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How to Paint a Motorcycle Engine

How to Paint a Motorcycle Engine

A motorcycle’s engine is responsible for riding capability, fuel efficiency, performance, and handling. A motorcycle with a small engine tends to be easier to handle. On the other hand, motorcycles with big, robust engines are more powerful.

A motorcycle engine is versatile since it has practical use and aesthetic appeal. Engines with unique designs are becoming more popular, such as powder-coated blacked-out parts, chrome accents, stylish plastic covers, and with painted engine guards. In fact, the latest Harley Davidson motorcycles stand out due to their aggressive blacked-out engines. Due to highly customizable engines, many motorcycle enthusiasts love to modify their motorcycles by painting the engines instead of mounting aftermarket motorcycle parts.

Motorcycle engines are often exposed to dust, rain, and debris. To preserve their motorcycle engines, most riders apply paint to act as a protective cover. Much like polishing chrome accents and repainting faded parts, painting the motorcycle engine is considered a part of standard engine maintenance.

This article provides a detailed guide on how to do a professional motorcycle engine paint job at home.

1. The Prepping Phase - Cleaning & Sanding

Surface prep requires removing the engine from the frame to make it easier to clean dirt, grease, and rust off the engine. If the engine has a dirty surface and is not sanded properly, the paint will not stick and peel off.

1.1 Tools Required

  • Grease Remover
  • Automotive Paint Remover
  • Carburetor Cleaner
  • 320 Grit Sandpaper
  • Wire Wheel & Drill
  • Clean Microfibre Cloth
  • Thinner
  • Screw Driver
  • Paper Tape

1.2 Steps

  1. Unfasten the bolts above the engine cover and remove them from your motorcycle. Then, apply any automotive paint remover, like Rust Oleum Aircraft Remover, to remove the old acrylic or enamel paint and lacquer from the engine cover. Removing the cover will ensure no chemicals will damage the gasket, wires, hoses, and other plastic parts underneath the cover.
  2. Use a wide paint brush to spread the paint remover evenly. Leave the paint remover on for 1-2 hours. Next, rinse off the paint remover on the engine cover with water. Once the engine cover is clean, bolt it back in place to protect the wires while cleaning the other engine parts with paint remover. Once the paint is removed, clean off any residue with a damp scouring pad.
  3. Use carburetor cleaner to degrease the engine parts. You can also spray some degreasing solution on paper towels to clean the engine.
  4. Next, use a wire wheel and 320 grit sandpaper to buff the surface of the engine. Use sandpaper for flat surfaces and the wire wheel with a drill for crevasses.
  5. Leave the clean engine parts to dry for at least 30 minutes. Once dry, use a lint free cloth to remove any dust that may have accumulated while drying.
  6. Hang the engine in a clean space using bungee cords, and then apply a light coat of paint thinner with a microfiber cloth.
  7. Use paper tape to cover the areas you don’t want painted. Areas you should cover include the air intakes, oil fill plugs, spark plug, and wires. Once the holes are sealed and wires covered, cut off the extra tape.
  8. If your engine has corroded parts, apply a rust remover and let it soak for 30-60 minutes. Make sure that the rust remover does not dry out. Next, rinse off the rust remover with warm water and leave the parts to dry.

2. The Painting Phase

Once the engine is cleaned and sanded, you can apply the paint using a spray gun, an aerosol can, or a brush. It is easier to use an aerosol can since the paint already has the right consistency. If you want to apply paint using a spray gun or brush, you would need to add thinner to the paint. Read the instructions to ensure smooth application.

2.1 Tools Required

  • Paint
  • Thinner (optional)
  • Primer
  • Clear Coat
  • Paint Respirator

2.2 Steps

  1. Prepare the paint by following the included instructions. If you are using an aerosol can, put it in warm water or stir it lightly to make sure the paint has the right consistency. Skip this step if you plan to use a spray gun or paint brush.
  2. Put on protective goggles and a face mask, preferably a paint respirator, to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.
  3. Some enamel paints can be applied directly on the surface of the engine,  while others require applying a layer of primer first. For the latter, apply a 500 °F heat-resistant primer based on the type of paint you use.
  4. Next, apply the color coat using a to and fro motion to ensure the surface is covered evenly. Leave the coat to dry before applying a second layer. Make sure that the paint layers are thin and blend into each other.
  5. If you see thick uneven patches in the paint, sand the surface of the engine with 400 grit sandpaper. Then apply a new color coat.
  6. Leave the paint to dry for 6-10 hours.
  7. Finally, apply a clear coat with ceramic for a high glossy and durable finish.
  8. Once the paint and clear coats are dry, take off the paper tape and reinstall onto your motorcycle’s frame.

3. Expected Cost of Painting a Motorcycle Engine

The cost of painting a motorcycle engine depends on various factors. If you take your bike to a mechanic or a professional painter, then it can cost between $250-$800 based on the type of paint, skill level, and location. On the other hand, if you paint your motorbike’s engine yourself, then it can cost between $15-$45 per paint pack. The cost will increase depending on how much paint you need and the type of paint.

