How to paint a motorcycle tank? A fuel tank is the most important part of a motorcycle. If you are looking to restore or customize an old motorcycle, repainting the gas tank can give it a completely new look.
It is difficult to paint a motorcycle gas tank if you are new to customizing motorcycles since it requires procedures with multiple steps and a high level of expertise. If you cannot afford to hire a professional motorcycle painter, read this article to learn how to paint a motorcycle gas tank.
How To Paint a Motorcycle Tank?
Below, I’ll tell you how to get the best results.
What You’ll Need
- Sanding block and sandpaper (wet and dry, 100 grit and 800 grit)
- Paint thinner
- Automotive spray paint primer
- Automotive spray paint (colour of your choice; I prefer the metallic ones)
- Automotive spray paint clear coat
- Automotive wax/scratch remover and buffer cloth
- Patience and time (anywhere from 3 days to a week)
A Note Before You Begin
Now before I go on, I just want to address those of you out there who are about to start hating on me for the process I used. Please remember this is the cheapest and (in my opinion) most rewarding way to do it.
About the paint: You can use any paint you want, the process is still the same, but I personally prefer spray cans. Some believe they give a shoddy-looking effect but honestly, I can say I’ve tried a few different ways, and my favourite for ease of use and cost effectiveness is the spray can.
Now I’m not talking any old spray paint—you need the automotive stuff that you can pick up at your local automotive hardware store. I couldn’t find it in paint shops but that may have just been my luck.
Remove Gas Tank
This sounds a bit obvious, but it starts with removing the gas tank from your bike. Before you remove it, be sure that there is no fuel left. If you have fuel left in the tank:
- grab a jerrycan (with a funnel)
- close fuel valve(s)
- remove fuel lines from the carburetors and direct them to the funnel
- pen the fuel valve(s)
When most of the fuel is removed you need to close the valve(s) so you can remove the gas tank off the bike. When there is still some fuel left, you can hold the tank above the funnel and reopen the valves again.
When the tank is off: remove the gas cap and valve(s) and protect the openings. You can also just protect them by wrapping them in tape.
Remove Old Paint or Rust
Now it’s time to remove the old paint or rust or everything else whats on the tank what you don’t want there…
For this you need some rough sanding paper (100 – 200 grit) and a sanding block. So roll up your sleeves, find a good position and start sanding with the lowest grit, moving up to the 200 grit and sanding block. Sand, sand, sand till you’ll see the original primer and have a nice and smooth surface. Please note that this takes a while!
If the tank is in good condition without rust or bits in it, you can choose to work only to the original primer and start from here. Please note that ‘some say’ that not every primer/paint will ‘love’ the old primer and that they not attach properly. If you want to strip it down to the bare metal: grab the thinner (or acetone) and a dry cloth and make sure that you’re in a well ventilated area.
Put some thinner on the cloth and rub the tank in. Let the thinner ‘work’ for a couple of minutes and start sanding again. You’ll see that the paint/primer is getting off more easy. Repeat this until you’re only see bare metal.
How to Prep a Motorcycle Gas Tank for Paint
After removing the previous coat of paint from the motorcycle gas tank, prepare it for a new coat of paint. Remove the dents and rust from the gas tank to ensure a better finish and look. To remove any imperfections on the gas tank, including scratches, welding marks, and pinholes, use glazing and spot putty.
Before applying the spot putty, make sure to sand the gas tank down to remove any dust and debris. Use 80-grit sandpaper to ensure better adhesion between the spot putty and the metal surface.
You can also use 220-grit sandpaper to ensure a better finish for the gas tank. It will give the gas tank a consistent surface finish to ensure the paint is applied evenly. After sanding the gas tank, wipe it off using a microfiber cloth to remove any remaining dust.
Make it Smooth…
When you’re down to the original primer or bare metal, it’s time to give the surface a last sanding job to make the surface smooth. If you still have bits, nuts and dents you will have to use some metal filler/putty. You can not only see if the surface is smooth, but you’ll also need to FEEL it with your hands. Use a fine grit (+800) to smoothen the surface.
Protect Parts That Won’t Be Painted
Tank’s off? Good. Now we need to get started with protecting any openings or parts that you don’t want to be painted (gas cap, hoses, and whatever else). If there isn’t a lot of gas in the tank, I prefer emptying it and just cleaning it out. If you do this, you may also want to inspect the inside for any rust.
(Older and some newer bikes can get rust on the inside of the tank, and that will most definitely start to cause problems, so take a look and if there is… well, that’s another article, but you’ll have to deal with that as well!)
Okay, so as I was saying, if you’re unable to get some things off don’t worry, you can just tape them off with some painter’s tape or masking tape.
Take Off the Original Paint
Now you need to start getting the original paint off, or rust, or whatever is currently on the bike that you don’t want there anymore. Get the sandpaper, get the sanding block, and get a bucket of water. To start, I’d go with the 80-200 grit. Put some water on the tank and start sanding. Note: This takes a while. My first time, I spent at least 10 hours sanding the tank.
