Jeep Frame Painting

Which Paint to Use?


Dennie Farris was asking on The CJ-3B Bulletin Board for some input on frame painting, and he got lots. He said: "I'm starting a ground-up on my '54 CJ-3B and I want to paint the frame, front and rear ends first. I have them sandblasted already. What kind of bulletproof paint should I put on them? My color of choice is the original black."

Leslie Towner sent this suggestion: "I own a 1952 CJ-3A that I'm setting up to go offroading. And currently it's just a frame and running gear. I painted my frame and axles with a semi-gloss black tractor paint that I got from the local CASE-IH tractor dealership. I already have a 1967 3/4 ton 4x4 Chevrolet pickup truck that I did a ground up restoration on, and I painted this frame with the same black and it's held up extremely well -- it seems tougher than most automotive paints and it looks very nice on a frame that is not absolutely perfect."

Bob Christy had an idea: "Has anyone ever used spray-on bedliner to paint their frame? After sandblasting and priming, I was thinking of using this stuff both on my frame and underside of the body. It comes in a variety of colors and is very durable and flexible... any comments?"

Karl Morton cautioned: "Be sure that this is what you want to do. These moisture-cured urethanes are tough, and once you put it on it's there to stay. It won't sandblast off, chemical strippers won't cut it, and scraping would take forever. If I seem to be stuck on this, I am. I have tried to restore vehicles before that had been 'fixed up'. If your Jeep is never going to be a candidate for restoration then have at it. But if you think you might ever want to restore it to original, then paint it with semi-gloss or flat black enamel. It's cheap, it will look nice, and you will keep your future options open."

Jon Paulsen responded: "I guess it really depends on what your uses for the Jeep are. If it is just a show vehicle or daily driver, I would say go for it. But if you are actually going to use the thing, maybe offroad, I wouldn't recommend the liner. Mainly for the possibility of having to weld on the frame. If cracks occur, it would be next to impossible to get the area clean enough to weld to. Also if the liner is thick enough on the frame, cracks may not be seen as easily, if at all. And if you are like most Jeep enthusiasts, your work will probably never be done. You will always see something else that you may want to add later on. Try POR-15. Maybe not as durable as liner, but very tough."

Ray Johnson agreed: "I used POR-15 on my frame and both axles. POR-15 dries to a rock hard, gloss finish. It's expensive but I've heard great things about it. They have a web page at http://www.por-15.com. It can be brushed on or sprayed."

John Vaughan mentioned one detail to keep in mind if using POR-15: "What I have had the most luck with is to sandblast or wirebrush the whole frame, use the POR-15 primer, then POR-15, and topcoat it with Hammerite paint -- it is a bulletproof setup that looks great. POR-15 does not hold up well to UV light, so it needs a topcoat."

Alan Haley's 3B frameAlan Haley described the process he used to prime his frame (in the photo): "I didn't do anything special. Scraped off everything that would come without major effort, used an angle grinder to clean up bad welds, obvious rust and corruption, etc. I then used an old Sears sand blaster I bought years ago, with some aggressive sand, and cleaned up all of the frame that I could get to. In places I had to cover the motor before I blasted as I did not lift the motor from the frame before painting (most everything else I had removed).

"As I went at the job a little piecemeal, I used some spray cans of primer on the job as I progressed along. The primer was so poor that any water that hit the frame, even a dewey morning, would cause rust. I went back and sanded and blasted over the primed spots and repainted with my spray gun and a primer that I got from an auto parts store. This primer cost me 30 bucks for a quart can but it was worth it. The stuff is dense as can be, goes on well and seems to adhere to places that I know I had not properly prepared."

See also a front view photo (100K JPEG.)