Keep in mind that a poor paint job done by you or an unskilled painter can damage the engine and may accrue costs for maintenance and replacement parts.

4. Best Paints for Motorcycle Engines

There are various types of paint on the market you can use to customize your motorbike’s engine.Listed below are paint products you can apply to a motorcycle engine:

Motorcycle Engine Paints
Product Price Best Features
VHT Engine Enamel Spray Paint $23.99 - 11 oz spray bottle
Motor Coater Engine Paint $82.45 - complete paint kit including prepping cleaner, rust-preventive primer, enamel paint, gloves, thinner, and brush $26.95 - single 12 oz aerosol pack
Duplicolor Engine Paint $15.55 - 12 oz aerosol can Easy to Apply Aerosol Packing with EZ Touch Conical Nozzle
High Glossy Finish
Contains Ceramic Resin for Heat Dissipation
Heat Resistance up to 500°F/260°C
Automotive Fluid Protection
Superior Finish; No Cracks, Peels, or Blisters
Requires a Primer & Clear Coat for Optimal Adhesion and Long-Lasting Shine Dries Quickly
Rust Oleum Engine Enamel Paint $8.33 - 12 oz spray can Premium-Quality Enamel Paint
Long-Lasting Matte Finish
Rust Resistant
Comfortable Spray Nozzle
Easy to Apply
High Adhesive Properties
Available in Standard Colors
Best for Humid Climates
Economical
PJ1 Spray Paint $21.04 - 12 oz of spray can Heat Resistance up to 500°F/260°C
Enamel Paint
Protects from Automotive Fluids, Gas, and Oil
Scratch-Resistant
Washable; Prevents Dirt Build-Up
Durable Finish

Related: Best Paints for Custom Motorcycle Fairings

5. Motorcycle Engine Paint Care

New paint jobs require time, money, and effort to complete, especially DIY projects. To get the most value out of your time and money, you must take care of the new paint.

5.1 Clean Your Motorcycle’s Engine Frequently

When cleaning your bike, pay attention to the engine. To clean the engine, you only need a grease remover and luke-warm water. Usually, the paint becomes damaged due to the dirt accumulating over time. If you clean any build-up, the engine will keep its new look longer. Make sure you dry the engine properly after cleaning it with water.

5.2 Paint Touch-Ups

No matter how carefully you handle your motorcycle’s engine, it is bound to get micro scratches over time. When left unattended, these scratches can become bigger, spoiling the look of your motorbike’s engine. Always check for small scratches and cover them with the same paint you used to customize the engine.

5.3 Apply Water-Based Protective Coating

If you do not ride your motorbike often but want the engine’s new paint job to last longer, you should use a water-based protective coating to protect the paint from scratches, dust, etc. Moreover, using water-based restorative formulas can help maintain the shine of your motorcycle engine’s paint job.

Applying a water-based protective layer does not require much effort or experience. This product protects the paint and restores the gleam of chrome, metal, and plastic engine parts.

  1. Before applying the water-based coating or protective formula, make sure that the motorcycle engine is cool. Haul your motorcycle into a garage or any shaded area out of direct sunlight.
  2. Spray a generous amount of coating onto the engine, then leave it to soak. Apply only a small amount to the air intakes and filters. If these parts become heavily soaked, your motorcycle’s performance, acceleration, and mileage will be reduced.
  3. When applying protective coating on the engine parts with powder-coated surfaces, make sure to wipe off any excess spray with a microfiber cloth.
  4. You can also use a clean lint-free cloth to spread the spray evenly across hard-to-reach areas on the motorcycle engine.
  5. After all the engine parts are covered with the coating, use a new microfiber cloth to buff the surfaces. Make sure to buff all the contours and crevasses for optimal protection and shine.

5.4 Use Polish or Wax

Applying wax or polish can better protect the paint from damage. Wax creates a protective layer and polish prevents dust from sticking to the paint, allowing you to use most of these products alternatively. However, not all polishes and waxes are multi-purpose products. Therefore, it is best to get multiple types of wax and polish suited for plastic, metal, and other surfaces.

5.5 Cover Your Bike

Try to protect your bike from direct sunlight and rain by covering it with a tarp or storing it in a garage.

These maintenance tips will help keep debris and grime from building up on the engine and ensure your motorcycle sports an OEM standard paint job. You can also use these tips to protect or restore your motorcycle’s blacked-out or chrome-plated exhaust pipes or/and muffler heads.

6. Takeaway

Customizing a motorcycle engine can be a fun and rewarding experience. Many riders enjoy giving their motorbikes a new look that shows off their preferences. This can be reason enough for riders to attempt to paint the engines themselves. However, this can be harder for beginners since a single mistake would require redoing the entire engine paint job. Before trying to customize your motorcycle Engine, try to work on your skills by painting the motorcycle fairing, fuel tank, frame, or fenders.  You can improve the comfort and looks of your motorcycle by installing aftermarket parts and luggage from Viking Bags, including saddlebags, sissy bar bags, tour packs, tank bags, handlebars, fairings, sissy bars, backrests, and crash bars.

Related: How to Paint a Motorcycle Fairing with a Spray Gun
How Long Do Motorcycle Engines Last

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