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Have Your Truck Looking Sharp and Truck Show-Worthy

A shiny semi truck ready for a truck show

Semi-trucks are more than just a work vehicle able to haul thousands of pounds — they're a home away from home that truckers rely on day in and day out. Because you spend many hours in your big rig, you've probably already begun personalizing it for your needs and design sensibilities. Semi-truck upgrades not only deliver flashy alternatives to your standard manufacturer parts, but they also provide additional truck protection and safety features. 

Since so many truckers upgrade the appearance and functionality of their rigs, truck shows are incredibly popular. They give truckers the chance to show off their trucks and interact with other enthusiasts. If the experience of putting your semi up against other rigs in a friendly competition sounds fun to you, you'll want to attend a truck show and put your truck in the best position to succeed. 

Bud and Tony’s Truck Parts has everything needed to elevate an 18-wheeler. It's possible to upgrade a semi a million times over through exterior remodeling and interior modifications. Our truck show guide will help you prepare for your first competition and blow the judges away.

Why Show Your Truck at Truck Shows?

A polished purple semi truck on display at an indoor truck show

Your truck is a second home. It takes you and your cargo from place to place, letting you hit the open road and see the country. Truck shows give drivers the chance to celebrate their trucks, revealing their pride in their vehicle. The customizations you make to your truck are often a labor of love, as you treat your truck with the respect it deserves. 

Though you'd likely be content with customizing your truck for your satisfaction and the awe of other drivers on the road, a truck show lets you put your truck's design up against other drivers in good-natured competition. Plus, you may even get benefits for entering your semi into a show, such as exclusive discounts. If you win big, trophies and other prizes are in the offing.

Three of the most popular semi-truck shows in the U.S. include:

  • Mid-America Truck Show, Louisville, Ky.
  • Great American Truck Show, Dallas, Texas
  • America's Expedite Trucking Show, Wilmington, Ohio

There are hundreds of other shows from coast to coast you can check out, each with varying levels of competition. It’s the best time to show off your customized truck and see what fellow truckers have been up to. There are also several low-key shows, or exhibitions, without a competitive element.

There is a list of unimaginable tweaks available for 18-wheelers — from installing stunning LED lighting to transforming the sleeper. At a truck show, you can see other custom rigs full of ideas you haven’t thought of before, as well as showcase your innovations.

In some cases, you can trick out your big rig according to a theme of your choice, while at other times, you must follow a specific theme determined by the show committee.

Along with entering a truck show for the chance to win some personal glory, many drivers love to attend because of the educational opportunities. Even those who are outside the trucking world can see what the profession is all about. Competitions are a remarkable way to shed a positive light on the industry and help the “average Joe” understand the best characteristics of trucking.

Besides offering educational opportunities, truck shows are just plain fun, giving you the chance to share your passion for trucks with others. At the show, you can bring your family and use the time to meet other truckers. Everyone has something in common, so it’s easy to make new friends, socialize and even catch up with old acquaintances. They allow you to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow truck drivers and show off your rig.

Types of Trucks You Can Register

Many truckers choose to enter their working 18-wheelers into a truck show, while others may want to register one dedicated solely to competitions. While both are acceptable, if you’re registering your working semi, you may want to focus on particular upgrades compared to those of a show truck.

Working Show Trucks

When you use your semi for work and pleasure, your upgrades can vary by degrees. How much customization you want to delve into depends on whether your company has restrictions. Working trucks also do better with functional additions that help you remain comfortable and safe.

However, it doesn’t rule out the idea of taking a more stylistic route with everything from custom shift knobs and new tires to upgraded fenders and plush seats.

Show Trucks

Show trucks may be a bit more on the luxurious side of the competition. Semis dedicated to shows are more about modifications and customizations that may not be practical. Think about everything you can add to an 18-wheeler, and that’s what show trucks are all about.

They’re on the extreme end of fancy cabs. Working trucks can have the same, but with more of a practical twist for hauling massive freights.

How to Prepare Your Truck for a Show

A polished chrome fender of a semi truck sits above a brand new set of tires.

Semi-truck customizations allow you to be the mastermind behind your creation. Personalization can range from the tiny details of a hood ornament to tricking out your electronic systems, such as by adding powerful speakers or useful backup cameras.

