Protecting and preserving your car’s chassis and small parts is crucial to any good restoration. Paint has been the long-time favorite when it comes to protectants. It gives your undercarriage a uniform color pallet, defends against the elements and most importantly keeps damaging rust from setting in. Automotive paint isn’t the only option for the job. There are other choices.
Spray paint is the most cost-effective alternative, but it sacrifices some of the protective qualities of paint and can look cheap. Plating metal parts in chrome, cadmium and other shiny metals can protect them, and the end results look good, but it requires equipment most DIYers can’t access at a reasonable price.
This brings us to an option that is effective but often overlooked: powder coating.
What Is Powder Coating?
While it has only become popular in recent years, the process of powder coating dates back over forty years. The process uses an electrostatic charge to bond extremely fine pigmented powder to metal. Once bonded, the part is baked in a low-temperature oven to make the adhesion permanent. Powder offers superior protective qualities and lasts longer than paint. It’s safe for the environment, too!
In the past, the technique was regulated to industrial use due to challenges in bonding powder to intricate parts and a lack of variety in powder colors. Today, you can spot powder coating used in a multitude of applications, thanks to new techniques and powders that run the gamut of colors and textures. It’s every bit as versatile as paint. There are even clear coat powders, and for small parts it offers significantly lower costs.
The Powder Coating Process
If you’re interested in using powder, you’ll want to start by cleaning parts thoroughly. Acetone is a great solvent to use, but don’t get any on the finished product. It’s one of the few things that will eat through a good powder coat. For dirtier parts, employ media blasting.
With your parts cleaned, select the color and texture of powder to use. A half-pound of powder and the clear coat to go with it only costs about $14. We recommend using super-polyester powder or at least enhanced polyester.
You could buy an electrostatic gun, but you probably don’t plan to invest in a giant-sized oven any time soon, so your best bet is to find a local powder coating operation with 900 degree burn-off ovens. Check out a step-by-step guide in advance, so you’re familiar with the finer points of the process.
With the proper bonding equipment at your disposal, you can blast some powder and throw your parts in to bake. Many shops will provide parts racks that make it easy to move large and small parts in and out of the oven. Baking only takes about 15 minutes, with an additional 5 to preheat the parts.
Step Back and Admire
Congratulations, you’ve successfully coated your first parts. With a little practice, you can have the entire process complete in under an hour, and your parts will be protected for up to 20 years. Try accomplishing that in a paint booth!