The old Rolling Stones song “Paint it Black” is a catchy tune even without images of war flashing by in the background. But if you’ve got a black Jeep and live anywhere but the frozen Tundra of the North, odds are good that the last thing you want to do is paint anything black. Between it looking dirty five seconds after it is washed and how hot black Jeeps get in the sun, we swore years ago we’d never own another one. And that doesn’t even take into account how much of a pain they are to photograph.
We like to sleep in our ’98 Cherokee when we are camping. Tents often don’t do well in the windy desert, but the Jeep just gets so hot inside. From the second the sun comes up it just starts cooking in there. We can’t keep our fridge in it because it has to work so hard to keep the contents cool it kills the battery in a day, and we end up driving the Jeep just to keep our battery charged up. It already has tinted windows, and we still run the factory headliner, so we needed some other way to cool it off.
Black is said to be the absence of color, and we knew that we could almost cook eggs on our black paint if we wanted to. White on the other hand is supposedly all colors blended together. Whatever color theory you subscribe to, we know that a white Jeep feels a lot cooler in the sun than a black one. So, we decided to paint the top of our smoking-hot black Cherokee white to see if we could cool the inside down a bit. We ended up using under $40 worth of paint and materials, and it took us less than a day to get it done. So all in all, it was a pretty easy project.
This is what we set out to use to paint the Jeep top white. In reality, we didn’t end up using all of this stuff and had lots of materials left over. We went with Gloss White Rustoleum paint, which meant we were running the risk of seeing the paint lines, but we didn’t want the hassle that sometimes comes with cleaning a semi-gloss or flat paint.
We’d washed the Jeep a couple of days before this, but after we pulled the roof rack off of it, it was filthy again with dirt that was accumulated under the rails. So, out came the window cleaner and a few rags to get rid of some filth.
Once that was done, we attacked the top with a combination of Scotch Brite pads and a 1⁄4-sheet power sander to scuff up the factory paint. One thing to note about this is that if you use spray paint like we did, you can’t repaint over it with automotive paint later as it will just peel.
Once it is all scuffed up, wipe the top down with a surface prep or other oil-free cleaner to get all the sanding dust off. After you do that, make sure to not touch the paint anymore or you will have issues with the new paint sticking.
Alternatively, you could paper the Jeep to protect it from overspray first, but we prefer to have as little tape as possible on the Jeep before we wipe it down because we’ve found that wiping the Jeep down can lift the edges of the tape, leading to goofy paint lines.
When spraying paint, use several light coats rather than one heavy coat. This is our second or third coat of paint, and we still aren’t totally covered. By the fourth or fifth coat the top was completely white and glossy.
We parked the Jeep in the same spot at the office during the work day for two weeks solid. In the weekend separating the two weeks, we painted the roof. To test internal temperatures, we left a thermometer in the Jeep that was able to track temps hour by hour. Before the white roof the max temperature was 147.8 degrees on a 90 degree day. After the roof, we saw 120 degrees inside on a day with similar outside temps. While it didn’t cool it off as much as we were hoping for, we’ll take 20 degrees for under $30. Also, it made the Jeep much cooler inside while driving as well. Now if we could only convince ourselves it doesn’t look really goofy, we’d be OK.