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Paint Your Bike

I approached repainting my old Wing with mixed emotions. It really needed to be repainted back to its original color because it was in great condition and almost completely stock. I thought that I would like to learn the process and I didn't trust a car shop to do it to my satisfaction. I'd heard plenty of warnings about not letting body shops prep and shoot the paint since it was a nuisance job to most of them. But, I wasn't sure if my attention span was up to a long a tedious process. But the challenge just wouldn't let me go. There are literally hundred of places on the web to get painting information. The problem is in distilling it down to your particular job. This job is based on all plastic parts. If you're painting your Connie, remember that I've left out dealing with the metal tank. I think that the only difference will be in the initial primer / sealer choice and application.

Since this is such a small job, and I've elected to use spray bottles, I have completely omitted any discussion of compressors, moisture filters, and spray guns.

Just so you know what I started with, this is it. Looks fine and if you're not a purist, it's probably ok. There were a few chips hear and there and an old crack in the right side cover was showing. I really wanted a first year Wing when I bought it so it was just natural to want the original color. The original color is actually a two part color process of red or blue over a silver base. I've read horror stories of the problems of it turning out right so I'll settle for just a single color coat and then a clear coat. I'm not that much of a purist.
Here's the right side cover. I read conflicting information as to whether to strip all the old finish off or not. I thought I'd use this as a test and start with 220 grit wet/dry sand paper and some running water. If I did all six pieces that way I'd probably be old and gray and too old to ride by the time it was finished.
I did a lot of reading on the web about stripping the paint and the final verdict was either plastic media or walnut shell blasting. The local blaster didn't use plastic media but did use walnut shell and since he had a standard price list for bike parts, I assumed he was experienced. Besides, he said that they always do a test on an inconspicuous place to test the results.
The paint system: there are lots of paint manufacturers out there. But two things that I learned very early. Always use just one manufacturers products. Mixing primer from one and paint from another may lead to incompatibilities that result in pealing paint or who knows what other problems. Second, you will have a lot of labor invested in the job. Saving a few bucks by buying cheap materials just doesn't make sense. After all my reading, I decided to go with PPG. DuPont is also a very good choice. These are the two most commonly mentioned where I went looking and they are readily availble.
Surface Preparation: Rather than sanding the plastic, prepare the surface with red or gray Scotchbrite pads.

Clean the parts: PPG DX40 Wax and Grease Remover 

Before spraying the primer, the parts must be absolutely clean. Even your fingers can leave oil behind and cause problems.

Safety: Before you go near the paint cans, make sure you have proper protection for you lungs and brain.

Adhesion promoter: PPG DPX801  

Two thin coats of an adhesion promoter must be used on any plastic parts you intend to paint.

Reducer: The primer, base coat and clear coat must all be thinned with reducer. Check the PPG spec sheet for the correct reducer. The right choice is dependant upon the temperature that you will be painting in.
  • 60 to 70 F. - DT860
  • 65 to 80 F. - DT870
  • 75 to 90 F. - DT885
  • 85 and above - DT895

Primer: Be sure to use a flexible primer on all plastics. Conventional primer is used on metal parts.
Reduce primer according to the manufacturer's instructions.  x part primer to x parts reducer. Apply  xxx coats.

Wet sand with 400 - 600 grit paper.

Guidecoat: Spray on a thin haze coat from a spray bomb of contrasting color of paint or primer. Wet sanding this through to the first primer coast will help reveal high and low spots. You might skip this if all of your plastic is in good shape and you haven't used any body filler.

Wet sand again with 400 grit. Some sources suggest 600 grit. Since there will be about 3 coats each of base coat and clear, I think 400 should be fine. The 400 grit school of thought says that anything finer won't provide the bite needed for the next coat.

Clean: Clean the parts again, just like you did above. Absolutely perfectly clean.

Base coat: PPG Deltron 2000 DBC basecoat and reducer mixed 1 : 1. Allow each coat to flash off for about 10 minutes before applying the next coat.

Spray the basecoat holding the gun perpendicular to the surface of the part being painted. Nice even motion and overlap the previous pass about 50%. Only put down just enough paint to get an even color coating and no more. Following the manufacturers instructions, let the paint flash off and apply the next coat. I put on X coats.

Clear coat: PPG DCU-2002 or DCU-2021. Mix 4 parts clear, 1 part DT860 Reducer and 1 part DCX61 hardener. This is the only part that is catalyzed.

Without sanding the base coat, apply the clear coat exactly like you did the base coat.

Take a break: The paint needs a couple of days before you start the final sanding and buffing.

With the final buffing and polishing, if you are using a power buffer, be sure that the motion of the pad spins away from the edge, not towards it or you will wear right through the finish. Some pro's suggest taping the edges to prevent this.
Finishing sanding : Start by wet sanding with 1200, then 1500 and possibly 2000.

Buff with 3M Imperial Microfinishing Compound with a XXX pad

Final polishing is with 3M Finesse-it and a XXX pad.

Another issue is how to spray the primer and paint. There is a great article on the Suzuki GS website about using spray cans and the author did a really nice job. Of course, your favorite color may not be available in spray cans. You can have them made up but that can get a bit pricey.

I decided to use a Preval sprayer. The propellant is enough to shoot 16oz of liquid. They are available all over and are only about $5 or so.

There is similar unit call the Crown Spra-tool. It claims to shoot 24oz. and is about $7.

Article By: David J. Morrow

Updated January 2005

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