By Bryan Martin
Some folks spend eight hours a day in a 15-foot- square office and go to great lengths and expense to make it “special.” They remodel, repaint, have cabinets custom built, install surround sound, buy a high-tech new office chair, install hardwood floors, and the list goes on and on.
A lot of times, you spend nearly 20 hours a day in your cab – so why settle for stock? Enhancing the interior of your truck makes each hour spent there a little bit more fun, more rewarding and, in many instances, more comfortable.
Here are eight upgrades for your interior that add a lot of bling, style, personality and comfort to the inside of that big ol’ truck.
Steering wheel and column
There are custom steering wheels available for just about every make and model of truck these days. You can go with wood grain, leather wrap, polished aluminum – or even have it painted to match your truck.
Moving downward from there, you can easily chrome out your turn signal lever and trailer brake arm, as well as the lower column and dash covers. Other than a basic T-style pulling tool, no special tools are required, plus items are fairly inexpensive and installation is easy. One thing to note is to make sure your old steering wheel is in the straight position before you pull it, and reinstall the new wheel in same position. Nothing is more aggravating than a crooked steerin’ wheel.
Floorboard and pedals
Decorative accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are available off the shelf for most of the Petes, KWs and some Freightliners. For those of you ridin’ Internationals, Volvos, Western Stars and Macks, you will have to work with a machine shop or fab shop to modify or build billet aluminum or custom “one off” pedals.
Let’s talk about floors. You can install a tongue-and-groove wood or laminate floor in just about any cab or sleeper. Visit the home improvement store and pick out the wood grain you like. This is usually a two-day ordeal to cut it to size and lay it down piece by piece at home.
You guys with the Petes and KWs can buy a precut, drop-in floor that installs easily in one day. Rockwood Products manufactures the drop-in floors in various colors and grains. They look fantastic and have a tough, durable finish.
Oh my! Where to start? Chrome … there are knobs, switch covers, gauge bezels, A/C vents, park brake knobs, toggle trims, rocker trims and decorative screws available for almost all trucks. These are neat additions you can buy now and then, and easily install yourself while waiting to load or unload. Piece of cake.
Another very trendy modification is to remove your instrument panels and have them painted to match the exterior of your rig. This immediately adds a custom, racy look to your interior. Folks dig it – and you will, too!
If there is one area not to go cheap on, this is it. Get a quality seat. After all, where do you spend your time? There are some great options in ultra leather upholstery, heated, massaging, and swivel models. Seats are offered in standard-height base and low-base models for you “low riders.” Be advised: To install a low-base seat, you will almost always have to redrill either your cab floor or the bottom of the new seat to complete the install.
Truthfully, the radio/CD players in the newer trucks aren’t too bad. By simply replacing the OEM speakers with high-quality ones, you can greatly enhance the sound quality. This can usually be done for $350 to $400.
The next step up is a high-end head unit for the dashboard, an amplifier, a subwoofer (or two) and upgraded speakers throughout. This generally runs $2,000 to $2,300. Of course, if you go “wide open,” you can drop $5K in no time.
You can replace that ol’ boring black rubber shift knob with a chrome replacement, or a host of other shift knobs. There are six or eight models available, ranging from motorcycle grips and hand grenades to bowie knife handles, skulls, eight balls … you name it. The retro glitter knobs never go out of style either.
You can cover your shift stick and hoses with a chrome tube that also conceals all the small air lines that run from the floorboard to the shift knob. For most of the Peterbilts, some clean and cool floorboard shift plates are also available.
A lot can be done here with paint, vinyl or upholstery work to give your interior a personality all its own. Have your local upholstery man add a second or even third color to the door panel. Maybe have him fabricate a custom-built door pocket for your logbook or permit book. The chrome shops carry several window crank handles, armrests, and handle trims, too.
You can’t go overboard on this; it simply can’t be done. By adding products such as HushMat or the equivalent under your carpet, behind your upholstery panels and door panels, you can change the noise level immensely. And don’t stop there. If you have everything removed for the HushMat install, go ahead and add some traditional thermal insulation anywhere you can stuff it. When you encounter temps of 99 degrees or 20 degrees, you will sure be glad you did – huge difference from factory insulation.
Consider the eight upgrades and make a note of the most desirable ones to you. Maybe you can tackle them at the rate of one project every three to four months? Or two projects per year? Whatever fits your downtime and your budget – go for it!
Until then, add some of these items to your Christmas wish list. And if Santa don’t get put out of service at some obscure scale house out in the middle of nowhere by a disgruntled state official that is in a foul mood ’cuz he’s got to work on Christmas Eve, you just might be pleasantly surprised come Christmas morning. LL