As you're prepping for the big day, it’s best to plan your upgrades on paper first. Start from the top to the bottom, inside to outside and front to back, making sure to cover everything you want to improve.

It’s also smart to prioritize different components and determine a budget. Are you looking to spend your whole budget on the exterior? Or maybe split up your finances between the interior and exterior? Do you want chrome updates, or do you want to accent your truck's exterior with personalized trim and covers?

Think about how each advancement will affect your rig's overall aesthetic, protection, safety, comfort and ergonomics. Prioritize from the most necessary and desirable to the most optional. Depending on the type of show and what best fits the vibe of your truck, sometimes simplicity can get you far as well.

As you’re preparing for the competition, consider the exterior and interior upgrades you can add to your rig. Additionally, you'll want to know about products that get your truck's exterior as attractive as possible.

Exterior Modifications

Many truckers spend most of their budget on the exterior portion of their semi-truck, especially if it’s a showcase truck. It’s the part others on the road are most likely to see, and it's what gives judges their first impression of your work.

You can install a countless number of exterior customization parts, like LED lighting, chrome, fenders, wheels, hood ornaments and more. The outside appearance of your cab and trailer is your chance to make a bold first impression.

Add anything you want to increase the protection, safety or functionality of your semi or to make a daring statement. Show off your passions, personality and business with a slick set of LED lights across the fender or chrome accents around the doors.

Examples of exterior customization include:

  • Chrome
  • Fenders
  • Grille guards
  • Hood ornaments
  • LED lights
  • Mirrors
  • Mudflaps
  • Tires and wheels
  • Trim
  • Visors

Most shows will have a night light show or a light parade where drivers get the chance to display their rigs at night. As such, custom lighting is one of the best ways to make your 18-wheeler stand out from the rest. While the government requires that your headlights, indicators and brake lights remain functional, there’s no rule that you can’t ramp up your rig with more style. Go beyond the norm and light up your entire truck!

Think about adding LED lighting to the trailer, fender, cab, sleeper, grille, hood, running boards and gas tank — pretty much anywhere that seems logical.

Even underbody lighting can set off your semi and create a luminescent truck that wows the judges and helps other vehicles see you on the highway. Underbody lighting can match the paint of your cab or contrast it for some extra spice. LED light bars are another popular choice you can customize to fit the style of your competing truck.

Aftermarket lighting is simple to add when you want to outline different areas of your truck. Tailored panels are another option to add more personality. Semi-truck lighting gives off a cool and fresh look to your rig to help you score big with the judges and light up the highway.

Semi-truck chrome accents are another go-to as you’re prepping for a truck competition. If you’re a bit obsessed with it, you can chrome out almost every section of your 18-wheeler. Several popular spots include the exhaust stacks, gas tank, mirrors, fender guards, toolbox, grille, bumper and window trim.

Cover the entire truck if that’s what makes you happy! But if you’re looking to place chrome on your cab strategically, start by balancing it across the most visible areas. Begin with a bit on each section, then build from there.

Other elements you can alter on the exterior are more for protection, such as wheel covers, rock guards and fenders. Protect your wheels and undercarriage from dirt and other road debris like rocks and rubble. Mudflaps are also great for an enhanced look, not to mention they save you a lot of cleaning hassle.

Interior Comforts and Functional Additions

The interior of your big rig is much more personal than the exterior because it's where you spend most of your time. While not everyone will have the privilege of lifting themselves into your cab or sleeper, an upgrade can impress the judges and make for a comfier home away from home.

You can customize the cockpit, cabin, battle station, driver’s seat and almost anything else you can think of. Deck it out and make it a fancy living space by tweaking the smaller features and adding more extensive renovations.

Some aspects to consider when making changes to the inside of your cab and sleeper include comfort, productivity and personal health. Yes, it's nice to have an awesome-looking truck, but you may not want to blow all your money on the exterior.

Things you can freshen up in the cab include:

  • Dashboard
  • Gear shift
  • Seat
  • Shifter knob
  • Sleeper
  • Steering wheel
  • Technology

The right seat can make all the difference in comfort and even your health when you're traveling hundreds of miles at a time. You want to avoid slouching and poor posture, so investing in a supportive seat can help you sit up straight. Your options depend on whether you’re searching for lower or upper back support. If your current seat is no good anymore, you can swap the entire thing, or you can add a seat cover if it’s still in decent shape.

