Automotive engine paint

Automotive engine paint DEFAULT

VHT 550�F (288�C) Engine Enamels™ are available in a wide range of colors, including exact match factory colors. All colors have excellent durability and superior heat and chemical resistance. They are specially formulated to withstand corrosion, rust, salt spray, chemicals and additives of today's gasoline blends and degreasers. VHT 550�F (288�C) Engine Enamels™ are a unique blend of urethane and ceramic resins, which produce a tough and long-lasting finish for engines, engine accessories or wherever a tough, durable heat or chemical-resistant finish is needed.

Engine Enamel Image
Temperature550�F (288�C) Intermittent
Dry TimeDries to the touch in 30 mins. Dries thoroughly overnight.
ApplicationsHeaders, Engine Blocks, Starters, Brackets, Water Pumps, Valve Covers, Transmissions, Differential Covers
FinishFlat, Satin, Gloss and Metallic

Available in These Colors:

Curing Engine Enamel™Engine Enamel™ only attains its unique properties after correct curing.
  • Bake at 200�F (93�C) for 20 minutes.
  • The inherent heat of engine operation will also accomplish curing.
Engine Enamel Image
Coating SystemVHT provides a high-performance coating system for the ultimate in protection and quality. The system includes surface preparation, primer, paint and clear coat.
Prime SP148 Engine Primer
Coating SystemVHT provides a high-performance coating system for the ultimate in protection and quality. The system includes surface preparation, primer, paint and clear coat.
Prime SP148 Engine Primer

Quick Tech: A Basic Guide to Engine Paint


It takes a special kind of paint to survive under your hood.

Engine paint must withstand extremely high temperatures and be able to resist gasoline, oils, and other chemicals. And it has to look good, too—especially if the engine bay serves as a focal point for your hot rod or show vehicle.

94693Fortunately, companies like Dupli-Color, VHT, and POR-15 make paints specially formulated for engines. So what makes for a good engine paint? We asked the experts at Dupli-Color/VHT what to look for in a good engine paint and hit them up for some application advice to ensure the right finish. According to Mark Eichelberger, Associate Product Manager at Dupli-Color/VHT/Tri-Flow, a good engine paint should have three characteristics: heat resistance, gloss retention, and resistance to chipping and flaking.

That’s why engine paint is typically an enamel paint.

Enamel paints typically offer a hard, glossy finish and have excellent color retention. In addition, enamel can provide superior heat resistance—a must for automotive engine use. Because under hood temperatures generally run between 250 and 300 degrees, a good engine paint is usually rated to handle temperatures up to 500 degrees—and beyond. You’ll also find that some companies, such as Dupli-Color, add ceramic resins to its engine paint for added heat dissipation. Ceramic is proven to be extremely effective in high temperature paints for headers and exhaust systems and can even be applied to jet engines.

When properly cured, enamel paints not only offer excellent chip resistance, they also resist rust and corrosion. They are also fairly simple to apply—either by brush, roller, or spray, depending on the paint—making them easy to work with even when your engine is still inside the engine bay. The most common engine paints are sprays and often involve simple “rattle-can” aerosol cans.

Last but not least, enamels can be formulated in a wide range of colors, allowing manufacturers to offer a huge array of options. In many cases, this includes factory-matched colors like Chevrolet Orange, Ford Blue, and Cummins Beige. Like any paint, the final look of your engine paint comes down to proper application—and a bit of patience.

Application Tips

  • Sand the engine thoroughly. You can use a wire brush to help remove old paint and debris.
  • Clean the block with a grease and wax remover prior to painting to remove oils and other chemicals.
  • Wipe down the engine to remove loose particles or use an air hose to clean debris.
  • Start with a high-heat engine enamel primer for maximum corrosion resistance and uniformity of your top coat color.
  • Apply primer and top coat engine enamel color with a light “tack” color first to avoid runs and sags.
  • With spray applications, use a long, sweeping motion to apply the paint evenly and without runs.
  • Continue to apply two more light coats followed by a medium wet coat for the best coverage and smoothness of the paint finish. As a general rule of thumb, a few thinner coats will provide a higher-quality finish than one or two heavy coats.
  • For extra protection, use a high heat engine enamel clear coat applied the same way as the primer and top coat engine enamel color.
  • As always with paint, make sure to wear a mask or apply in a well-ventilated area.
Tags: Engine paint, High-temperature paint, paint

Author: David Fuller David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.

