It’s tedious, time-consuming and often overlooked. A fresh paint job may not be on the top of your preventive maintenance priority list, but it’s a critical step to extend the life of your equipment.

Paint protects your equipment from harsh weather conditions, prevents rust and corrosion, maximizes resale value and ensures a professional image.

The process is simple, but even with the right tools, it can be painstaking. You can buy a sandblaster, pressure washer and paint gun to do the job yourself or have your local dealer do the refurbishing for you.

Here is the process for painting construction equipment:

1. Prepare the surfaces

The quality of the final paint job is all in the preparation. To start, remove all decals from the machine. A heat gun or adhesive remover and a scraper will make this process easier.

Next, manually or mechanically sand the machine to remove the old paint. Pay special attention to areas that have rust or corrosion. Use a wire brush or grinding attachment on deep pockmarks. And as always, wear personal protective equipment to prevent skin lesions, eye contamination or particle inhalation.

Finally, replace or repair any dented or damaged external parts. If you can’t find replacement parts for older machines, you can also patch the area with a fiberglass filler or polyester resin.

2. Clean and degrease

After the surface is prepared, thoroughly clean the machine. Use a pressure washer, washing detergent and degreasing agent to remove all dirt and contaminants. Any dirt or grease residue left on the machine will ruin paint adhesion, so washing the machine more than once may be necessary.

Make sure to comply with local environmental regulations for contaminated wash water disposal. Allowing wash water to enter the surface and groundwater reservoirs can result in hefty fines, jail time and expensive cleanup.

3. Preparing equipment for painting

Once the machine is smooth, clean and dry, the surface is ready for masking. Fancy supplies aren’t necessary for this step; masking tape, masking paper, cardboard and plastic will do the trick.

Remove any accessories, such as mirrors or mud flaps, that should not be painted. Tape off any parts or accessories, like door handles or chrome, that cannot be removed. Cover tires and tracks and windows with paper or plastic.

If you are painting indoors, protect the floor and surfaces in your shop with cardboard and plastic draping – overspray will happen. A proper ventilation system is also critical to remove any harmful paint fumes.

If you are painting outdoors, keep temperature and wind conditions in mind. Paint will not dry properly in cold temperatures, and high winds will result in dust, uneven coverage and excess overspray.

4. Paint the machine

Spraying paint will guarantee even coverage and a smoother finish than rolling or brushing.

Professional painters recommend using an HVLP (high-volume/low-pressure) spray gun set between 25-30 psi. Ideally, the temperature should be around 68°F to ensure proper paint viscosity and adhesion.

Always hold the gun perpendicular to the surface of the equipment. Maintain a constant distance of about 6 to 8 inches away from what you are spraying. Start with the edges and hard-to-reach areas before painting the larger flat areas, moving the gun at a steady rate of travel.

Apply a primer to areas where bare steel or filler is exposed. Allow the primer to dry for 24 hours before applying the base coat. Apply the paint in thin, even layers. Wait 15 to 20 minutes or until the paint is tacky to the touch before applying the next coat. As a rule of thumb, use two to three coats of paint to ensure adequate coverage and durability.

Take proper precautions to ventilate the space and protect your eyes, nose, mouth and skin from dangerous fumes and chemicals. A full-body paint suit, respirator mask and gloves are essential.  

5. Apply decals

Once the paint has dried for at least 24 hours, you can apply new decals to the machine.

The key to installing any decal and making it last is having a clean surface before you start. Wipe the area with rubbing alcohol to ensure proper adhesion. Position the decal on the machine with tape and mark the location where you intend to place it with a pencil. Carefully remove the backing and position the top corners on your pencil marks. Take a squeegee and slowly smooth the decal onto the machine, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom and edges, removing any air bubbles along the way.

Now that your machine looks close to new, you can earn top dollar for your trade-in or turn some heads on the next jobsite. 

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