A Glow-in-the-Dark Truck?

I don’t have to worry about scratches on my door in the parking lot, but you do.


I had this really great idea for a passive air-conditioning system for my truck. This plan was years in the making. However, the end output is that my truck glows in the dark and just doesn’t look quite right (a good thing). To tell the story we must begin at the start of things.


I bought an old used pickup from a private party. It was one of those cases where you could absolutely tell that the guy had taken good care of it, but was ready to move on. The original mats were still in it, and it was kept clean. There were several problems with the truck, but it ran good. One of the problems was that the clear coat was peeling off on the roof, hood, and doors. I don’t mind this actually, because I had the bright idea that I would paint it myself… eventually. It would take several years to plan out the details. Rust happens slowly, so why not take our sweet time in getting the money, tools, and ability to do the thing.


After several years the rust was beginning to start to take hold in some places, and the clearcoat degradation had reached critical mass. Also, I recently moved into a place that has a nice big garage, and space enough to paint a vehicle. More, I happened to have enough money to buy the supplies that I had planned out in my notes for several years or occasional looking. I decided to buy some samples and test out the ideas I had.


The original idea was to use a pigment that changes color based on temperature. Turning black when cold and white when hot. Thus, the paint could function as a passive air conditioning system in a small way. Since there are other types of pigments out there I ordered some samples of these as well. Namely, a pigment that changed color based on UV, and one that glows in the dark.


The secondary idea was to improve durability and reduce the possibility of getting dings and knicks by painting the whole vehicle in some kind of epoxy or truck bed-liner like stuff. This would also alleviate corrosion (rust) over all


I put a big piece of plywood on the ground in the backyard, in a place that it would get a lot of sun. It was August at the time and I knew that the heat would test it to the max. I rolled out about half a dozen samples on this large piece of plywood that I had leftover from a previous project. All of the pigments worked fine. However, after day one the UV pigment stopped working. After a couple of weeks the temperature sensitive paint turned an ugly blotched brown-toast looking and stopped working. However, the glow in the dark pigment continued to work.


I planned according to the results. I purchased some tintable truck bed liner, and enough glow pigment to do the entire vehicle. About a decade ago I had tried a DIY roll on bedliner, so I had some ideas about how/what I wanted. I’ll spare you the specifics of all of the tape/papering, scuffing mixing, 1st, rescuffing 2nd, scuffing, and 3rd coat. The whole project took a lot of energy over an entire 3-day weekend to complete.


Inevitably, there were setbacks, and mistakes, but it got done. There is a place where some of my hairs were imbedded and ar visible. I discovered the mil thickness required removing the door handles, so decided to not paint close to them. At one place of 2”x2” adhesion didn’t work well on layers 2 and 3, but tearing it away and using a sponge with acetone and some fresh resin covered it up. There some large runs, and all the things you would expect from a non-professional DIY (2nd timer) project. The end result was good enough.


There was some intent to make the thing look ugly so that it would be avoidable in traffic and to thieves. However, the ugly didn’t happen. I chose grey as a tint on the assumption that it would be more stealthy and generally unattractive. Instead, of looking kinda ugly and stealthy it comes off looking more just off and sticks out as different. Like a glitch in the matrix during the day and at sunset. At dusk it softly, on the edge of perception, glows. However, at night the glow isn’t really effective (weird).


It is somewhat of a disappointment that the glow actually doesn’t realistically show up unless you drive into an unlit tunnel or parking lot from broad daylight. Even when I get gas at a bright gas station, it isn’t particularly obvious when I drive away. I’ve seen it noticed by pedestrians, but not other drivers after dark. The glow is extremely subdued in the light of streetlamps, and most of the roadway lights around. Only in that weird occasion where light changes too fast for people to turn on their headlights does it ever become obvious. Now, it’s far more subtle.


The truck does get looks, but more looks of squinting eyes trying to figure it out. The glow is not obvious, thus people can’t quite figure out what they are looking at.


The picture was taken by decreasing the shutter speed on the camera.



My Truck - Glows

Daylight photo of my truck



Projects & Links

Colonize the Moon
About moon/mars/asteroid colonies and space stuff

Computer Dungeon
linux/raspberry-pi/bitcoin and computer stuff

A video upload server I coded myself