So you’re sanding most of the paint away, maybe starting to see some of that pretty silver of the metal tank— this is good. When you’ve sanded at least 90% of the tank, not down to the metal but have at least given most of the paint a good sanding, this is where it can start to get a bit easier.
Apply Paint Thinner
Get some paint thinner. I recommend getting a spray can full of it from an automotive hardware store, but just paint thinner and a shop cloth will do. Spray or dab some paint thinner onto the cloth and wipe down the entire tank.
Leave it for a minute, maybe give it another wipe down, and go and grab a drink. Come back to it, and you’ll notice that a lot of the paint has started to crack and bubble up.
Start sanding again and most of the paint should be coming off easily. If necessary, you can repeat, but you probably only have to do it once or twice. Note: Please make sure you’re doing this in a well-ventilated area, and follow any and all instructions on the labels of what you use.
Wipe and Prime
So you’ve got a nice shiny metal gas tank now, right? Or at least most of the way there? Good, let’s move on to the fun part. Here, you want to give it a nice wipe down to get rid of any grit or paint flakes and dry it off.
Now it’s time for the primer. Give it a nice coat all over. The trick here is thin layers. Be sure to hold the can 8-10 inches away; otherwise, you’ll get drips and then you have to go back to sanding it down. The first sweep with the spray can might cover 30%— you don’t have to really lather it on.
The second, you’ll want to be a bit more methodical, going back and forth, making sure to keep good lines. This time, you want to cover 90% of the tank. The third time you spray, you want to do the same methodical back-and-forth but make sure to cover the full 100% of the tank.
Dry, Then Spray Paint
So the primer is on now. Let it dry for about an hour or less, depending on the weather and the type, but usually an hour is more than good. Get the automotive spray paint you bought, and start doing the same as before.
For your first coat, you’ll keep it thin and go over about three times, the first time getting a good base (about 30% of the tank covered) the second covering about 90%, and in the third, you want to make sure you’ve coated the entire tank. Let this sit for about half an hour and then repeat in the same fashion.
Once done, let it sit somewhere to dry thoroughly. I’ve found that this usually needs about a day or two and honestly, after all the work you’ve done, it’s kind of nice to just let it sit for a bit and forget about it.
Okay, so it’s been a few days and the tank is looking good and dry. You want to get your sanding block out again and this time, fit on the 800 grit sandpaper. Start sanding again! Make sure you get the high and low spots (tiny dips in the tank that are almost invisible until you start sanding and notice there’s a low spot).
You don’t want to be too aggressive on this as you’re not trying to take the paint off, you’re merely trying to flatten any dust or bugs that have gotten stuck to the paint while it was drying.
Spray Clear Coat, Then Sand Again
After wiping it down with a wet cloth, you should be able to run your hand over it without feeling any tiny bumps. If you have over-sanded, you’ll need to repeat the process with the paint, and then sand it again after it’s dry (this time, with a lighter hand).
Okay, so wipe off any dust with a wet cloth, dry it, and grab the clear coat. Spray on a clear coat the same way as before, three times, 1st time 30%, 2nd time 90%, and 3rd time 100% coverage.
Let this dry and if you like, give it another coat. It doesn’t necessarily need it, but I like giving it that extra protection. Once this is dry (which will take another day or so), grab that sand paper and block again, this is the last time I promise!
Sand it with the 800 again, this time getting the whole tank but very lightly. Remember, this is only for dust and bugs that may have gotten stuck to the paint while drying.
Buffer With Wax Polish
All done sanding?! Okay, you want to wipe it down again, making sure there is no dust or loose stuff on it, with a wet cloth is best, then dry it. Now grab some of that wax polish, put it on a soft cloth, and start buffering the tank.
Rub it in nicely. I find this is where I start to really get some satisfaction as I can see the tank starting to shine and look really nice! Get the whole tank all waxed up and that’s it.
Put the Tank Back On
Now you can put it back on to your bike, take a step back, and look at the beauty of the freshly painted tank that you did yourself! Pat yourself on the back. Good job, mate!
Apply Designs (Optional)
If you want designs on it or anything like that, before you put on the wax or the clear coat, you can tape off sections and do whatever you like. I’ve printed out designs and cut them out, then taped them on the tank, sprayed the cut-out and voila, you’ve got a design on there. Then just go back to step 8, put on the clear coat, and keep going.
Which paint is used on bike tank?
Use an automotive, catalyzed 2K urethane paint, primer, color layers and clear coat. It is much more resistant to physical damage, UV exposure and chemicals than the acrylic automotive paints.
How many spray cans does it take to paint a motorcycle tank?
Tank: 2-3 12oz Aerosol Spray Can / 1 pint. Fender: 2 12oz Aerosol Spray Cans for rear, 1 12oz Aerosol Spray Can for front / 1 pint for both. Larger Fenders: 2 12oz Aerosol Spray Can front & 2 12oz Aerosol Spray Can rear / 1 pint total.
What kind of paint do you use on a fuel tank?
The best paint to use on a motorcycle gas tank is Dupli-Color aerosol spray paint. 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.
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