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Five Tips for Painting Aluminum Body Panels

Posted by Lauren Middleton on Jan 30th 2021

There is a lot of buzz lately about aluminum in the auto body work world. Aluminum is lightweight and can actually decrease CO2 emissions from your vehicle by twenty percent. When Ford started using aluminum to manufacture its F-150 model truck, their popularity skyrocketed. Although aluminum is becoming popular to work with, it requires a whole new set of skills, techniques, and equipment. One of the more difficult aspects of working with aluminum is preparing it for painting. Our article this week will focus on five tips for painting aluminum body panels.

1.Make a quarantined and enclosed environment to paint in. When working with aluminum you can’t let it mix with other metals. Doing so can lead to paint failure. You should also use dedicated sanders and blocks to prevent metal fraternization.

2.Use the proper personal protection equipment. The dust from aluminum should never be inhaled or come into contact with the skin. Excessive aluminum absorption has been linked to cognitive degeneration and brain disease in some studies. Before you start painting or working with aluminum in general, be sure to get a high quality respirator, gloves, and safety goggles.

3.Always degrease the aluminum before painting it. Use a cleaner or degreaser to remove both dirt and oils from the surface of the aluminum. Aluminum is slippery as it is and too much grease and dirt on the surface of it can inhibit paint adhesion.

4.Abrade the surface of the aluminum before priming. Aluminum is extremely smooth and unless it is sanded, the paint and primer won’t stick. The best tool for this is fine grit sandpaper. It leaves a series of small scratches which provides a textured surface for the primer to adhere to. When you are finished sanding, wipe the surface with a clean cloth.

5.Always repair the aluminum before painting. Aluminum is a little harder to repair because if it has been reshaped due to collision, it will take on a new shape and forget the old shape. If you have to weld the body panel, remember that aluminum conducts heat a lot more than steel. Welding aluminum also requires special welding tools and skills.