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If you’re planning on restoring, customizing, or simply touching up your motorcycle, you may find yourself wondering about your frame and how to make it look better. I previously owned a motorcycle restoration business and restored dozens of rides. A question I often heard is if powder coating the frame is better vs painting it.
Because I’ve restored so many motorcycles, I’ve been able to get a good idea about how powder coating vs. painting a frame works. I’m not going to tell you what you should do on your motorcycle frame, but I will tell you the pros and cons of each and you can decide from there what is the best choice for you.
Advantages Of Powder Coating A Motorcycle Frame
First, I’ll start off with talking about the benefits of powder coating a motorcycle frame. When a frame is powder coated, there is a powder like substance that is sprayed all over the frame (hence the name). The process almost looks like a hairdryer blowing out powder.
When a motorcycle frame is powder coated, it needs to be completely stripped down to the frame. This means the engine, seat, tank, wiring harness, and even every nut and bolt needs to be removed from the frame. This has to be done since the frame will be going in to a large oven that would otherwise ruin other parts.
The nice thing about this is the job is usually done extremely thoroughly. You’ll never have to worry about coming across a spot that was missed because a part was in the way of the spray. You’ll know 100% of the frame is covered and covered well with powder coating.
Another great thing about powder coating a motorcycle frame is the fact that it lasts much longer than any other method of painting. The sun as well as all the other elements can have a huge affect on paint jobs, even a paint job on a motorcycle frame. The sun and it’s UV rays can lighten up the paint, essentially sun bleaching it, which can leave you with light spots and a discolored frame.
Powder coating prevents that from happening. Powder coating generally stays one color it’s whole life no matter how long you have it in the sun, rain, or snow. As long as you take good care of the bike, 10 years later the powder coat will look as if you just picked it up from the shop.
Powder coating is also much more durable than any other paint job you would have done. The chemical reaction the powder has as it cures in the oven after application ensures a thick and durable covering to the frame. Powder coating is often used for machinery that moves around a lot but it still maintains itself.
This also means that powder coating is much less susceptible to chips if the job is done right. A regular paint job can easily get a chip from a rock flicked from the road or a tip of the motorcycle. Powder coating does a much better job at protecting against stuff like this.
I used this method several times on my motorcycle restorations. I was thoroughly impressed with the finished product and it made my finished projects look amazing.
Disadvantages Of Powder Coating A Motorcycle Frame
Despite the awesome outcomes you’ll have with powder coating your motorcycle frame, there are a few down sides to it as well. The first con I’ll mention is that powder coating is not a “do it yourself” project you can do in your garage on a Saturday afternoon.
While it is possible to get a powder coating kit and equipment to do the job yourself, the results will often yield much less thorough and crisp than it would taking it in to a professional and having it done. Additionally, you’ll need a big enough oven to put the frame in to cure the powder which is something most people don’t have laying around. You’ll need to take it in to a professional and have it done.
Powder coating the frame is also more expensive than painting. Prices will vary depending on where you live and what needs to be done to the frame, but to powder coat a motorcycle frame usually ranges between $400 – $1,200. This usually doesn’t include any prep work done to it and does not include disassembly of your motorcycle.
If you want prep work done, your price will increase by around $250 – $300. If you want the shop to disassemble the motorcycle and reassemble for you (if they’ll even do that), that’ll be at least another $250 – $350. Painting the motorcycle frame yourself will cost no more than about $75 – $100 for everything.
It also takes a lot more time to powder coat a motorcycle frame compared to painting it yourself. When you’re powder coating a motorcycle frame, that most likely means you’re taking it in to a shop to have it done. You have to abide by their schedule and make an appointment. A job like this will take several days to complete.
Advantages To Painting A Motorcycle Frame
Whether you plan on painting it yourself or having a professional do it, there are a lot of benefits to painting a motorcycle frame including the much more simple process compared to powder coating.
Some people prefer to still take everything off their motorcycle and strip it down to the frame to paint it. While that is perfectly fine, it is still possible to paint a frame without removing some of the large stuff, such as the engine (click here to see our article about how to paint a motorcycle frame without removing then engine). This can still yield great results and is much less work on your part. This is also something you can do in the comfort of your own garage on a Saturday afternoon.
Whether you decide to powder coat your motorcycle frame or paint it yourself, both ways require some prep work. Prep work is important because that is what determines the life of the paint or powder coat on the frame. If prep work is done right, your paint job on the frame can look just as good as powder coat minus the time and the cost. Click here to see the paint I use and recommend for motorcycle frames.
Speaking of cost, the amount of money it takes to paint a motorcycle frame yourself is less expensive than powder coating. I have painted a lot of motorcycle frames in the last few years and the cost to do so was never more than $100 to do it myself. To have a professional do it, you’re looking at around $200-$300 which is still much less than powder coating.
Disadvantages Of Painting A Motorcycle Frame
As I mentioned before, each method of coating a motorcycle frame requires prep work. When a frame is powder coated, people will often pay the shop to prep the metal since they have the right equipment to do it. When you paint a frame yourself, you’ll have to do the prep work yourself and you have to be thorough about it.
I’ve made the mistake of doing prep work too quickly only to find that the paint started chipping soon after I painted the motorcycle frame. Bad prep leaves dirt and grease on the frame which paint does not adhere to.
Compared to powder coat, paint tends to scratch off a lot easier. If a tool slips or you accidentally tip your motorcycle, you’ll most likely end up with some scratches or chips that you’ll have to spot treat with new paint.
Paint isn’t as durable as powder coat, so the harsh outside elements may affect the paint job which can also lead to chips and paint flaking off.
Painting a motorcycle frame yourself also runs the risk of getting over spray on other parts that were not intended to get painted. Doing things yourself is a great way to go, but lack of experience may cause some overspray that can be annoying to fix.
I have accidentally gotten over spray on the engine before. Most motorcycle engines are made of cast iron and aluminum; if paint gets on materials like this, it’s almost impossible to get the paint off of it.
As you can see, there are benefits as well as disadvantages to both powder coating and painting a motorcycle frame. Powder coating yields amazing results that will last the entirety of the motorcycle’s life, but it’s also very expensive and time consuming.
Painting a motorcycle frame is a much simpler job that a DIYer could do in their garage and is cheaper to complete, but it’s not as strong as powder coating and there are higher risks of chips and fading.
As a seasoned motorcycle restorer, I’ve used both methods and have found that with the correct prep work, painting a motorcycle frame shows some amazing results and is my preferred method. I’ve had customers very pleased with the results as well. But what do you guys think? Do you prefer to paint or powder coat parts on your motorcycle and why do you prefer it that way? Let us know what you think!
What are some motorcycle restoration tips? Some tips I always abide by when restoring a motorcycle is taking a lot of pictures, labeling wires and parts, put small parts in labeled plastic bags, budget time and money, having the right tools handy, and joining forums. Click here to see my article for more info.
Can you powder coat motorcycle wheels? You can powder coat motorcycle wheels unless they are made out of aluminum. Powder coating aluminum wheels changes the chemistry of the aluminum when it’s placed in the oven. This chemistry change can cause catastrophic problems when going higher speeds. For more information, click here to see my article that discusses this further.