Probably the most universally intimidating portion of building a truck is applying paint. In reality, this is usually easy compared to intricate matters such as rebuilding an automatic transmission or the art of reshaping metal before painting it. It's simply a matter of following instructions. The fear of applying paint may rest in the fact that errors in the paint job can be seen by everyone. To help alleviate some of your worries, we put together some basic supplies, tools, and easy instructions necessary to perform paint work.
We've used standard paint guns for years but were anxious to use a new DeVILBISS high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) gun offered by The Eastwood Company. All HVLP guns apply more paint to the surface you're working on and put less paint in the air. This is good for the environment, and it's practical for the painter since it requires less paint (compared to a conventional gun) to cover the same area. Also, less paint in the air means less overspray, which makes cleanup easier. The majority of paints we sprayed for this article were PPG products from Thompson PBE, but we also tried a couple of products from The Eastwood Company. The PPG products illustrate how complicated typical vehicle painting has become while the Eastwood products show how simple hobbyist refinishing can be.
We said that the PPG products can be complicated, but they're not difficult to use. We started with PPG epoxy primer (DP) which is recommended for use over bare metal. In this article, we also applied it to a steering wheel--in many cases, this product isn't safe for use on plastic, but it did work on our wheel. The epoxy primer is easy to mix and spray and offers incredible adhesion. This should be followed by a sandable primer and sealer. Then we used Deltron two-stage paint for color, which requires a clearcoat, while single-stage paint does not. Drying times, recommended number of coats, and mixing ratios are explained in data sheets available where you purchase PPG products.
We used Chassis Black from Eastwood which is a glossy paint designed for use on frames and suspension components. We've also found it works well on firewalls, core supports, and inner-fender panels. This paint is very durable and is chip resistant. You don't need to reduce it and it sprays just like any other paint or primer. It can be applied to bare metal, over Eastwood's Corroless rust stabilizer, or over most primers. The Chassis Black and rust stabilizer are also available from Eastwood in spray cans so you can apply it without a spray gun.
The key is to follow all instructions on the products you're spraying. Safety precautions are most important, but the results of your efforts will depend on mixing the chemicals properly, setting the gun correctly, and applying the paint in a uniform manner.
Before the Paint
The primary intent of this article is to cover paint (and other chemical) application. But the surface you apply the primer and paint to must be prepped correctly or you'll get even more practice when you have to reshoot everything. Most of the parts you'll paint on a truck are made of metal, so we'll focus on preparing it for paint. Some plastics such as the steering wheel, shown in this article, are readied for paint in the same manner as metal except that rust isn't a concern.
If your metal is already painted, you can sand the paint until it's smooth and then apply primer (if necessary) and paint over the top. If you need to start with bare metal, an epoxy primer should be used first to grip the metal well. Over this, a primer surfacer should be used and then paint can be applied. If it's a suspension or frame part you're painting, you can skip the multistep process and use Chassis (glossy) or Underhood (semiglossy) Black from The Eastwood Company that can be applied to bare metal or primer (but not over epoxy or etching primer).
We recently ran across a case of severe rust on an entire vintage Chevrolet body. Before paint can be applied to this, all of the rust must be removed and neutralized. For light-to-medium rust, a rust neutralizer, such as Corroless from Eastwood, is an easy, effective fix. This truck was severely rusted, however, and the entire body was affected. So Drezek Environmental Stripping Systems stripped it with a combination of sodium bicarbonate (primary ingredient of baking soda) and a slightly more aggressive medium. This procedure was able to lift out the rust from even the deepest pores of the metal. Then the body was thoroughly rinsed and shot with PPG DP90LF epoxy primer from Thompson PBE. For applications that aren't as rusty, Drezek can leave primer and body filler in place.