The Best Paint for a Motorcycle Gas tank

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If you’re a motorcyclist who likes to do things yourself, you’ve probably come across the idea of painting or repainting your motorcycle tank. I have restored more than 12 motorcycles and tried all methods of painting a tank.

What is the best paint for a motorcycle’s gas tank? DupliColor aerosol spray painting paint is the best choice for motorcycle gas tanks. It has proven to give the best results as well as doesn’t show spray lines, it’s easy to use, and costs much less than an HVLP paint sprayer and accommodating equipment.

Many DIYers are concerned about whether spray cans are of sufficient quality or whether to spend more money. Painting a motorcycle tank isn’t as complicated as some may think, but there are a few things to think about before you paint.

The spray pattern on the can blends well with motorcycle tanks because they are so round. Aerosols on cars should not be used because of the large body panels.

Aerosols: Why use them?

As I said, I tried every method for painting a motorcycle tank. DupliColor aerosol paint is what I recommend.

The quality is the first reason why I love this product. Dupli-Color has been used many times and I was asked where I took the tank to have it professionally painted. People are shocked when I tell people that I spray painted it myself.

The cost is my second favorite thing about this product. You can usually buy a can of this for about $9 – $10 each. I usually buy 3 cans of each tank. I usually have some left over, but I’d rather have extra than not enough and run out in the middle of my project.

These cans spray a stunning pattern. It can spray a large area and does well on smooth surfaces. Aerosol can be used on motorcycle tanks because they are round, not flat.

For easy cleaning, the tip of the Duplican can can be removed. Sprayer can rotate at 90° (which is SO useful when you can’t easily move around what you’re painting.) Rotating the tip allows you to rotate the can instead of holding it sideways, which can cause uneven spray.

Duplicolor aerosol spray cans are both heat and cold-resistant. I lived in Utah for a while while attending college. To pay for school, I restored motorcycles. This included motorcycle restoration in a shed in 7-degree weather. It worked like a charm with this paint! No, it’s not recommended to paint when it’s that cold, but it can be done.

Once you’re done with your project there’s very little cleanup at all! Toss the can and sweep the floor if there is any dust left by the spray.

Here’s an example of how well Dupli-Color works. I went a bit crazy and added a darker red to the sides.

Why not use an HVLP paint sprayer instead?

You’ll see a lot of professionals and a lot of forums tell you that you’ll need to use an HVLP paint sprayer (or a high volume low pressure paint sprayer) to paint your motorcycle tank correctly. I’ve tried it, and though it yields excellent results, I’d say it’s the same quality as the Dupli-Color. This is only applicable to motorcycle tanks and not for car panels. Absolutely use an HVLP paint sprayer if you’re painting flat panels.

You absolutely can use a paint sprayer if you have one, but if you don’t, don’t bother getting one. HVLP paint sprayers add a lot of extra stress to the project; if you don’t know what you’re doing then you will easily botch up the paint job.

HVLP sprayers can be quite costly. A decent one goes for around $150 plus you usually need an air compressor, and if you don’t have one of those, that’s another $200. Then you’ll have to add in miscellaneous tools such as renting/setting up a paint booth, replacement cups, air hose, etc. This could add up to $100. A HVLP sprayer is about $450 compared with $30. $30 is my preferred price.

The clean up after using a paint sprayer isn’t near as easy as using an aerosol can. Once you’re finished with your product, you have to clean up any over spray (as the HVLP paint sprayer sprays with more power). You’ll also need to take it apart to clean it. If you don’t clean it up right away you’ll spend hours or days trying to get it to work correctly the next time you use it.

Some hardware stores sell cheap HVLP paint sprayers, which cost around $15. However, I strongly advise against them. I’ve tried using them on several occasions and always end up frustrated and having to redo my work. If you feel you must use an HVLP sprayer, then you should spend more money to buy a quality one.

You will need other equipment to paint a motorcycle tank

Once you have the paint you need, there’s a few other things you’ll need to make your paint job successful. You’ll also need:

  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator
  • Sandpaper: Specifically 80, 150 and 220 grits.
  • Sandpaper block
  • Newspapers and old sheets
  • Tow strap
  • Bondo
  • Bondo Scraper
  • Green self-etching primer
  • Clear coat catalyzed in two parts
  • Painter’s tape

You should use the 2-part catalyzed coat, such as the Spray Max 2k Clear Coat. Any gas that is dripped onto a single-stage clear coat can eat through the tank paint and cause it to crack. The 2-part clear coat won’t do that.

It’s important you have all of these. Safety and quality are not the only reasons you should use them. During the many times I’ve painted motorcycle tanks, I am sure to not skip any of these. I’ve come up with some absolutely stunning looking tanks.

A video series has been created that focuses on motorcycle restoration. It includes detailed videos about how to paint and fix up a motorcycle’s gas tank. You will also find information on other difficult-to-tackle parts such as electrical and carb rebuilds. I give dozens of tips and tricks that you won’t find anywhere else online. Click here for more information if you’re interested in viewing multiple videos that will help fix up your bike or if you’re interested in completely building your dream motorcycle!