Chris Henry added: "I'll put in my 2 cents. I just recently sandblasted my GP. I left the axles on it and had purchased a spray gun. I used DuPont's Variprime, and their Emron paint. It's important that you put the paint on within 24 hrs. after primer application, so that you dont have to sand the primer. Variprime is a self etching primer and I strongly suggest this for sandblasted parts. I visited with several autobody paint specialists, and they would swear by the Emron -- in fact one individual had it on a pickup for 30 years, with only a few chips from the gravel roads. They can't apply this product in Kansas anymore becasue it's being phased out by the EPA. A word of caution: use a respirator and do this outside, as I have been told the fumes will make one sick when applying this product without protection. I used a negative pressure respirator -- they cost about $40. I used 2 qts. of Variprime and 2 qts. of Emron. Make sure you have a regulator on your gun also -- the Emron is too expensive to mess up by improper atomization. All in all I think I spent less than $300 for the supplies and paint. I had to drive 30 miles to find someone that still had the Emron paint (they aren't making it any more)."

Bruce Noren agreed: "I have had good luck with Emron."

Powder Coating?

Buck Toenges mentioned powder coating: "I just got back a CJ-6 frame that was sandblasted and powder coated. It cost about $320.00 to sandblast and powder coat. I also had my CJ-3B powder coated. I like this idea. Does anybody know if there is a down side to powder coating?"

John Vaughan described one big potential downside to powder coating: "I would like to say that it is about the worst choice you can make. I am a Jeep maniac with Jeepsters, flatfenders, and a wagon, but I am also very heavily involved in off road racing. I co-drive for a class 8 heavy metal Ford that has raced Baja to Wendover, and as you might guess we often get to see what products hold up, and what products do not. Jeep frames always seem to have a tendency to crack, and with a powdercoat finish you cannot see stress cracks or even cracks if it is a good powdercoat. I experienced this first-hand while racing: we head our roll cage powdercoated because of the desired durability, and stress cracks started to form at the rear supprt bars, but the powdercoat would not let us see them. The next race we crossed the finish line and both rear bars were broken in half, and that could have killed us in a bad rollover. The cracks had to be pretty bad for those bars to break -- the bars were made of 2" chrome molly tubing. Powdercoating a frame might allow your frame to crack to an extent that it would be almost un-fixable by the time you even knew about it."

Jeff Spencer cautioned: "I had a saw bench powder coated and a better finish I doubt you will find, but on the edges it has lifted and moisture has entered and RUST, RUST, RUST. On the up side I suspect it is more to do with the preparation, but it has left a sour taste."

Dennis Keene recommended the process in the right application: "Powder coating is a super way to finish and protect a metal surface. There are many colors and several surface finishes to choose from. No longer is the choice limited to a few glossy colors. Powder coating by nature is an extremely durable finish. I had the chance to tour a powder coating facility and was impressed by the quality of work and the finished product. For the price you pay for sandblasting and paint materials, powder coating is a viable option. Most, if not all, motorcycle and bicycle frames are production powder coated from the factory, along with many of the small parts.

"For all who are not aware of what powder coating is, here is a quick 25 cent tour. They take a bare, sandblasted piece of metal, spray the 'dry powder' paint material on it just like liquid paint, and then put the part into a baking oven and heat bake it to I think around 1500 degrees. The paint in powder form melts and covers the surface. No runs, no sags, no orange peel, just the smoothest finished surface you will ever see. Because of the composition of the paint material and the way it is baked on, it is probably the most durable paint finish available."

Jim Sammons described another powder process: "Here in south Texas, on the Gulf Coast, we have quite a problem with rust just as our northern friends in the rust belt. Down here we swear by what we call de-met coat. I don't know if I spelled that right, but that's how it sounds. It's zinc powder which is usually added to a good epoxy primer. We use it on all our offshore equipment. A sandblast and de-met coat will last approximately ten years in a severe salt water environment. And I mean severe. Unpainted pipe lasts about one year without it. I am currently preparing a frame for this process. Some of these paint jobs have been known to last for 20 years without rust. So, for my money, it's zinc and epoxy primer."

Joel Kamunen suggested: "If you want to do it yourself, check out the Eastwood catalog at www.eastwoodco.com. They have paints and painting equipment for the do it yourself restorer."