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Painting Tips for Engine Parts, High Temp Paint After 1 Year

Engine heat wreaks havoc on paint, even the paint on the hood can fade from the heavy dose of radiant heat from the hot engine below. How well do you think that rattle-can paint job is going to last? We have sprayed engines with spray cans, even the high-heat versions, only to see cracks, flakes and fading in just a few weeks of use. Take a look at any high-buck build and the engines are painted up to match, but they don’t fade, crack or flake, how do they do it? How to paint an engine so that it lasts is all in the method. Rather than take a chance with a rattle can, we did some research to find out what the best method is for a long-lasting engine paint job. After spending some time talking with various restoration and custom shops, we had our solution.

Painting an engine can be done either before assembly or after, it really does not matter. Our 302 block had been machined and is ready to assemble, so we just painted it up before assembly. The engine was wiped clean with paint thinner and then wax and grease remover.
Since the motor is not assembled yet and still has the old paint on it, some serious cleaning was needed. The plan is to soda blast the block. Baking soda is great for engine cleaning and it is ok to get it inside the engine, but keeping it out is pretty easy, so we taped up the engine. First, a couple of layers of masking tape for the base.


Then the main cavity was covered up with newspaper, we used two layers here. The piston bores and lifter valley were taped up in the same manner.

There are two problems with painting an engine – adhesion and heat. The first is relatively simple to solve with hot-tanking, scrubbing or in our case, soda blasting. We spent a couple of hours tediously taping up the engine for soda blasting. In the end, the tape didn’t keep the soda out of the block and according to several soda-blast resources, is not even a problem. Baking soda readily absorbs into oil and water, and the hardness of the material is below that of even the softest bearing surfaces, so taping before blasting turned out to be a big unnecessary hassle. If you are painting an assembled engine, the best bet for the prep work is hot soapy water and lots of elbow-grease.

We took the engine outside and set up the blaster. For this type of cleaning, all you want is soda. The blaster uses a mechanical dead-man valve to shut off the flow of media. While great for small projects and value, the heavy spring on the valve leaves your hand worn out. For small parts, like this engine, it worked great. Note that all of the holes in the engine were taped up.
Because soda is very soft, tough spots like inside corners, pitted areas and edges are more difficult to blast, requiring more effort on your part. Baking soda has a hardness of 2.5 on the Mohs scale, while the hardness of engine bearings is around 6, so even residual soda left in the motor will simply be absorbed into the oil (or water) until you change it. No harm, no foul.

The heat issue is the biggest problem. The enemy of paint is heat. We have all seen how paint bubbles up when heat (like from a heat gun) is applied. These are the same mechanics at work on a painted engine. In the case of rattle-can paints, no amount of heat resistance additives can combat cylinder head heat. The problem is that rattle can paint is too thick. The paint used in these cans is non-catalyzed, which means it has to rely on special solvents to cure. If you have ever sprayed a cold rattle-can, you know that it takes two or three times as long for it to cure. This is because the solvents must vaporize before the paint cures. Thick paint reduces heat transfer, which allows the heat to build on the surface of the engine, instead of wicking to the air; just like spreading butter on a burned finger, it just traps the heat.

11. Soda blasting leaves a residue on the metal, which must be neutralized. Skipping this step would be akin to soaking the engine is oil before painting, the paint will just fall off. We used a vinegar/water wash to clean the prepped engine. You know it is working by the bubbles. Then we installed the heads without gaskets. These are only hand tight, no torque.
Next, the engine was taped up so that the only areas we wanted painted were exposed. This means gasket surfaces and hose areas get taped.

Traditional automotive paint, the kind that is sprayed with a paint gun, either single-stage or base\clear, is cured with catalyst. While these paints still use solvents, the solvents dissipate much faster than rattle-can paint, and have an active ingredient that actually cures the paint. In base\clear formulas, the base coat does not have a catalyst, it is instead thinned using reducer depending on the temperatures of the atmosphere at the time of spraying. The clear coat, along with single-stage paints, are catalyzed with hardener. The hardener cures the paint so that it is stable. These paints are thinner and have more even coverage than rattle-can paints. This works to our advantage, as the thinner the paint, the better the heat transfer.

Using a measuring cup, we mixed only enough Napa base color to fill one cup for our gun. The base is a 1:1 mix, with these cups, it is hard to go wrong. A smaller cup would have been nice.

