Painting your brake calipers is becoming more common and easier to do. It is a subtle styling that can really make your car go from hooptie to sleeper. But if you do it wrong your calipers will burn off cheap paint and it’ll look like a botched job done in your garage.
So, how can you paint brake calipers? Like anything, it can be easy to screw up. But with the right prep, paint, and location you can paint brake calipers in your home and make them look professional.
Should You Paint Your Calipers?
You should paint your calipers if you can do it right. Painting calipers can make your car really pop. Choosing the right calipers will make the difference between a quick and short-lasting job to one that will make your car look more expensive and stylish and last for years.
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Painting your calipers can be done on the cheap. It requires more elbow grease than expensive equipment. Not everyone can buy an air compressor, spray gun, paint, catalyst, protective gear, and a cleanroom.
Instead, you can find can prep your calipers using basic ingredients, buy spray cans, use an enclosed and isolated area, and get superior results on a weekend.
How Long Does Caliper Paint Last?
Painting brake calipers with a rattle-can spray paint can last up to two years. If you pay a paint shop to paint your brake calipers they will last up to seven years. Your car paint will usually start to show imperfections within a few years depending on environmental and maintenance factors.
If you keep your car clean and do not live in an environment with extreme heat your car pain should last seven years. This goes with your brake calipers as well. They are painted with the same paint (or much higher quality paint) as your vehicle’s paint.
They will not receive the same UV damage as your car’s exterior but will experience degradation from brake dust, oil, and other road elements.
What Temperature Do Brake Calipers Reach?
Daily driving heats up brake calipers to temperatures reaching 400°F at times. Though even these temperatures are extreme. If you are drifting or racing brake calipers reach temperatures of 1000°F.
These are extreme driving conditions. They are not relevant to daily driving unless you are commonly running from the police (I do not advise this in any capacity).
Do Brake Calipers Need High Temp Paint?
Yes, you need high temp paint for brake calipers. Most high-temperature paint is rated up to a few hundred degrees (200°C or 400°F~) and that is fine for most people.
But bear in mind if you are racing or in a competitive racing environment, your brakes can reach temperatures closer to 900°F+ (480°C+). Those temperatures require engine paint or high-temperature paint.
What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Calipers?
Engine or high-temperature paint works best for painting brake calipers. Rattle can spray paint is the easiest and cheapest to get started. If you have access to a spray gun and a clean room this will get you the best and longest-lasting results.
There are specific “caliper paints” on the market that work well. Though they will not work for everyone and they last for months instead of years. Buy these if you want to change your color frequently.
You can even try out a color with these paints and then invest in a harder and higher quality paint once you lock in the color or shade you will be happy with it in the long term.
Does Caliper Paint Need Primer?
Yes, you should absolutely use primer for your brake calipers. Like any paint job that requires tough and gritty paint primer is the right choice. A professional paint job will always involve a primer and you can do this too.
Good primer paint is not cost-prohibitive and it will actually save you money in the long run as the paint job will last longer and look nicer.
Take what Autobody Tool Mart says about primer:
“First and foremost, primer helps the paint adhere to bare metal. Without primer as a buffer, the shiny metal surface, whether old or new, won’t bond with the paint well. This leads to peeling, flaking, and eventually rust, which turns a driveable car to junk in no time. Automotive primer acts as a bonding agent to help the paint adhere more strongly to the body of the vehicle.”
Some rattle cans state they have primer mixed in, though these may perform slightly better than spray paint without primer mixed in, a multi-stage painting process with a separate priming stage will always outperform and last longer much longer than combining the two stages.
Is Paint And Primer In One Any Good?
Paint and primer in one are good to use if you don’t have a primer. Ideally, you want to use a primer and then your paint. The primer is thicker and acts as glue to make the paint stick to the smooth bare metal.
Paint has scrub and heat resistance, UV protection, sheen, and other characteristics. Without a separate priming stage, in time the paint will chip, flake, burn, or come off without a primer to adhere to the well-prepped metal.
Can I Use Hammerite Paint On Brake Calipers?
Yes, you can use Hammerite paint on brake calipers. Though, it is not a long-term solution as it is not specifically designed for outdoor high-temperature conditions. With time it will fade, crack, or peel. Expect Hammerite paint and equivalents to last between 6 months to 2 years depending on weather conditions.
