If you own a truck like I do, you know how much of a problem rocks and gravel can be. What may seem like pretty harmless at first can lead to scratching, pitting, and eventually rusting. The good news is that there are numerous ways to help protect against this from happening, but it depends on your vehicle and where you live.
In this blog, I’ll start with a few ways to fix any rock chips you may already have, followed by how to help prevent them from happening in the future.
What to Do to Fix Rock Chips on Your Truck
There are numerous products on the market today that can help fill in chips, but not all may be effective depending on the size and nature of the chip. It is super-important to be sure to treat any chipping that you begin to see, because it can and will rust out over time.
It’s much easier to fill in these chips to the best of your ability early on, rather than having to fill in large holes left by rust followed by repainting entire section. Even if you aren’t quite satisfied with your work, there are some replacement panels and covers that you can opt for later on.
If you’re looking to keep your truck’s original paint, here are a few things you can do:
Option 1: Dupli-color Paint Pen
Probably the most affordable option for very small chips is to use touch-up paint product like Dupli-color Scratch Fix All-in-1. Most of these Dupli-color kits are relatively inexpensive compared to others I’ve seen, and should be available in your vehicle’s exact color. Usually you can find this color code by looking in the glovebox, door jam, or wherever you paint codes are.
This works well for chips that aren’t very deep, but adding some sort of filler (like bondo) may be necessary for deeper chips. As with any of these repair products, a clear coat needs to be added after the fact to help protect the paint from fading. Some of these paint pens come with clear coat + paint all in one, but I’d opt for applying them separately, which is why I like this Dupli-color’s product. Check out this YouTube video for more.
Quick Tip: Apply a circle of wax around the chip you are fixing so any excess paint or clear coat can easily be wiped away with the wax. The less paint you have outside of the chip the better.
Option 2: Dr ColorChip
The Dr. ColorChip kit is one of the more popular products designed specifically for chips, not scratches. Some have said it actually matches the paint (especially metallic finishes) quite well. You should be able to pick up these kits usually anywhere from $40-$70 depending on where you get it from.
The difference in the Dr. ColorChip process is that the paint is applied with a brush vs. a pen, so it’s really a personal preference. The kit comes with a lot of various accessories for applying it properly, and is preferred by many professional detailers.
Option 3: Fine Line Painting Pen
The third option in terms of touching up rock chips is to use a fine line painting pen. This method I have seen used on YouTube here and is a great option if you want to keep a tube of touch-up paint on hand, as it is simply a tool for applying this paint in small amounts.
You basically load the pen reservoir with a drop of touch-up paint, and apply it to the chip.
For me personally, it would just be a little too time consuming considering the awkward location of where my paint chips are (under the rockers). However, a lot of people really love this tool so it may be worth checking out.
8 Ways to Help Prevent Rock Chips
If you’ve gone through the process above (or have a new truck) and just want to protect your truck as much as possible, there are a few products you can use to help. It can be really hard to prevent all chips over time if you live in an area with a lot of rocks and gravel, but here are a few ideas to consider:
Use paint protection films
When it comes to basic protection, the most common option I see nowadays is usually some sort of film placed on or near the rocker panels themselves. These come in a bunch of different varieties and brands but you essentially have two different options: clear or some sort of black or gray.
If you like the look of your truck’s paint, XPEL clear or a clear film by 3M is ideal. Depending on your preference, you can install these yourself or have a body shop that specializes in tinting do this.
These are great for offering a basic level of protection for not only the rocker panel but your lower door skin and cab corner.
Install rocker panel covers
Rocker panels covers are one of the most effective ways to protect the paint that’s visible near the bottom of your door. When it comes to these ‘covers’, you have a couple of different options to go with. If you’re not familiar, a rocker panel is basically the lowest part of the truck body that sort of curves in, and extends to the flat part of the door.
These ‘covers’ are often times marketed as rocker panels, however OEM rocker panels must be installed/ painted professionally, since they are basically made of steel. The ‘covers’ usually just protect the visible part, like in the image below.
In terms of the panels themselves, you can usually find a mirrored chrome-like finish, matte back, and sometimes the color of your truck. If you have any questions about where certain truck panels are located, this diagram may be able to help.
Apply Line-X or spray-on bed liner to rocker panels
Instead of applying a clear film, this is a good option for older trucks where you are just looking to prevent further rusting. A DIY spray-in bed liner like Dupli-Color will help prevent additional chipping from happening, but is a permanent solution. Most of these spray-on textured bed liners can be sanded down depending on your preference, but you really need to know what you’re doing unless it’s an older truck.
