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Old 09-10-2008, 06:50 PM   #1
the cake is a lie
reckon's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Motorcycles: 82 Yamaha Vision / Yamaha TZ 125cc turbocharged APS/BF speed record bike
Name: Joe
How to paint a motorcycle without a compressor & spray gun

(thanks to mike23w for the reformatting )

Materials and Costs

- Adhesion Promoter.....1 cans. $24.24. Bulldog. (KLE ETP0123B)
- Acid Etch Primer......1 cans. $15.65. U-Pol #8 Acid Etch Primer. (UPO 741)
- High Build Primer...2-3 cans. $15.44. U-Pol #5 High Build Primer. (UPO 763)
- Guide Coat............1 cans. .$8.53. U-Pol Guide Coat(UPO 2043)
- Base Coat...........3-4 cans. .$5.04. U-Pol Power Can - Gloss Black (UPO 803)
- Clear Coat..........4-6 cans. $15.15. U-Pol #1 Clear Coat (UPO 796)

Total: $205.80 + $30.19 shipping to CA + $15.95 tax.
Total: $251.94
* Calculation of total used highest number of cans (3 high build primer, 4 basecoat, 6 clear coat). Prices as of 3/1/2009.

Prices and product codes are from

(open thread)

This is NOT a "how to paint with rattle cans" article.

Instead it deals with how to get truly professional results WITHOUT having a compressor, or spray gun, and the $350 in accessories IN ADDITION to the compressor and spray gun, and enjoy

I have been painting motorcycles, cars, bicycles and just about anything that will hold still long enough for something like 35+ years now.

I started off like most, with rattle cans in the garage or driveway, but I got bitten bad by the kustom kraze in the early seventies, and wanted to airbrush and pinstripe, just like Ed 'big daddy' Roth, so I went out and got brushes, paints and a paasche VL (good ol airbrush) and just completely screwed up perfectly good looking motorcycles, cars and bikes for a couple of years or so (all my own, thank god), but eventually I learned the rattle can way, the hard way, the easy way, the fast way, the super uber quality way, and just about everyway in between….

I spent so much money on paint and airbrushes, and compressors and supplies I had to start my own restoration-custom paint business, and did just that for many years.

Being an avid biker since I can remember I would get MANY requests to paint motorcycles, and more questions ABOUT painting motorcycles than any other, the ONE question that kept coming up over and over was “can I paint my motorcycle with rattle can paints and get good results, that LAST?”

Since most of you can probably (or already have) figured out the hard way, and the “it looked good for a week” way, in this article I’ll detail how to paint a motorcycle using nothing but rattle can, or “spray bomb” paints, and get truly professional LONG lasting results. (7+ years looking perfect is not at ALL uncommon) it’ll cost a bit more than your typical spray bomb job, and the toughest thing will probably be convincing people that it really IS a rattle can job.

    First off you’ll need a space to paint free of any ignition sources, and with good ventilation: usually painting outside with the ground wetted down, and then the piece moved into a sealed up garage or shed after painting works VERY well,

    HOWEVER! be VERY careful about over spray settling onto neighbors property as nothing will piss off a neighbor more than finding the family truckster dusted with paint over spray after they saw you shooting your bike yesterday (so you get tarps, and offer to cover the nearby cars or whatever if need be)

    Second thing is you only get two lungs, and only so many brain cells per lifetime, so go get a GOOD charcoal canister dust/mist/vapor respirator, and WEAR IT WHEN YOU SHOOT.

    Most of the crap that lands in a paint job (professionally called “nibs”) come from YOU, NOT the surrounding area as it might seem, so when you get your respirator, get a .99 cent disposable PAINT SUIT AND HOOD, and WEAR IT WHEN YOU SHOOT, not so much to protect you from the paint (which it DOES), but it also contains all your skin cells, hair, dandruff, sanding dust, yada yada.

    besides half the fun of painting is having someone you know see you while your painting, when you look like someone from the andromeda galaxy,…. and if you like peace and quiet, know that 99% of people will NOT approach a person dressed like he’s going to a nuclear radiation accident!


