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Powder Coating vs Spray Painting a Motorcycle Frame - Which is the Better Option?

Powder Coating vs Spray Painting a Motorcycle Frame - Which is the Better Option?

Motorcycles can be customized with paint jobs and powder coats. While painting is the more common and accessible method to all riders, powder coating is an electrostatic process where charged pigmented powder is applied on metal motorcycle parts.

For powder coating, special spray guns are used to apply the electrostatic pigmentation. The surface of the metal frame is then cured, preferably in a large oven, so the heat activates the chemicals in the coating and reacts with the metal in the motorcycle frame. For painting, use spray guns, rattle cans, or airbrushes and then cure the paint according to the instructions on the sides of the paint cans.

Both methods help create a protective layer over the motorcycle frame to prevent rusting, corrosion, scratching, and other damage. If your bike gets a professional powder coat or paint job, either can also provide protection against moisture, UV rays, and collisions. However, a powder coat is tougher and more durable due to the long cross-linked molecular chains that create a high density. Moreover, you can apply thick powder coats without creating irregular patches. On the other hand, thick layers of paint become clumpy and peel off quickly. But paint jobs are more accessible and budget-friendly. This article compares the pros and cons of powder coating and paint jobs.

1. Advantages of Powder Coating

Motorcycle companies use powder coating as an advertising strategy to demonstrate the durability of motorcycle frames. If you need to restore, repair, or customize your motorcycle frame, here are a few reasons why you should favor powder coating:

1.1 Stripping the Frame

Before you can apply a powder coat, you must strip down your motorcycle’s frame completely. You must remove every washer, bolt, engine, exhaust, fairing, fuel tank, seat, sissy bars, luggage, and wire harnesses.

This ensures no parts are left uncovered by the powder coat. Also, when the frame is put in a hot oven to cure the powder coat, the parts will not be damaged in the process. Some of the removed parts can also get the powder coat treatment, including sissy bars, fuel tank, and wheels.

1.2 Relatively Maintenance Free

Most kinds of protective layers require frequent maintenance to ensure they still offer protection and have a cool design for a long time. However, powder coating is mostly maintenance free and can last up to 40 years depending on the surface prep, frequency of sanding, types of materials, equipment, and powder coating, and intended method. Over time, it can start to lose its finish due to harsh weather, sun exposure, and moisture. Avoid using harsh chemicals when cleaning the powder coating. Using mild soap and water and applying wax every 3-6 months is adequate to clean the powder coat.

1.3 No Cracks or Peels

A powder coat sticks to the motorcycle frame due to a special chemical binding agent that is activated in the presence of heat. The reaction makes the coating last longer and create a sophisticated finish with different levels of glossiness or a flat matte finish depending on the fillers and the thickness of the coating. The cured powdered pigmentation will not peel, crack, or blister.

1.4 No Discoloration

Unlike painted motorcycle frames, powder coating does not become discolored due to UV rays. It may lose its finish but never its pigmentation, making it the more durable option.

1.5 Prevents Scratching and Chipping

Mild impact, abrasive action, and collisions can chip off expensive paint jobs. But powder coating resists all these forms of damage. There is little to no risk of chipping. If a flying rock hits the frame or another motorcycle rubs against your bike in a parking space or in congested traffic signals, you would have one less thing to worry about, if your motorcycle has powder coating.

2. Disadvantages of Powder Coating

Though powder coating has more pros than cons, this method still has its share of disadvantages that could make customizing your motorcycle’s frame difficult:

2.1 Prep Work, Labor, & Expenses

Removing all the parts when stripping your motorcycle’s frame takes a lot of time and effort, which can increase the cost of a powder coat. Moreover, motorcycle frames have long bodies, edges, contours, and hard-to-reach areas. The cost of powder coating a motorcycle frame can be around $200-$500, depending on the service, location, model, and quality of the powder coat. Luckily, this cost does not include dismantling the bike. However, labor can increase the cost up to around $1,000-$2,000. If you strip and sand the frame in your garage, you can decrease the costs significantly. However, you would also have to reassemble the bike, which may result in loose bolts, disconnected wire harnesses, increased vibrations, and loose engine mounts.

