but not everyone has the thousands of dollars they can dump into a truck project. I want to talk about how someone can make their truck look cool without spending lots of money on it and even some things you don’t need any money for.
Here are 15 cool things to do to your truck for free or very cheap:
- Remove the decals
- Wash and detail your truck
- Shine up your tires
- Polish the wheels
- Remove your rear bumper
- Lower your sun visors
- Detail the engine compartment
- Paint your axels
- Black out the chrome
- Add a steering wheel cover
- Add seat covers
- Get a phone holder
- Tint your windows
- Add rock lights
- Black out your tail lights
It’s no wonder there are over 28 million pickup trucks registered in the U.S. With such a high number, making your truck stand out is not always easy. Luckily, with minimal investment or some items from your garage, you can make your truck cooler, faster.
1. Remove the Brand Decals and Badging
An easy and free way to make your truck look a lot cooler is to completely remove any decals and badging put on by the car manufacturer or a previous owner. Some vinyl stickers may peel off quite easily using just your finger if they have been on for less than a year, but for others, you may have to get creative and search your toolshed for a little help.
First, you can use a heat gun or hair dryer to soften the adhesive. Put it at around 75% heat an inch away from the decal and perform circular, uniform motions over the decal for about 60 seconds. You will know it is heated enough when you press on it and there is some movement.
Next, use dental floss or a fishing line. Put it on a corner of the decal and start sawing away with both hands to peel the decal off the truck’s body or doors. If it doesn’t come off easily, use the heat source again before trying a second time.
The decal should peel off completely, leaving you with a residue. You can buff this off with a microfiber cloth. If the decal is very old and a lot of the leftover residue isn’t coming off, you may need to use a glue remover.
2. Wash & Detail Your Truck
This doesn’t take much effort but makes a big difference. Wash the truck. Rinse the truck first with a hose and then scrub it good with a sponge or a towel and a bucket of soapy water. Get all the crevices and wash it good. Then rinse it off with clean water. It is also good to dry off the truck with a dry towel to get all the droplets of water off so they don’t evaporate on the paint and leave water spots.
After the truck is nice and clean you can attack the interior by collecting all the garbage and vacuuming it very well. It is good to remove the seats if you have the tools to really get in those hard to get to spots. Now that the carpet is clean, you can look for any stains. You can use some soapy water and a simple brush to get those stains out. Dip the brush into soapy water and then rub the spots so you start generating some foam. Then take a towel and soak up all the foam. Do this a few times to get all the stains out. Now get some clean water and rinse those spots out by dipping your brush into it and brushing over the soapy spots. Repeat this until there is no more foam. Letting the carpet air dry before you assemble everything is best.
It is now time to use a damp rag and clean all the plastics. Use small brushes to get into small areas and I sometimes use a screw driver with a rag draped over it to wash the areas I can’t get the towel into. If you can get yourself a bottle of Meguiar’s Shine, this will really put a cherry on top. Spray some Meguiar’s on a dry towel and then wile down all the plastic surfaces to make them shine.
3. Detail The Engine Compartment
The engine compartment is not visible to everyone when you are driving by or the truck is parked somewhere but you know it. Sometimes knowing that the engine is clean gives you extra pride in your truck and makes you feel good about it, so let’s do this.
First thing to keep in mind is that there are electrical connections under the hood so you don’t want to flood it with water too much. It is designed to withstand some moisture but not a direct pressure washer stream.
Start with a quick rinse to get things wet, then a rag and a bucket of soapy water will do the trick. Start washing all the surfaces you can reach. Get it nice and foamy and pay special attention to areas that are prone to be greasy. Once you are done, then use a hose and wash things down carefully. Avoid pouring too much water around the alternator and the battery.
Use dry rag to wipe all the surfaces down dry and then let everything dry. At this point when everything is dry, look around and look for spots that you missed. Sometimes when things are wet it is hard to see dusty areas that you may have missed. Use a damp rag to wipe those spots and then you are done!
4. Polish The Wheels
The wheels and tires are the jewelry on your truck so let’s make it shine too. Make sure not to scratch them so first rinse them with some water. Then use a rag with some soapy water to wash then nicely and generate a nice layer of foam. Make sure to get into all the areas including around the lug nuts. Wash the wheel lip where the wheel connects with the tire. Once you are satisfied, rinse it with clean water.
Just like before, you want to dry off the wheels to prevent water spots.
You can go one more level and polish the wheels by getting some Mother’s Wheel Polish and put a little on your microfiber towel and rub a small section of your wheel and when you are satisfied wipe it off with a clean side of the towel.
5. Shine Up Your Tires
When doing this, you might want to do the tires and wheels at the same time so you don’t mess up the cleaning you did on the wheels while cleaning the tires. You can rinse and wash the tires at the same time as you are doing it on the wheels. Once they are both clean then polish the wheels first and then to shine up the tires. If you can get some Meguiar’s Tire Shine and spray it on the tires and let it do its thing without touching them, the tires will shine beautifully. If you are not able to get your hands on this product then just use a little oil on your towel and rub the tires to make them shine.
6.Remove The Rear Bumper
Some people like this look and some don’t so it is up to you if you find this appealing to you. This will also be good if you have an ugly rusty bumper. Removing the rear bumper gives a truck a little more sportier look.
If you do like this look another step to go would be to get a custom roll pan and cover the open cavity in the back and smooth it out nicely. They sell bolt on roll pans so no welding is required.