John Hubbard wondered if high-tech was necessarily best: "I have seen examples of Eastwood's powder coating system and the results look great. Their process involves electrostatically painting the piece and then raising the temperature to 400 degrees for 20 minutes. You can use an oven or halogen lights to "bake" the part. Parts can also be baked in sections, as you would do on a frame using lights as the heat source. Their lights are a pretty expensive part of the package. In contrast, my frames are all blasted, primed with an etching primer and then painted gloss black with rustoleum (from 1 gallon cans) applied with a gun. The simplicity of painting an area of the vehicle that you know is going to need repair (due to rock chips, boulder scrapes, etc.) with a product that you can get in spray cans was the overriding factor for me, since my Jeeps are not show vehicles, and I don't have ready access to shop facilities. I mean if you are really using your Jeep (not just as a show Jeep) and you powdercoat your towing clevis or pintle hook and then you haul someone out of the mud or tow a trailer and the pieces have all sorts of metal-to-metal contact even powdercoat is going to chip. So once it chips, how do you repair it? I have not seen a powdercoat repair -- I don't know if you have to strip the entire area and re-apply or if you can just "touch it up." Once I see Eastwood's product deal with touchups I may re-evaluate my 'old fashioned' method."

Joe Chapman recommends another Eastwood product: "I live in Northern Michigan where in the winter if the white stuff isn't snow it's salt!!! I have a '64 CJ and I use it as my around town and get out of the driveway vehicle. I was very concerned with the rust that will dissolve my Jeep, I turned to Eastwood. I have been very pleased with the results as well as the ease of application (spray and brush) of their Rust Encapsulator for preventing rust. It works well on all under-chassis components, although it has high solids and on bolts and other hardware it will kind of "glob" on the hex heads and threads. I recommend this product; with the Chassis Black (semi gloss) it gives the Jeep a stock appearance. It performs as represented. Another plus is it stands alone to protect; UV's have no effect and you can paint it with all types of paints, lacquers, enamels, and urethanes. It works! Don't use powder coat, it's difficult to touch-up and hides problems."

Don Arnold: "No one has mentioned Eastwood's one-part epoxy frame paint. It's great stuff; I blasted and painted my frame 7 years ago and its holding up great. Get three cans and for heaven's sake, don't ever use common automotive primer on a frame. Common "primer-surfacer" is a cosmetic conceit that has no place on a Jeep, not even the body, I say. It is porous, not even waterproof. If you get it wet before you protect it with paint, force dry and paint promptly. Then what happens when it gets scratched? Water travels under the topcoat. Even common old black enamel right on blasted steel is far better than any laquer-based primer. The only reason they make quick-dry laquer primer is so pro shops can make a living by getting stuff out the door."


Bob Steele of Pete's Crazy Custom Jeeps in Quebec says, "I have a solution to the rust problem. Paint is fine but it will never stop the rust from inside. Heres what you do -- scrape off as much dirt, mud, rust scale, and loose paint as you can. 1 gallon of general purpose grease, 1 pint of STP (it's like molasses), 1 quart of motor oil (new or used, you could use a gear oil but there is a smell that lasts for quite a while), mix in a metal container, heat it up to a liquid state with a torch or plumber's torch. (Do this OUTDOORS only, BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE AND OILS, Don't Use Your Wife's Oven, and Don't Use Your Gas BBQ.) Then spray with a texture spray gun inside and outside the frame and do the whole tub underneath. It's thick enough warm that it won't drip much.

"Don't do this in your driveway and don't park it in the driveway for a week or so until it has settled. In a hot climate it may drip off some residue but it will stop dripping eventually. You can help it settle faster by driving down a dusty road. And this can be done on a new frame or on an older frame where the oils will reach places that paint won't, and absorb into the corrosion and stop the process. Just once will extend the life of your Jeep, or do this procedure every 4 to 5 years like I did. My '86 CJ is still in great shape and solid, my YJs which I bought in 2003 need major frame and tub repairs. It may sound messy but it's the only thing that works for sure!"

Thanks to all the contributors. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 8 April 2005 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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