    The BIGGEST (and most common) rookie mistake is to try and "learn" how to shoot ON the thing you are trying to paint, DO NOT DO THIS unless you have experience shooting MOTORCYCLES and that’s the rub, just because you know how to lay glass on a car hood, or fender, don't think you can just start shooting bikes with totally new spray can products and not have a learning curve, so take my advice, and make your mistakes on the practice piece, and not your R1, or BMW or whatever.

    Get a section of old fairing, or a piece of something roundish (old helmet?) and pretend it’s the bike, shoot and sand everything EXACTLY like you’re going to do on the bike, sort of a dress rehearsal, you’ll have plenty of paint leftover for your project, and you’ll KNOW what each product will do and if you mess up you can just wipe it all off with thinner, or grind it off with a sanding disc and start again. practice on the test panel till you feel comfortable , then shoot the bike.

    There is a HUGE difference in WHAT ACTUALLY goes IN a spray can, and only a few dollars difference between garbage, and gold, so forget about going to the hardware store, or any discount auto supply, or wal-mart.

    Look in your yellow pages under “automotive paint supply” or “color shop” and you should find several professional auto body supply shops

    Some can actually make custom spray cans so you can get ANY automotive color you can think of (and afford), so if you REALLY love that crazy orange color shift on the Lamborghini Murcelago, you can get it put in a spray can, THAT COLOR would probably be a $200 dollar spray can, but you get the idea, billions of color choices, and truly professional basecoat urethanes in a spray can.

    The ETCH PRIMER, and the HIGH BUILD PRIMER are also critical to durability so again, avoid cheap hardware/auto supply look alikes, and buy the primers at the color shop, and you’ll get the results I promise in this article.

    There are also MANY places online that will ship these products, simply do searches for the names of the products listed and you should see several suppliers of these, and similar products available for shipment.

    Good brands to stick with are: SEM, or U-Pol (my personal choice), or EVERCOAT. At this writing, FINISHMASTER carries “SMART” brand, which apparently is simply repackaged SEM products, good stuff.

Public nuisance, practice panel, safety stuff, and paint quality were covered.

Let's get started.

    Clips, grommets, EVERYTHING, as nothing looks more amateur than tell tale over spray on rubber or shiny bits, because they should have been removed, not masked off.

    Remove the petcock from the tank (or mask off the HYOOGE fuel pump thingy), REMOVE THE GAS CAP, and carefully mask off the neck.

    Paint will not stick to oil or grease, wax, cheeseburger drippings, or taco juice and that includes the oils from your hands. (taco or not)

    Plastics, and painted surfaces can be cleaned with alcohol or mineral spirits or wax & grease removers like PPG’s DX330.


    You’ll have to repair any damage like cracks, broken tabs, rash deep enough to make a hole, etc,…
    • For fiberglass you can use standard “home depot” fiberglass resin and cloth and get great results, but to really do it right you should use a slower setting epoxy, it sticks better, and remains much more flexible after it cures.

      Marine grade epoxy by TAP is by far the most durable and flexible. complete instructions for fiberglass repair are also available at TAP, follow them COMPLETELY.
    • For non-fiberglass fairings (90% of them are NOT fiberglass) first you have to ID the plastic.

      Look for a mark on the inside surface somewhere it’ll look like this :
      or whatever your particular plastic is will be inside the “> <” marks.
      • For ABS you can get really good chemical welds (bonds) using MEK as a bonding agent (methyl ethyl ketone: available at any hardware store, sold as a paint thinner/stripper).

        Take a q-tip and wet it with the MEK, then brush it along the crack.
        It’ll seep into the crack, then using moderate force push the two broken pieces together until you see some melted plastic ooze from the crack.

        Hold it that way for a minute or so.

        Then once it’s set, but still wiggles.
        Using wide 3” masking tape, stretch the tape across the crack. Inside and out to hold the two broken halves together and leave it set for at LEAST an hour.
      • For any other fairing plastics you pretty much have to weld it.

        So go find a body shop that “repairs bumpers”, or a plastics shop and have the pieces welded.
        Having whoever is doing the welding work to pay EXTREME ATTENTION TO WARPING, as 1/8” thick plastics melt at VERY LOW TEMPS, and it’s just incredibly easy to accidentally melt a vent or warp a mounting tab.
Joe Loewinsohn
no longer repairing plastics due to health reasons
"you can fix anything, you just can't fix everything"

Last edited by reckon; 05-22-2009 at 01:49 AM..
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