Line-X is probably the most common spray-in bed liner that I’ve seen used for rockers, but requires a professional to install and usually costs anywhere from $500-$1,500 depending on what you want to be done.
If you like a two-tone look for offroading, it is one of the better options to consider.
Install fender flares
Fender flares are another option to install to prevent some sling, although some may be more effective than others. In combination with mud flaps this combo probably offers the most complete protection, but by themselves you may or may not notice a huge difference.
I am considering some Silverado flares painted to the color of my truck, but many people like the more textured black flares.
Install mud flaps
Mud flaps (or splash guards) are one of the more effective options for minimizing tire sling, but not all are created equal. Typically the larger the mudflap the better. Some states like Oregon even require them on trucks for their ability to limit the amount of debris kicked up.
These Husky Liner Mudguards on Amazon are a pretty sleek option to go with, although you can go with diamondplate, and endless others. Typically the closer the mudflap is to the pavement the more effective they will be as well as how wide they are in covering the entire tread of the tire.
Add wheel well liners
While you don’t normally tend to notice rock chips within the wheel well itself, installing wheel well liners are not a bad idea for helping prevent rust in an area where it typically starts. Most of these you can pick up on Amazon for around $100 for a set of two.
If obviously helps if you are able to quickly knock off as much dirt as you can to begin with, which can be difficult to do by hand. Check out these 5 best budget pressure washers for washing vehicles I handpicked myself if you just need a better way to keep your truck clean. While there’s nothing wrong with just using a hose, having a little extra pressure (and more gallons per minute) is nice.
While not as effective as some other methods, installing running boards can be somewhat effective for helping to keep some rocks off of the rocker panel. My current truck I do not have running boards for, and the rock chips just seem more obvious compared to other trucks with running boards.
Chrome side mirror caps
Believe it or not, some trucks have the ability to kick rocks up quite a bit, even high enough to ding your side mirror. One idea I’ve seen is to buy a couple of chrome side mirror caps to protect the paint if you have exposed paint in your side mirrors.
This is something I am considering adding to my truck, simply because the side mirrors have taken more of a beating over time that I originally thought. From rock chips to car doors opening up, I think it’s a nice touch to protect the paint and conceal any damage you may already have.
What Can Cause Rock Chips
When it comes to trucks or other lifted vehicles, one of the most common causes of paint chips are aggressive tires. Larger tires with deep tread tend to sling a lot more gravel and pebbles than low profile tires you might find on an Audi or Corvette, but most vehicles of all kinds deal with sling to a certain degree.
If there is one factor that you can control that is the culprit of most rock chips it is probably the stance, or how far the tires extend past the fenders. With more of the tire exposed, it’s just a lot easier to sling mud and debris on the side of your vehicle.
A 3-inch offset is pretty common I see, but anything larger (like 4 or 5 inches) will be more of a problem, especially without any protection.
For me, I drive my truck mainly on paved roads so most of the rock chips are pretty small anyway, but I have noticed an acceleration of rock chips since switching to a larger offroad tire. While I certainly like a more aggressive tire, it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re looking to keep rock chips to a minimum.
After switching to a more aggressive tire from stock Bridgestones, I can definitely notice a difference in the number of rock chips I have experienced.
Gravel roads or driveways
Obviously if you drive your truck in the country you are bound to come across a gravel road or worse, loose gravel on a driveway. It’s usually the large gaps in between the tread (as common with Toyo’s and others), that causes your tire to sling rocks, or keep them trapped in your tire until you reach higher speeds.
Most of the time the more severe chips happen when rocks get unwedged from your tread at high speeds, so inspecting them from time to time isn’t a bad idea.
What About Painted Wheels?
In addition to body panels, rocks can sometimes cause problems for your truck’s wheels, especially if they are black. While the solutions mentioned above can help reduce the risks of chips, there are a few things you can do to help to (somewhat) protect the wheel itself. If you don’t really want to apply any of these products to your rim itself, a good wax or sealant is better than nothing.
Clearcoats and powder coating
Paint protection coatings like Opti-Coat I’ve heard of people using on wheels, but they also make several spray-on products like VHT designed specifically for wheels that may help. They work pretty similarly to other paint protection products, leaving a film that offers some protection, but eventually needs to be reapplied.
Powder coating is another (more expensive) solution, but is a permanent option if you want to cover chipped rims. Over time, the powder coat can chip as well, so it may not be worth the investment for some.
Overall rock chips are something that you can’t really prevent from happening 100 percent, but hopefully you have some ideas on how to better protect your truck and fix the chips you already have.
As always, let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions that have helped protect your truck from rocks and debris.