Do it yourself truck washing is a little more complicated than DIY car washing.
That’s because you have to have a suitable place and suitable tools.
Mike has washed commercial motor vehicles many times.
So, we’ll share some tips to help you save money.
Disclaimer: this page does not cover wash outs that are typically used by tankers or animal haulers. We leave those types of jobs to professionals. Also, we cover commercial truck washes separately.
In case you haven’t noticed, not all car washes are tall enough for commercial motor vehicles.
Try to pull your 13’6″ high truck in here and you’re going to have problems.
So, if you use a commercial place, make sure that it can accommodate your truck.
(For your convenience, we are linking to or listing products on Amazon.com, with which we have an affiliate relationship.)
Next, you need the right tools.
Here’s where some drivers get fancy with special towels or buffers.
If that is what you like, go for it.
But for starters, you need
- a fresh water source with a hose attached;
- a drainage system that can handle the soap and water you’ll use and the dirt that will come off your truck;
- a good grade of soap that is going to let you get your truck clean without stripping the paint or doing other damage (our favorite is ArmorAll 10346 Ultra Shine Wash and Wax – 64 oz.);
- a very long-handled brush (preferably one that with an extendable handle that will let you clean WAY up to the farthest height of your truck);
- a large sponge or hand mitt to let you clean low areas that you can’t reach with the bristles of your brush;
- a bucket, washtub, or trash can into which to put the soap and water, but large enough to accommodate the brush head; and
- clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting wet or dirty (at least for a little while).
Setting Up Your Own Operation
In the photos below, professional driver Mike Simons is at home doing a DIY truck washing on a company truck, using his own water, soap and equipment.
Mike Simons uses a hose attached to an outdoor faucet at home to rinse the company-issued truck he was driving at the time..
Doing a DIY truck wash at home on a company-issued truck, Mike Simons cleans a light with a scrub brush.
Mike Simons, at home, uses a long-handled brush to scrub the hood of the company-issued truck he was driving at the time.
Drawback to Do-It-Yourself Truck Washing
The drawback to do-it-yourself truck washing is that you may not have the high-pressure hoses or wands (especially the long ones to reach the higher vertical areas of your vehicle).
Mike is tall, so using a regular length car wash handled scrub brush was not a problem on the sides of the truck.
Reaching up to the very top of the roof was another matter.
We never had a high-pressured water source. However, there are hose nozzles that help to pressurize water, like this one through Amazon.com, with which we have an affiliate relationship.
Some truckers like to “pressure wash” their trucks, to help remove bug guts or road salt off their trucks.
Some brushes may have a place to connect a hose.
Should you shop for a hose-connected brush, look to see if there is a way to turn off the water temporarily so that you can suds up the truck.
If you are homeless like we were for a while — and living full-time in a truck — you don’t even have a home water service.
And you may not have the room on or in your truck to carry the tools for vehicle cleaning.
Aluminum Brighteners and Tire
Some drivers also like to use “aluminum brighteners” on their tire rims.
The times we have added the brightener onto the order for a commercial truck wash, it gave that extra sparkle to the clean truck.
Also, we’ve never seen a truck with shiny tires — like a detailed car — but products that make tires shine sure do make a car look spiffy.
This kind of product may be especially useful for truckers who enter their rigs in a type of “Pride and Polish” truck contest.
Few Tools? No Problem?
What if you want DIY truck washing, but don’t have access to some or most of the equipment outlined above?
Are you stuck? No!
We once parked in a truck stop parking lot where a driver was busy cleaning his truck out of a bucket.
Vicki was so curious that she asked him what he was using.
Just water and a rag, he said. That’s all.
Vicki was amazed because even though his truck didn’t look particularly dirty, one could tell where he had wiped it.
It was obvious that this driver took pride in his “red” ride.
Just water and a rag for DIY truck washing.
You can get water at just about any truck stop fuel bay.
All he had to supply was a bucket, a cloth, and some elbow grease.
Cleaning truck windows that are soiled by road dirt and salt can be especially challenging.
Road dirt and road salt can be flung up from the steer tires onto a tractor’s side windows — and the back of the mirrors and the sides of the tractor.
Professional truck driver Mike Simons shows that it takes two cleanings to remove road dirt and road salt from truck windows — at least with regular commercial window cleaner.
The first cleaning left the windows streaky.
A better solvent to remove road salt may be good old soap and water.
Money saving tip: There is a trade-off between using name brand versus generic products.
A name brand vehicle washing soap may be best while a generic sponge and bucket might work very well.
Never use a product that is not specifically made for washing vehicles as it may strip the paint or do other damage to your truck’s finish.
For example, soaps designed to clean clothes or wash dishes are not formulated for car or truck washing.
Once your paint job is ruined, you’ll be forced to make a decision regarding repainting.
Be careful about climbing ladders — or onto your tractor — to access high places with shorter handled brushes.
You don’t want to slip and fall.
(Imaginary headlines like this might flash through your mind: “Man Washing Truck Falls, Breaks Leg.”)
Think twice about a do it yourself truck washing if you are in a windy and dusty area as the truck may pick up as much dirt (or more) than you washed off.
If possible, wipe down or dry the wet surfaces of your truck before you get out on the road again.
You can use a clean, dry, cloth towel for wiping; we recommend staying away from using paper towels for this purpose as they might leave lint.
Also, don’t attempt to clean your truck in the fuel bay at a truck stop.
Some truck stops actually post signs to this effect, but it should be a matter of common courtesy not to block a place where other drivers may be waiting for fuel.
Cleaning your truck’s headlights, windshield and mirrors while in a bay is one thing; washing your whole tractor is another.
Be kind. One day, someone may return the favor to you.