How to paint a motorcycle’s gas tank

First, you’ll need to empty the gas out of your tank and completely detach the tank from the motorcycle. You will be handling and carrying your tank around, so make sure there is nothing you’ll trip over so you don’t drop your tank. Don’t think you’ll get a decent paint job while trying to paint the tank while it’s still on the bike.

You don’t always need to completely strip the paint off the tank and get it to bare metal. If the paint is peeling or cracked, I will only remove it completely. The goal is to make the base smooth and free from any imperfections. So if the current paint is still smooth then just do a good sanding, don’t worry about getting down to the bare metal.

Here’s my wife Amanda stripping paint from a tank.

The next step is using bondo, or body filler, and filling all small dents with the bondo cutter. You can follow the instructions on the can or watch videos to see how it is done before you begin.

Once the bondo is dry, you can sand it using the sanding board. DO NOT touch the ground with your fingers. Your hands aren’t flat, so when you sand bondo without a block then you just end up recreating the original problem, and then you’re back to where you started. Block sanding will not give you a straight edge.

Once the tank is perfectly smooth and there are no longer dents you’ll put your first coat of primer on. The first coat of primer is very light, don’t try to totally cover the tank. It will be completely covered by the second and third coats. To achieve the best results, please refer to the directions on the back.

The next step is to sand the surface. You will need 400 grit Sandpaper and a small container of water. Once the tank has been completely wet, you can start sanding in small circular motions to smoothen it. You don’t want to sand through the primer, you just want to get it smooth. Once it’s totally smooth you’re ready for paint!

You’ll now need to tape anything on the tank that you don’t want painted such as the gas cap, petcocks, frame mounts, etc. It’s okay if you get paint underneath the tank, but don’t spend too much time painting under there as you won’t be able to see it once it’s on the motorcycle. Just make sure that anything that’s going to be visible is sanded and prepped properly.

I must stress the importance to prep the primer and bondo before the tank is assembled. Preparation is key to painting. If you have small dents, dimples, air pockets or any kind of imperfection at all it will get WORSE once it’s painted and glossy. Many people think that beginners are stupid. “paint will probably cover that once it’s painted.” It won’t. Do it right from the beginning or you’ll just end up redoing it later.

The tow strap can be used to secure the tank to a beam in your garage. You should sweep the floor thoroughly and allow dust particles time to settle. I even use a hose and spray the ground with water before I start painting to ensure that dust gets trapped on the floor and isn’t floating around in the air.

Wear safety glasses and a project respirator. Put down newspaper below the tank and put old sheets over anything in your work space you don’t want to get paint on.

Prior to painting, ensure that the tank has been primed with one color. If you sanded through the primer during the wet sanding stage, and now a different color is showing on the tank you’ll have to re-prime and re-wetsand. If the tank has spots of color, you will see the final colors in different shades. The entire base should be one uniform color.

The final preparation step before spraying your desired color. Take some wax and grease remover from your local auto parts store and clean the primed tank. Do not touch the tank again without washing your hands. Your hands are oily and could cause severe paint adhesion problems to your tank. After you use wax and grease remover you’ll want to wear latex or rubber gloves from now on in the process.

After you have removed all blemishes and dried your tank completely, you can now spray your desired color. You should be very careful with how you spray. To avoid any runs, I recommend spraying about 3-4 coats.

If any runs happen, you’ll need to wet sand and prime again. As with primer, the first coat should not be too heavy. You don’t want to coat the entire tank with your first coat.

When your paint has dried for several hours you’re ready to add the clear coat. The clear coat I suggested is extremely potent and harmful for our lungs, so after you spray each coat you’ll need to leave the area for a few minutes. You should spray your tank with 3-4 coats of clear coat. Allow it to cure for at least 24 hours before you touch it.

I recommend the 2K clear coat cans. It can be found here in my recommended products list. You can use the big red button at the top to puncture the small hole in the can. Then a chemical reaction begins inside.

This will cause the clear coating to begin slowly hardening. If you don’t use this type of clear coat on your tank then will ruin the paint quickly. It’s much harder, glossier, and superior to all other aerosol clear coats. Although it costs between $20 and $30 per can, you’ll only need one.

Voila! Now you have a gorgeous gas tank that you can attach to your motorcycle. Don’t forget to notice all the looks and comments about how good your tank looks. I know it’s tempting to immediately want to put the tank back on the motorcycle, but only put it on once you’re done with everything else or you’re going to scratch it.

Click here for my recommendations of upgrades to your motorcycle.

Similar Questions

Do I need to apply clear coat when painting my motorcycle frame? It all depends on what type of paint you are using. It’s best to look on the back of the paint container and read the instructions. Clear coat is not unheard of for a frame, but most don’t add it. Click here to read my article on how to paint a motorcycle frame with no engine removal.

How do I remove rust in my motorcycle tank There are several ways to remove rust, some ways I’ve come to find to be most effective is using muriatic acid or vinegar and let it sit over night. Add a few gravel pieces to your tank to reduce the amount of rust. Then, give it a shake.

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