Whether you’re completely restoring your motorcycle or you simply want to touch it up a bit, you can be left with a lot of questions during the process. Asking the right questions will leave you with a beautiful project.
A question that’s pretty common among the DIY motorcyclist is the best paint to use on their frame. Many have already chosen to use spray paint but knowing which spray paint is best can be difficult.
So what’s the best spray paint for a motorcycle frame? The best spray paint to use for a motorcycle frame is engine acrylic aerosol paint. This has shown to work well with motorcycle frames and proven tough durability. Using this type of spray paint makes painting the frame easy and gives it a professional look if used right.
When spray paint is applied correctly to a motorcycle frame, it will give a much desired look without running over your wallet. I have restored over twelve motorcycles in the last few years and through trial and error, I have found the best paint and brands to use for motorcycle frames.
Why Using Engine Acrylic Spray Paint Works Well On Frames
When it comes to painting the frame of your motorcycle, you’ll want to always make sure you do it right the first time. Painting the frame can be a bit of a hassle with all the things you have to disassemble and take apart, so getting it right the first time can really save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.
I have restored a total of fourteen motorcycles in the last six years. I repainted the frame on every single one of them. I’ve also helped several friends paint the frame of their motorcycle. Needless to say, painting a motorcycle frame isn’t anything foreign to me.
I have found that an automotive acrylic aerosol can works excellently on frames. I specifically favor Dupli-Color aerosol automotive paint (you can find it here on Amazon.com).
One reason I specifically like engine paint is because it has a high heat tolerance. A motorcycle frame does experience extreme temperatures being by the engine so it’s appropriate to use a paint that can withstand those conditions.
Because acrylic aerosol dries fast, this makes it an easy DIY project that can be done in your garage on a Saturday afternoon. But because it does dry fast, you have to be quick and thorough; any runs you get will likely dry quickly which means you’ll have to sand it down later and repaint.
Using an automotive acrylic aerosol can for a motorcycle frame has also proven to be incredibly durable. There have been many times where I have used this paint to paint the rims of a motorcycle and later had tires mounted to those rims with no scratches from the mounting machine. Rocks and other debris the road has to offer will also have a hard time scratching up the paint if it is applied correctly.
As a warning, because it’s so durable it can be a bit difficult if you get over spray on anything other than the frame. Unwanted paint spots by this engine paint is pretty hard to get off. The sooner you get it off, the better chances you’ll have at succeeding it’s removal.
What About The Primer?
Though it’s not unheard of to simply spray the frame without any type of primer, primer can still be an extremely helpful element when painting a motorcycle frame. Especially if you are down to bare metal.
I have seen the most excellent results when using primer before actually spraying the frame. You’ll need to make sure you do the proper preparation of the frame (which will later be explained) for it to give the best results.
There are several benefits to priming before painting your frame and if you want to do this project right, I recommend you do this. First, priming will help the paint adhere to the frame more fully. This will ultimately make the paint more durable and last longer.
The prep work required to make a motorcycle frame ready to paint can make it look spotty. What I mean is that you’ll have some spots that are bare metal while other spots may still have some faded paint on it. Priming before painting a frame will ensure those spots won’t show through the paint while giving your paint that extra glow. Not to mention that priming also helps with corrosion and rust.
What You Should Do Before Painting Your Frame For Best Results
There’s a lot more to painting a motorcycle frame than just simply painting it, waiting for it to dry, and calling it good. There is prep work that should be involved (as mentioned before) that will give you the very best results.
A lot of this depends on how much of your frame needs to be painted. If it’s just a small spot that needs to be repainted, the prep work is still required but won’t be near as intensive as compared to having to spray the whole frame.
Whether it’s a small spot or the whole frame you need to repaint, the first thing you need to do is remove any parts that may be in the way. As it was stated before, any over spray on parts can be extremely difficult to remove. If it seems impossible to remove some of the parts on your motorcycle, make sure to tape it off well.
Motorcycle frames are especially susceptible to dirt, grime, and gunk build up on them, specifically the bottom portion of it. Dirt can get in crevices that a car wash can’t reach and will eventually get caked on. One of the biggest mistakes motorcyclists make is not cleaning the frame thorough enough before painting. Painting over dirt will ensure chipping in the near future.
Use a wire brush or scraper to get off the big chunks. You can also use some sand paper for those harder chunks that won’t budge. Once you get the big stuff off, use a grease remover to ensure all the grease and grime is completely gone.
Next, make sure to scuff up the rest of the paint you’re planning on painting over. It doesn’t need to be sanded down to bare metal, but paint adheres to the frame much better when the under layer of paint is a little scuffed up. Once you’re done with that, use a wet rag to wipe off any dust.
When you’ve ensured that all the grease is off, the frame is scuffed enough for paint, and that it’s clean and dry, you’re ready to begin priming. Make sure to do so in a well ventilated area and to use a high-quality respirator. Do several layers of primer and make sure it’s completely dry before applying your layer of actual paint. Also make sure you do several thin layers of your spray paint to prevent drips.
If you’re still unsure about whether or not you should paint your motorcycle and thinking about powder coating instead, click here to see my article about the pros and cons of both priming and powder coating a frame.
I have created an entire video series about restoring motorcycles from start to finish. Within this series includes in depth videos on cleaning, prepping, and painting a motorcycle frame WITHOUT removing the engine. Also included are tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else online as well as hard-to-tackle components such as electrical, motorcycle tank body work, and carb rebuilds. Click here for more information if you’re interested in restoring or building your dream motorcycle!
Do You Have To Remove Everything To Paint The Frame?
Most people have the misconception that if you’re planning on repainting the entire motorcycle frame, you have to remove everything including the engine. I did this several times on my first few motorcycle restorations.
Removing the engine is a daunting task and can be damaging to your motorcycle if you don’t know what you’re doing. After a few motorcycle restorations, I actually found that you don’t need to remove the engine at all for the frame to still get a high quality, brand new look when you paint it.
You’ll need to make sure you tape off the engine extremely well to ensure no over spray gets on it. Using newspaper and masking tape works wonders and can save you a lot of time and frustration. Click here to see my article about how to paint a motorcycle frame without removing the engine.
Do you need experience to paint a motorcycle gas tank? While experience is not required to paint a motorcycle gas tank, it does help having some practice before doing so. If you’ve never done it before, paint some unimportant object and get a feel of how the paint works before starting on a project like this.
What are motorcycle frames made out of? When motorcycles first started coming out, their frames were made from tubular steel. While some motorcycles nowadays are still made from steel, you’ll also see an array of frames made from aluminum or carbon fiber.