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drPheta

How To: Paint Your Calipers: The Right Way.

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I'm sure there's a write up on this somewhere. I couldn't find it, but I wanted to do a write up of how I paint my calipers.

Materials:

- Paint (any high temperature paint rated at least 500 deg F should do. I use VHT caliper paint rated @ 900 deg F)

- Gloves (latex, nitrile. Wear nitrile if working with brake cleaner. That stuff eats latex like no other)

- Brake Cleaner and/or Alcohol and/or Soap and Water

- Wire brush

- 400 Grit sandpaper

- 120 and 200 Grit sandpaper (optional)

- Flare nut wrench set (Craftsman set from 9mm - 15mm should do)

- Brake fluid

- Masking tape

1. Remove calipers from your car. Use a flare nut wrench to remove the brake lines from the caliper. Remove bleeder nipples, retaining springs, pads, and whatever else you can take off the brakes. All you need to paint is the caliper body.

2. Clean your calipers using brake cleaner and a wire brush. Be sure to catch the run off so it doesn't go down the drain. Flush out all the old brake fluid to make sure no fluid drips out while you're painting.

3. Prep your calipers for a long lasting finish. Use 400 grit sandpaper to wetsand the calipers for a smooth-textured finish. This allows the paint to mechanically grab onto the metal/paint that's left behind. You don't need to get every inch of it sanded, but a thorough scuffing of the surface will make your finished product last that much longer. If your calipers have gouges or gashes in them, you can use coarser grit sandpaper to smooth out those markings. This is easier done on aluminum calipers than cast iron ones.

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3a. This step is optional, but now may be a really good time to rebuild your calipers. So, I removed the pistons from the calipers to make sure all is nice and new.

4. Clean your calipers of all dust, oils, and waxes. A brake cleaner will do, as will washing them with soap and water (not recommended for cast iron calipers ----> RUST ), and rubbing alcohol or ethanol also work well. You might also want to make sure your work area/paint area is free of dust and debris, because the flow of the paint will lift any small particles and incorporate them into your coats.

5. Tape off any parts you don't want painted with MASKING TAPE (i.e. pistons and seals if the have not been removed, etc.) and plug any open holes. Masking tape adhesive usually doesn't leave a residue, unless you melt it onto whatever surface it's one.

6. Paint. Again, make sure no debris, dust, oils, waxes, fluids are present on the calipers. Now, I've used many high temp paints to paint loads of calipers, but nothing works for me as well as VHT caliper paint does. You can use the brush on type or the spray can. I prefer the spray, because it's faster and the finish is smoother. Whenever I use the brush on ones, I end up with brush strokes or bristles stuck in the paint. You can get VHT caliper paint at AutoZone or an online retailer. For some reason Advanced Auto doesn't have it. You can use any high temperature paint for a decent finish. Porsche guys have also used hobby paint, and they say the enamel that results from that lasts several rebuilds and track events. The choice is yours.

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When painting, do not be impatient. Spray one light coat at a time, and be sure to stay about 10 inches away from your caliper. Too close and you risk runs and drips. Too far and you're being inefficient. Also allow about 10-20 minutes between coats. Too short and you risk runs and drips. Too long and you're not going to get proper adhesion and blending of the paint. If the interval between coats is more than an hour or two, I suggest letting the paint cure and starting over from the wetsanding stage. To obtain a nice gloss finish, your last coat should be a medium/light coat from about 6-8 inches away. The paint should be dry to the touch within 30 min (VHT caliper paint) or 1 hour (other high temp paints). DRY TO THE TOUCH DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN HANDLE IT. At this stage, you still need to be careful where you grab the caliper. You will leave an indentation or finger print on this uncured paint. Even when you wait several hours, chances are a minor nick or mark will appear from handling the caliper. It's best to do the following.

At this point you have two options:

7a. Let the calipers air dry for a full day (if using VHT caliper paint), or as directed by whatever paint you use (usually 7 days). OR....

7b. Bake your calipers in the oven @ 350 degrees F for 30 min to 1 hour. If baking them in the oven, make sure you remove any tape used to block out holes/parts. When done baking, set your oven to clean so that it vaporized all fumes and chemicals out before your use it to cook again. You may also want to leave the oven door open overnight to make sure everything airs out.

Here are my calipers toasting in the oven, while their new coat cures.

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8. Reassemble your calipers and put them back onto the car. Be sure to flush your brake fluid and top off with fresh high quality fluid. Since your calipers have cured, the fluid should not eat the paint... neither should any brake cleaner agents. Voila! Now, you can enjoy your lovely "new" calipers.

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PROBLEMS YOU MAY COME ACROSS BECAUSE YOU SUCK AT PAINTING:

POOR ADHESION:

Carelessness and lack of skillful preparation of the surface are the major causes of poor adhesion. The application of a primer or protective coating material on oily, dirty, greasy or dusty (chalky) surfaces contributes to loss of adhesion. Failure to sand glossy surfaces on interiors or exterior protected areas may result in peeling. Also, failure to use the proper primer for a particular surface will likely lead to adhesion problems

CHIPPING:

This occurs when the paint is completely broken away from the surface. It is usually caused by lack of surface preparation. Cleaning, dusting and the sanding of hard glossy surfaces will prevent this condition

CRAWLING AND CREEPING:

This condition develops when the paint, varnish or enamel draws up into beads and does not wet the surface. It can be eliminated by sanding and then wiping the surface with a pre-paint cleaner. Properly cleaned and prepared surfaces will eliminate crawling and creeping.

SAGGING AND RUNNING:

Sagging occurs when paint has been applied too heavily on a vertical surface. Runs appear when too much paint has been applied to one spot. Sometimes application over a hard glossy surface will cause sagging. Sanding thoroughly will overcome this condition. Modern paints will not sag if applied properly.

TACKINESS AND SLOW DRY:

This is usually due to applying a second or third coat too quickly, before the previous coat has had sufficient time to dry. Always follow label and product data sheet directions regarding recoat times. The application of paint in damp, foggy or cold weather (below 50°F) will also cause slow drying. To avoid slow drying, paint only on a thoroughly prepared and cleaned surface, free of all wax, oil and dirt; and paint in good weather (i.e. Low Humidity)

WRINKLING:

Paint applied too heavily will often surface dry and wrinkle. When too thick a coat of paint is applied, it surface dries and remains soft underneath. The top of the film dries and swells, causing wrinkling. Wrinkled surfaces should be allowed to harden; then sand smooth and recoat properly. Paint only when temperature is above 50°F.

Here are pictures of my gold calipers from a couple years ago. During this paint job I kept the pistons in and just taped them off.

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Sorry about the photos. All the photos I took of the actual prep and painting were overwritten. I caught it when I went to edit them, hence the lonely photo of them in the oven.

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Wow...Looks great! Those are some intresting calipers ;). Did you strip all paint on them first then?

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No, I just wetsanded them. Any chipped or scratched areas I used the rougher sandpaper to smooth out. These calipers had some gouging on the top surface, and I used a dremel and arborband/chuck to grind it smooth. Then I went back and wetsanded them with 400 grit to make sure the surface was even.

You can paint over exisiting paint, as well as bare metal. That's the beauty of these high temp paints. No primer needed.

ROD: this is a gas oven indeed. Though electric will work, as well.

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interesting looking calipers in that GAS oven of yours.... <_<

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Clear is not necessary, but if you want extra gloss you can use it. Though, I haven't seen one rated as high temp as VHT caliper paint.

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