7. Lower Your Sun Visors
This one is funny but some people find it cool. If you lower your sun visors down and push them up to the windshield it narrows the viewing area. From the outside it just looks funny but when you are inside it makes you feel like you are in a tank.You know I never understood this thing but I know someone that does this and has been doing this in his cars for as long as I’ve known him.
8. Paint Your Axels on a Lifted Truck
Axels are the first thing you see on a lifted truck. If you want them to look really sleek, try painting them. If you have some spray paint lying around this is a completely free way to upgrade your pickup.
Otherwise, you can get some spray paint for just one dollar at different locations. Gloss black spray paint is a great color to amplify the coolness of your truck. You can also spray paint your truck’s calipers to go the extra mile.
To do this, first you need to wash the axle well to get all the dirt off, same goes for the calipers. Once clean and dry, give them a nice scuff with a red scuff pad. If you don’t have one handy, any hardware store or even Walmart will have it pretty cheap. Scuff it thoroughtly to rough up all the surfaces that you will be painting. After this, give it a rinse one more time.
After everything is dry, tape off or cover anything you don’t want to get paint on and then go nuts.
First, do a dry coat of paint to get things going. Wait about 10 minutes and then do a second thicker coat. After about 10 to 20 minutes do one more coat, on this one try to get things glossy by applying a little more paint. But not too much so it doesn’t run. These three coats should be enough, but it you want you can give it another 20 minutes and do a final wet coat.
9. Black Out the Chrome
To easily bring a cool vibe to your entire truck, try blacking out all the chrome. You can use regular black car paint, but the best way is if you have some black rubber coating laying around. Rubber coating is often cheaper than car paint and more durable. It is also easy to peel off if you want to sell the truck later and restore the chrome to its original state.
If you want this to be permanent and last a long time, you should prep it before painting by scuffing it down with a red scuff pad. Once the trim and decals are scuffed, tape them off to cover all the surfaces around them to prevent the paint from getting on it. You can use masking tape and old newspapers or junk mail to tape off the surfaces.
Once ready, do a first dry coat by spraying the paint lightly on all the areas you wan tot paint. Wait about 10 minutes and then do a second full coat. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly glossy at this point. You just want to get a coat of paint on it. After about 20 minutes go ahead and put a third coat of paint on and make this one glossy by applying a little more paint, but make sure not to put too much so it doesn’t run.
10. Add a Steering Wheel Cover
Adding a steering wheel cover to your truck is a cheap and easy way to instantly level up your interior. Covers come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures, and you can even customize them. Wheel covers are also great for a better grip while driving and can protect your hands in extreme temperatures.
You can sometimes find them at second-hand stores, flea markets, or online for less than $10. Also think about making one your self.
11. Add Heated Seat Covers
Another cheap and easy option to make your driving experience more luxurious is by adding heated seat covers to your trust. This works best if you live in a colder area.
You can find cheap, heated seat covers at your local auto store or online for every seat in your truck. Look for sales around Christmas, Black Friday, and Fourth of July.
Other ideas to cover rough seats is to drape a blanket with a sports team theme over them or I’ve also seen someone put a hoodie over the seat, yes a hoodie sweater with a design on it.
12. Get a Phone Holder
Phone holders are a great way to add a high-tech feel to your truck’s interior while also having practical benefits. Some phone holders attach to your air conditioner or cup holder while others suction to your dashboard or window.
Phone holders allow you to be hands-free when navigating or using the phone so you can have both hands on the wheel and focus on the road.
You can find these at some Dollar stores, Five Below shops, T.J. Maxx stores, online, and at other discounted stores. Even Walmart will have something you can use pretty inexpensively.
13. Tint Your Windows
Tinting your windows professionally can be expensive, but you can find some tinting kits for very cheap online or at a local auto parts store and they are easy to install.
A tint over all your windows will make your truck look cooler and also block out glare so you can see the road better while protecting you from UV light.
Make sure to read the instructions and one tip is use a spray bottle with slightly soapy water to spray on the glass before you apply the film. This will allow you to squeegee all the bubbles out with ease. Without this you will end up with bubbly tint job and you don’t want that.
14. Add Some Rock Lights
If you have some cool wheels and tires adding Rock Lights in the wheel well will add coolness to the truck by lighting up the wheels at night. I would probably avoid adding this to the truck if your wheels and tires are not something you are proud of.
Rock Lights are just small LED lights you can install above your wheels in the wheel well of the truck. They can be purchased fairly cheaply on Amazon or pretty much any car parts store.
To install them you will need to run some wires to your dash and/or to the battery. Those that come with a remote will not need a switch in the truck so they can be ran directly to the battery. Either way, you want to hide your wires well so they don’t come loose and then dangle around and get snagged on something, or just look bad. Take the time to remove covers and things in the way for you to tuck the wires nicely and use zip-ties to attach them to existing wire harnesses as you route the wire to the battery. Take the time to make it look nice so you can be proud of your work.
15. Black Out The Tail Lights
This is a great one to do on your truck, black out the taillights. You cant just paint over the tail lights with black paint, that would be illegal to drive on the roads, but what you want to do it to darken it up so it looks black but still transparent to let the light through.
They sell a Lens Tint spray you can use to layer the paint on and control how much darkness you want. The trick is to layer it on lightly so it doesn’t create runs. Give it a good 20 minutes between coats, or read the instructions and follow them. On the final coat, do it a little more wet to make it glossy.
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.