Alex Keenan │Fleet Maintenance
Shell Rotella Super Rigs Hood

SuperRigs drivers share truck beauty tips

July 6, 2023
Here are some tips from drivers across the country for keeping Class 8 trucks looking their best on the road.

GILLETTE, Wyoming—When it comes to commercial vehicles, function is typically valued over form and not the other way around. But that doesn’t mean drivers want to be seen in a vehicle that’s lacking in the looks department, especially when they’re spending thousands of hours in them and on the road each year.

“Most of these trucks work every day, and these drivers are putting 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year on a truck,” said Mike Gaffin, a 2023 Shell Rotella SupeRigs judge and driver who is better known by his handle, The Boston Trucker. “When you think about what an average car drives, 10,000 [miles] a year, then you have to take into consideration [that] these drivers will drive in one year some people drive in a lifetime.”

Read more: To keep truck bodies cleaner this summer, build a bug out bag

When a truck drives that much, it’s inevitably going to get some road scars, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look well maintained, even in the midst of hauling a cross-country load. Here’s how several working drivers keep their vehicles looking up to spec in several respects, including their overall appearance, detail of finish, and workmanship.

For some, like Brad Harminson of Equipment Express, that means using specialty products such as Okie Shine's Slick'em Universal Sealant on his 2007 Peterbilt 379. But for others, household cleaning products will do.

"A lot of my stuff is home-remedy,” said Rich Rukstalis of Landstar Inway Inc. “I’ll polish everything. And I have a spray bottle and I'll put rubbing alcohol in it and I’ll go across everything, it gets all the water spots off. [Then I’ll use] water and vinegar for my windows. You don’t have to spend boatloads of money to maintain a truck.”

But while a driver doesn’t have to spend a lot of cash on truck upkeep, spending at least a little on trusted products does help. Rukstalis uses SicRigz Aggressive Polish on his 2018 Kenworth T680, and for internal work, he’ll use Milwaukee power tools for clutch and rear-end repairs.  

Of course, beyond regular polishing and repairs, many drivers at SuperRigs also wash their vehicles two to three time a week, or risk ending up with a much longer cleaning process.

"Because your paint's got more wax on it, the dirt doesn't stick as much [with regular washes] as when you don't do any maintenance, [then] they kind of get baked on and it makes it even harder to clean," said Barry Kasdorf, a Jayde Transportation driver with a 2023 Peterbilt 389X.

For Nichole Cheek, who had recently repainted her 2008 Peterbilt 389, that includes handwashing the vehicle and buffing its stainless-steel aluminum with a citrus brightener for a bit of extra shine.

Gaffin also advised that drivers keep an eye out for rust spots, “because the trucks all get rust on the road, especially in the wintertime.”

Meanwhile, the interior of these trucks need to be as well-loved as the exterior.

"If you're gonna pop your engine, you have to be very confident in your cleanliness, which is really hard because these engines are working in the heat and the dust," said Gaffin. But for him, a well-maintained engine may include the use of chrome, turbo covers, and a fresh coat of paint.

All of these tactics don’t just contribute to a vehicle’s lifespan, but also let drivers travel the roads with pride.

"[Truck shows are] not just about trucking and driving a truck," Gaffin commented. "It's a lifestyle. Pride in your ride… These guys live it every day, they drive not because they have to make a living, they drive because they love it."

About the Author

Alex Keenan

Alex Keenan is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She has written on a variety of topics for the past several years and recently joined the transportation industry, reviewing content covering technician challenges and breaking industry news. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.