But what about primer? All automotive paints require primer to get adhesion right? Absolutely, if you are talking about sheetmetal. It is true that you would not want to spray a car without primer first. For one the paint would be splotchy from variations in the body work, but also the paint has a hard time sticking to smooth sheet metal. An engine uses more porous materials, like cast aluminum and cast iron. The paint won’t have a problem sticking to these materials, as long as it is clean. The main problem with primer, even basic etching primer, is that it is thicker than the paint itself. Remember, the idea is to reduce the thickness of the paint. So when painting an engine, leave the primer out.

The gun used for this job is a Devilbiss detail gun. The smaller tip provides a smaller fan, so you don’t get as much overspray. This is the perfect gun for this job. A big gun will work too. Spraying paint on an engine requires a light touch. You want just enough paint to cover the surface without being splotchy.
The engine was rotated to give access for the underside. There are a lot of nooks and crannies, these need to be reached. You could easily leave the engine like this, though the paint would require mixing with hardener before painting. It looks good, but not quite ready.


24. The silver metalflake was sprayed through the gun with a large 2.0 tip. We had to be careful not to put too much in one area. Once we had the metal flake on the motor, we sprayed the last coat of clear. Again, this was light but solid coat, covering all surfaces.

For our small block Ford (a 347 cid stroker actually), the idea was to paint it red and add a touch of metal flake. While the metal flake might not be suited for a resto, the process is the same. We used a base\clear NAPA Martin Senour paint, and sprayed the engine in the shop. Keep in mind that spraying this kind of paint generates a lot of overspray, much more than a rattle-can, so if you don’t want it tinted engine color, cover it. If you have the space you can create a temporary paint booth by hanging plastic sheeting from the garage ceiling to keep things contained. You also need a respirator with charcoal packs. You really do not want to be breathing the vapors of this stuff. We spent about two days prepping and spraying our engine.

Once the paint had cured, it was demasked and then the engine was assembled. Here is the finished product.

Check out all the paint & body products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to paint an engine, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

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A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.


Paint automotive engine


  • Before applying the paint, make sure to wipe down the engine to remove loose particles and dirt. We recommend sanding the engine thoroughly to remove old paint and debris.
  • Start with a high heat engine enamel for maximum corrosion resistance and uniformity of the top coat color.
  • If you’re using a spray applicator, use long, sweeping motions to apply the paint without it running. Apply two coats for the best finish.
  • You can top your work with a clear coat to seal everything in and keep the paint looking fresh for a long time.
  • Don’t forget to wear a mask when applying paint and only work in well-ventilated areas. This will help to protect your lungs from the more harmful particles contained in the paint.


Q: Can I apply enamel paint to a warm engine?

A: Although enamel paint is rated to withstand the high temperatures associated with running a car engine, you never want to apply the paint on a warm engine. Make sure to let the engine cool completely before starting the application process to ensure safe working conditions and a great final result.

Q: Do I really need to use a primer and top coat?

A: Yes and no. It really depends on the look you’re going for and the durability you’re seeking. If you want your paintwork to last, we recommend using at least a top coat and properly prepping the area beforehand. The longevity is increased even further if you also use an engine primer.

Q: What temperature ranges can enamel paint withstand?

A: Enamel paint is designed to withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations surrounding an engine, and is usually rated to at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit, if not more. In most use cases, however, you really don’t need an extremely high-temperature rating, although it can be a sign for the quality of the product.

Q: Do I have to wait for enamel paint to dry completely before using my car?

A: The short answer is yes. You want the paint to get a chance to cure properly so that the finish and durability are optimized. If you want to make your paint dry quicker, leave the car in a well-ventilated area that’s low in humidity and make sure you’re applying thin, even coats to begin with. Then, once the paint is mostly dry, take your car for a drive to heat up the engine and finish the curing process.

Q: Can I use engine enamel paint for adding color to my brake calipers?

A: Absolutely! Engine enamel paint is one of the best options for coloring brake calipers, thanks to its superior durability. Just make sure you regularly use a degreaser to clean up the brake dust to maintain that high gloss finish.

Final Thoughts

Our top pick is the Rust-Oleum Heat Protective Enamel. It’s one of the most heat-resistant products on the market and features a great formulation with a rare satin finish.

If you’re looking to keep a bit more cash in your wallet, check out our best value option, the Dupli-Color Ceramic Gloss Black Engine Paint. It works well and is available in a wide range of colors to suit your tastes.

How to PROPERLY Spray Paint (Valve Covers and Engine Parts)


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