2.2 Requires Hiring a Professional

Because application and curing are complex processes that require access to specialized equipment, you likely cannot powder coat your motorcycle’s frame yourself. Even if you get a high-quality powder coating kit and learn how to use it, you may not be able to achieve the desired results. The main reason is that stripping the motorcycle and sanding the frame may be too much work for a single person to handle. During curing, you will have to take your motorcycle’s frame to a company that offers powder coating services.

2.3 Time-Consuming Process

Compared to painting a motorcycle frame, powder coating takes much longer. Powder coating requires making an appointment and leaving your bike at a service for 12-24 hours.

Powder Coating Motorcycle Frame 
Pros  Cons 
Maximum Coverage  Only Performed by Professionals - Cannot Be a DIY Project 
Low Maintenance  Expensive 
High Gloss or Matte Finish Available  High Labor Costs 
Maintains Color  Lots of Prep Work Required 
Does Not Crack, Peel, or Chip  Time-Consuming 
Lasts More Than 10 Years 

3. Advantages of Painting Motorcycle Frame

3.1 DIY Project

Spray painting is a simpler method than powder coating. You only need a few tools, such as primer, spray paint, sandpaper, and a clear coat to get the job done. Anyone can do it by following the instructions and taking time to prep the frame properly.

3.2 Affordable if a DIY

If you perform the paint job yourself, you can save a lot of money. A DIY paint job costs around $150-$200, including the primer, color, and lacquer. If you hire a professional painter, the cost difference will not be that large. However, you may save up to $300 by opting for a simple solid color paint job.

3.3 No Stripping Required

You can easily paint a motorcycle with all the parts still attached. Though some parts may remain uncovered, you can still achieve a decent finish. If you don’t want paint to get on certain parts, you can use masking tape and paper to cover those parts.

4. Disadvantages of Painting Motorcycle Frame

Despite being an easy method to customize and restore your motorcycle, painting a motorcycle frame has many disadvantages due to its vulnerability to the environment:

4.1 High Maintenance

To ensure your motorcycle’s paint job lasts for a long time, you need to clean, wax, and polish the frame every week. Dirt build-up or grease can weaken the paint and result in peeling. If you want to protect the paint, make sure you follow a regular maintenance schedule.

4.2 Color Fades Quickly

Motorcycle paint loses color quickly when exposed to rain, harsh weather, and UV rays. You will have to apply fresh coats of paint every 3-6 months to keep the paint from losing its color.

4.3 Scratches and Chips

A slight scrape against another vehicle, the road, or any hard material can scratch and chip the paint. If not fixed quickly, the scratched paint can grow bigger, leaving the frame exposed and vulnerable to rust and corrosion. Applying paint incorrectly, thick layers, or runny paint can create paint lines, blisters, or thick patches.

4.4 Long Prep Work Required

Sanding the motorcycle frame in preparation for a paint job requires a lot of time and patience. If you don’t sand the surface adequately, the paint will not stick evenly on the frame, and you will fail to achieve a smooth texture and the desired finish.

Painting Motorcycle Frame 
Pros  Cons 
Can Be Applied at Home  High Maintenance Required 
Frame Can Be Painted with Parts Attached  Chips & Scratches Quickly 
Budget-Friendly  Color Fades 

Extensive Prep Work 

5. Takeaway

Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand all the positives and negatives of powder coating and painting your motorcycle frame. Spray painting a motorcycle frame is easier if you learn how to do it yourself. On the other hand, powder coating allows you to pass on the work to a service that specializes in electrostatic powder coating. Hiring professionals will ensure that the powder coating process is completed smoothly and accurately. They have the right equipment and apply the proper techniques so your motorcycle frame is successfully transformed.

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