Powder Coating Or Paint, Which Is Better?

Powder coating will always be a wiser choice over painting parts of car. Read along as we explain why by showing you the process and its advantages.

Process The powder coat process is pretty basic and relatively straightforward. The secret is in the actual material– a combination of finely ground plastics with various hues and pigments, which determine the final color of the finished product. This powder is applied to the surface being powder coated via electrostatic transfer.

A wide range of items can be powder-coated but there’s always one common denominator. The key to having an amazing-looking finished product, a chassis in our case, is very similar to painting a body–it all lies in how well you prepare the surface of the part you’re powder-coating. There can’t be any rust, metal shavings, paint, or any other foreign matter on the surface being powder-coated or the granules won’t properly adhere to it.

You have two choices to accomplish this task: sandblasting or chemical washing. If you read “Bomber Foundation” (on page 58), then you know that Frank Kimmel and his crew chose to sandblast the frame and usable parts of a ’76 Chevelle. While both methods are acceptable, I, like Frank, personally prefer sandblasting largely because it creates a rough surface that will only assist the powder-coat in sticking to the frame.

Once the sandblasting or chemical washing is completed, you have to ensure that the chassis is completely dry–but simply letting it air dry will not be enough. It has to be 100 percent dry, so it’ll be baked in a large oven at 300-350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.

Once the part is completely dry and clean, it’s time to apply the powder-coat. Like we said before, the powder-coat is finely ground plastics made up of hues and pigments. It’s applied dry with a special powder-coating gun that resembles a hairdryer. The gun simultaneously applies an electrostatic charge to the powder-coat granules and metal. This basically means that the electrostatic charge holds the granules in place on the chassis/frame until it gets baked in the oven.

The baking step involves moving the chassis into a very large oven where it will get baked for 45 to 60 minutes at 350 degreees F. This process melts and cures the powder granules and pigments onto the chassis in one step. The result is a very even and uniform look along with an exceptionally durable finish.

Advantages of powder-coating Some might say that the main advantage of powder-coating your frame is because of the great uniform finish and availability of many vibrant colors. Granted, there are no drips, runs, or puddles with powder-coating but realize that painting offers just as many color options, and in some cases more. And while those odd color options may be available in powder-coating too, they can drive the cost up.

No, the main advantage to powder-coating your frame is the durable finish that the powder-coating process leaves. Ultimately, powder-coating’s main purpose is to protect and preserve the metal. If you were to paint your chassis and then, while bleeding the brakes, accidentally spill brake fluid on it, the brake fluid would eat through the paint and leave bare spots on the frame. However, that won’t happen with a powder-coated frame. The finish is chemical resistant and all you would have to do is wipe up the spilled fluid.

Another advantage with powder-coating is that as soon as the chassis cools it’s ready to be handled, unlike paint which can take up to a couple of days to cure before it’s ready to touch. With powder-coating, Frank and his crew can get right back to work on Project Bomber.

An added benefit is that when properly done, powder-coating is a very “green” process, in other words it’s really environmentally friendly. The idea of “green racing” is still a somewhat new phenomenon, but powder-coating really fits the bill. The powder granules are not a significant health, fire, or environmental hazard. In its dry form, it’s called a nuisance dust largely because it will make a dusty mess if it gets spilled. However, there’s nothing dangerous about it. It has virtually no volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, it’s not flammable, and is non-carcinogenic. Compare that to wet automotive paint which is flammable, carcinogenic, and full of VOCs.

In addition, because the powder-coat granules are applied in dry form, electrostatically, very little is ever wasted. Some professional powder-coaters report 95 percent of the granules ending up on the parts being coated. In some cases, powder that doesn’t end up on the parts can even be reclaimed and reused by sweeping the floor and putting it back in the gun. As a comparison, wet paint-transfer efficiencies can easily drop below 50 percent, and overspray goes right into the atmosphere creating a big hole in the ozone layer unless, of course, you’re inside a paint booth with the proper air reclamation system.

Are there any disadvantages? A quick and simple answer–not really. If there’s one disadvantage to powder-coating it’s the fact that the process is not something you can do yourself. You’ll need to get it professionally done, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Powder-coating Project Bomber, as you saw here, cost a mere $350. You’d be hard pressed to paint a chassis for that dollar amount. Typically, you can expect prices to range from $350 to $550 for a powder-coating job like this one. The price is largely dependent on the color you choose–the more exotic the color, the higher the price. If you go really crazy, you can easily exceed that $550. But the bottom line is that by opting for powder-coating you’re getting an amazing-looking frame that’s extremely durable and resistant to chemicals and spills.

Conclusion In reality, a powder-coated chassis is far superior to a painted chassis. You can’t even make the argument that the painted chassis is more vibrant. The chassis might look nearly the same during the start of the season, but as the season wears on, the painted chassis will start to chip and wear, whereas the powder-coated frame will look nearly the same as the first day you unloaded it from the professional who powder-coated it. So the next time you’re deciding to paint or powder-coat your frame, have it done right and take a powder!

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