Upgrading your cab seat to a plusher option makes your ride comfier and adds a checkmark next to creativity in the judges' scorebook.

Because truckers spend most of their time in the cab and sleeper — if you have one — it’s where you might want to spend more of your budget for personal reasons. You may as well make it look and feel awesome to boost your chances in the competition, too.

Your cab and sleeper options are limitless. For example, upgrade your cab to have wood paneling, a chrome dashboard or different customization. You can even personalize your gear shifts or apply a new shifter knob for a cool look.

Semi-truck steering wheels are another component you can upgrade. It should be ergonomic and feel comfortable in your hands while driving from one coast to the next. It's also something judges may look at first in your cab. You can also opt to go the other way and choose a stylish and unique wheel or shifter knob, but you may not be willing to compromise on comfort.

If your semi is a show truck, it won't matter. If you have a working semi, you may prefer something that fits well in your hand and doesn't cause fatigue after 15 minutes.

You may not think about it, but electronics can be a considerable part of your semi upgrade as well. Consider adding backup cameras and dash cams, a mobile office and even system diagnostics to help improve your fuel economy. The right technology in your cab can help you navigate with a GPS and stay up to date with logging devices. If you’re tech-savvy, it can boost your score with the judges and help you remain safe on the road.

Behind your cab, you can make your sleeper as bold and luxurious as you wish. If you have it in your budget, you can earn massive points by upgrading your unit with accommodations such as:

  • Bathroom
  • Cabinet
  • Closet
  • Dining table
  • Fireplace
  • Kitchen
  • Refrigerator
  • Two bedrooms
  • TV

Having somewhere to sleep is a relief, and it's even better knowing you can customize it yourself to match your needs. It will also help your 18-wheeler look competition-ready inside and out.

Polishing and Cleaning Products

A blue semi truck that has been polished for an upcoming truck show.

Part of any truck show is to make sure your rig looks as clean and shiny as possible. You can find individual cleaning products and tools that ensure your truck stands out at the competition. However, cleaning kits are often the ideal choice for newcomers, as the kits will make sure the user has all the needed products to clean your truck and then polish it.

One popular option on the market is the Zephyr Ultra Shine Polishing Kit that ensures your aluminum, wheels and tanks have the most polished look possible. For metal surfaces on your vehicle, you might consider a Metal Polishing Restoration Kit from Renegade Products. 

In general, you should expect polishing and cleaning kits to come with buffing wheels, cleaning solutions, polishing compounds and relevant tools for the application of the material. Depending on your needs, you may also want to go with a kit that offers wax, such as the Wash, Shine & Protect Mini Kit. Wax will help give your truck's paint excellent protection and make its graphics shine.

Showcase Prep

Truck show prep means making the ideal changes to your tractor-trailer. It also extends to your representation. During truck show competitions, you’re just as much a part of the presentation as the truck itself. That means you must carry yourself proudly to represent all the work, effort and sweat you’ve poured into your semi.

Make sure to look presentable and professional and engage one-on-one with the judges. Explain all the customization you did and why. Point out any features they might miss, or renovations that can help set you apart from other rigs. No detail should go unnoticed.

Right before you’re about to compete, prep your semi by starting at the top to avoid having to go back over areas and getting rid of water spots.

Although judging may take several hours to get through all the semis in your class, you can spend your time networking with other truckers. Even if it's your first truck show, you might be surprised at your success if you put in the right amount of effort and time.

Getting your tractor-trailer worthy of being in an epic truck show takes an incredible amount of time, effort and planning. But with the experts by your side, you can freshen up your big rig for a fierce competition while also upgrading your truck on a personal level.

Get Your Semi-Truck Show-Ready All in One Location

A chromed out blue semi truck parked in the grass of an outdoor truck show.

You may be a seasoned truck show veteran or a rookie looking to take on your first competition. Either way, Bud and Tony’s Truck Parts has everything you need — from exterior components to catch the judges' eyes or interior modifications that will keep you comfy. Our products and solutions make your life on the road more convenient while keeping you safe. We also help protect your investment and transform your rig into a show-stopper that everyone will be dying to look at.

Browse our products online or reach out to our diligent support team for further details. We also have a live chat option for immediate communication. Bud and Tony's Truck Parts delivers 48-hour turnaround times to provide the best solutions for your show-ready semi.

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