Are Caliper Covers Lame?
Caliper covers are a cheap and effective way to change the overlook of your vehicle. Though, caliper covers can give your car a cheaper look some think. They are only noticeable to more experienced gear heads. Like hubcaps, they seem to be a fad that will last for a while then, well, who knows, fade away or not…
Functionally they can eliminate brake dust from forming on your wheels. Though, they can trap heat that can lower performance in more demanding situations. It is up to you if you want to add them. The more ideal option is to upgrade your brake system to a name brand and paint the brake calipers matching your car’s color.
Are brake calipers lame? Well, that is up to you to decide. While they are cheap and simple to install some think they look bad and are not worth it. There are other options that can be better choices. There are many that love the way they look.
Custom printed brake calipers can offer a subtle and classy way to upgrade your car’s looks. Putting your last name or your car club’s name on them can be highly desirable.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Brake Calipers Painted?
To paint a set of 4 calipers will cost around $400-500. It depends on the shop, options, type of paint, and other factors. If little or no prep is needed then you may pay much less. The shop will make more money off labor and may offer a warranty if they do their own prep. So the tradeoff is up to you.
Can You Paint Calipers Without Taking Them Off?
Yes, you can paint brake calipers without taking them off. It is easy to apply. You will need to do a great job prepping the calipers and the area around them to achieve a positive result.
Using brush paint, as opposed to spray paint can be an option if you can’t prep as much. It requires less prep and you can get away with not using a clean room, though you have to be thorough when applying as with a brush it can leave uneven marks and it is easy to miss hard-to-reach areas.
The brake disc and wheel well should be taped and masked off beforehand. Make sure the only area exposed is the area you want to apply paint.
Otherwise, the paint is very sticky and it attaches everywhere. You would be surprised where it goes and how hard it is to remove from undesirable areas.
If you use a paintbrush you may have less area that is at risk of being painted. With spray paint, you should mask off as much of the area as you can. Airborne paint spray will get everywhere.
It is much cheaper, quicker, and less stressful to mask off a larger area than having to remove spray paint from all sorts of nooks and crannies especially your car paint. You don’t want spray splatter on your exterior.
How Long Does It Take Brake Caliper Paint To Dry?
- 15 minutes to recoat
- 1-4 hours to touch
- 4-5 hours to handle
- 24 hours full dry
These times are established based on 70ºF (21ºC) and 50% relative humidity. Lower temperatures or higher humidity require longer dryer times. Brake caliper paint dries quickly compared to Powder coating. Less humidity and higher heat can lower drying times, though it is still recommended you wait these full time.
If your paint has specific directions that differ from the times above then differs from the recommended directions printed in the instructions or labels.
How Long Does It Take To Powder Coat Calipers?
The turnaround time to powder coat brake calipers is 3-7 business days. I have worked in manufacturing facilities where we outsource powder coating and for small projects with an expedited charge, turnaround times can be at little as 1-2 business days. Though normal times are under a week.
Powdercoating can be a good option, though, it may not be best for those racing and demanding higher temperature paint. Powdercoating is a process that melts and chemically sticks to the metal at around 325°-450°F (162°-323°C).
So if you want to enhance the look of your daily driver powder coating can be a solid choice as the brakes won’t get too hot in really any condition and it should last much longer than paint.
Calling around, I have found that powder coating costs about $30 and $90 per brake caliper. It depends on certain factors, of course. Powdercoating can be a much better option and you can also choose different colors that are not offered with auto paint.
You can even choose glow in the dark, but that usually turns out like crap since in the daytime it is an awful light puke green color and if they do not absorb light during the day the glow in the dark effect will be weak and last under an hour.
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Can you paint brake calipers? You definitely can and a lot of people do. How long does caliper paint last? Years and years.
Spending a little bit of money and/or time can really transform your car’s appearance. The difference between a blacked-out SUV with some blue brake calipers can really make it stand out.
It is often overlooked as well. Upgraded brake calipers usually come painted to show off the purchase and offer free advertising. But simply painting your brake calipers can be a cheaper way to offer an upgraded and cleaner look to your vehicle.
Chose painting or power coating depending on your driving style as they both can last years and years.
Thanks for reading and stay dirty.