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Old 04-03-2017, 04:26 PM
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Painting ugly aluminum truck cap

Depending on your geographical location, you might call them campers, toppers, or caps.

... but "cap" is the right term and you're allowed to be hideously wrong.

Long story short... the truck is a kinda dusty forest green. The used cap I just bought is bright friggin red. So I'm going to buy a quart and shoot it myself with my fancy, high-quality yard sale paint guns. It doesn't need to look perfect (the truck has a crappy re-shoot on it anyway) but I'm not much of a body guy.

The top of the cap has some peeling clearcoat, so lots of sanding will be in order, and I'm sure I'll break through to bare aluminum in spots.

- what paint type should I buy? I see the wide array of urethanes, epoxies, enamels, and such and other than knowing that urethane is a little more flexible, I know very little about paint.
- will I need to phosphate-treat any bare spots, or is modern paint pretty good at sticking to aluminum?
- Is aircraft stripper a decent option for the top where its peeling? Not sure how to do that without partially destroying the rest of the paint.

emphasis should be on:

- user friendly
- good (not amazing) finish that scores high on durability. I don't want it to chalk up in a year or scrape through to red every time I brush past a branch.

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Old 04-03-2017, 06:10 PM
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You are saying bare aluminum?......I had an old house trailer. Rather than paint the whole thing, I stripped it down to the aluminum and shined it up. I did paint a few panels, but overall it looked pretty good....just a thought.
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Old 04-04-2017, 01:04 PM
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Well, its currently not bare aluminum. It was originally delivered white, then the previous owner painted it red. I was simply saying that until I sand off the peeling clearcoat there may be parts that sand through.

A polished aluminum cap would be cool, but less work to paint it, and less maintenance to keep it looking nice. But, yes... that trailer of yours looks pretty sweet with bare aluminum.

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Old 04-04-2017, 02:36 PM
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Got a local marina that actually repairs boats? Go ask for Supermarine Etching primer. Its an Alkyd primer that will etch aluminum. You don't need much if you're spraying it. Should be able to coat with just about anything; I'd throw some hardener in some Rustoleum probably. Try a test panel before you swear to it.

You could even roll or brush these on. This is the super cheap idea. SuperMarine used to be like $50 a quart, and thats way overkill, I mean if you thinned to spray it, 8oz might do it. If they do repairs, maybe you could buy a pint?

Weird idea: What about a vinyl wrap? Camo, carbon fiber? Bunnies n Duckies (Johnny Dangerously reference lol)

Just spitballing here

If he didn't use an etch primer (green zinc chromate for example), you can probably take a quality razorblade in a holder and get a corner to lift, might come right off.
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Old 04-04-2017, 05:01 PM
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It looks to me like a scuff and shoot over a factory white paint job, so the base should be adhered to the aluminum very well. The red doesn't seem to want to come off the white either.

So the good news is, it seems like things are stuck on there pretty well and should be a good base for a new color. Being an amateur, I certainly don't want to spend the time stripping, etching, starting from scratch, etc. As long as there is a good factory coating underneath, I see no reason to strip it off. I'd like to just shoot over it.

I'm pretty set on painting it to match the truck, I'm just really weak on paint chemistry. I have no idea what finishes I should be using; urethane? Epoxy? Enamel? Something user-friendly and leaves a half-decent finish that won't turn to dust in the sun. I need a primer/paint system so that I can sand this red and prime/paint over it with the Ford color of green. Because the paint that is there will be the base, I wouldn't need anything special, but I'm concerned that I may sand through certain spots to bare aluminum in the process of getting the peeled clearcoat knocked down. For that reason, do I need a special primer?

Last edited by curtis73; 04-04-2017 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 04-05-2017, 07:01 AM
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Lightly sand the loose edges of the clear until you find the end. If you hit the white, stop sanding and you won't need to prime bare aluminum. It's just a work cap on a work truck, scuff the rest and shoot it with single stage and it'll look good for a long time.
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Old 04-05-2017, 10:23 AM
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Thanks for the tips. What type of paint (urethane, epoxy, etc) is user friendly and good for an inexperienced shooter?
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Old 04-05-2017, 11:24 AM
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I like single stage urethane; but you could certainly use an acrylic enamel.
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Old 04-06-2017, 03:49 PM
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A quality single stage urethane is easy to work with and if you reduce it a little with a clear, it shines just like a bc/cc paint with no sanding or polishing.
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