Motorcycle Painting 101

This little tutorial is meant to give you a basic overview of the paint process. For detailed step by step in-depth paint instruction Click Here.

The basics of the do it yourself motorcycle paint job
How to paint your motorcycle or chopper

Lightweight Filler
Flowable Putty
Epoxy primer
Epoxy Sealer (Optional)
Base color Paint
Clear Coat
Sandpaper by grit: 80,120,400,600,1500,2000

If you’re like me, you don’t have the luxury of a down-draft paint booth in your garage. Here’s what I did. I cleaned out a storage area that’s attached to the side of my garage. I lined the walls with white plastic, and installed a variable speed fan in the window. I then went around with a roll of insulation tape and sealed the edge of the fan to the surrounding plastic on the walls. Now onto lighting. After the first time you try painting something, you’ll quickly learn just how critical good lighting is. In fact when it comes to lighting, the brighter your paint area the better. A buddy gave me a couple four-tube florescent light fixtures, which I hung on either sides of my new paintbooth. It’s good to have reflective walls. Lining the walls with white poly not only saves your walls, but it’s also very reflective.

Before I continue, I want to stress safety. It’s a really bad idea to paint in a room that’s attached to your home. In fact, it may be against the law in some municipalities. Furthermore, paint fumes are not only super toxic, they’re extremely flammable. Make sure your fixtures are wired correctly, and that your fixtures are completely encased with lens covers installed. Last but not least, be sure you have a good quality respirator with the correct filters for the type of paint you’re using.

For tools you’ll need at least two paint guns, an air regulator with a water filter, a compressor, and of course some air hose. As previously mentioned, you’ll need 2 spray guns… one for painting primer, and another for painting base and clear coats.

Make certain your fuel and oil tanks are pressure tested and leak free before you begin. Ideally, it’s good to sandblast your steel parts, especially if they have old paint on them. If you choose not to sandblast, be sure to sand them really good and wipe them down with a non oil-based degreaser before starting the job.

The next step is to apply filler to the low spots and any trouble spots. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I prefer to spray a coat of epoxy primer prior to starting the prep work. This gives a nice base for the filler to stick to. prepare your filler in small amounts (it hardens fast) and apply it smoothly and evenly onto your part.

After the filler has dried, sand it smooth with 80 grit and look it over for any low spots or nicks, then fill and sand again. After the necessary rounds of filler and sanding are completed, it’s time to prime.

Spray on a couple of coats of epoxy primer. After the primer has dried, get a spray bomb of black paint and very lightly spray it on your part. This is your guide coat. The thin black coat will show any ripples, low spots or defects in your prep work. To repair the trouble spots that the guide coat revealed, you’ll want to use a light finishing putty rather than filler. Apply the putty in nice even coats, then smooth it off with 80 grit sandpaper (wrapped around a foam sanding pad). Once you get the high spots levelled down, smooth it down even more with 120 grit, then finishing it with 400 grit. You’re now ready for the last coats of primer.

Once the primer is dry, sand it thoroughly with 400 grit to give it a roughed surface for the base coat to stick to. I like to lay down a coat of epoxy sealer just before applying the base color coat. In addition to providing a really nice surface for applying the base color, it also helps stop any solvents from popping through and causing bubbles in the clear coat. Be sure to follow the paint manufacturers specification sheets with regards to mixing times, mixing ratios and painting temperature. Failure to following the instructions will cause you much unhappiness…trust me.

Time for the color coat. Spray on the color coats as per your paint manufacturer’s tech sheet.
Now comes the clear. After the first round of clear has dried, wet sand it down with 600 grit. You’ll notice ripples appear in the clear as you sand. Keep sanding until the clear is even and the ridges are gone. If you’re painting graphics on, now is the time to do it. After applying the graphics,cover them with another round of clear. It may take one or more coats of clear to completely bury the graphics. Be sure to wet sand flat with 600 grit between coats of clear. After the last coat of clear is on, sand it down flat with 600 grit like before. When it’s nice and flat, finish it off with 1500 grit. If you want to get it crazy smooth, go for a final session of 2000 grit.

Now for the gratifying part. The final step is to polish it to a mirror finish. You’ll need a variable speed polisher, a buffing pad, and some polishing compound. There are many different kinds of buffing compounds available. Your local body shop supply store will be able to recommend a good buffing compound.

For in-depth detailed instruction click here

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