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Custom Hoods | To Paint, Or Not To Paint?

Some custom hoods come in finishes you may prefer to leave exposed – sparing you the painting costs. Or, you can do the paintwork yourself. Here, we show you how.
Custom Hoods Variety

When looking through our great selection of custom hoods, you may find envisioning how they'll look on your own vehicle is one of the best parts of the shopping process. Since custom hoods offer lots of visual (and functional) bang for the buck, maximizing that impact by aiming for the highest one your budget allows is only natural. Problem is, you have to factor in the cost of painting the hood once you get it, which can run hundreds of dollars - if not more. This leaves you facing the decision of whether to paint the hood yourself, pay a professional, or leave it unpainted.

Custom Hoods Covered In Flat Black Primer
The flat black primer look adds a stylish accent to a range of vehicles.

First, consider that many of the hoods we sell come primered in flat matte black paint that's smooth and even across all areas. Should you choose to go with this look out of the box, you'll have a stylish contrast that costs nothing to prepare. When you consider many muscle car, import, and luxury vehicle owners actually go to the trouble of painting their existing hoods to look this way, black primer doesn't seem like such a bad idea at all. And if you choose a carbon fiber hood, no painting is necessary because they'll arrive at your door with a protective clear coat layer already applied.

Carbon Fiber Hood
Carbon fiber hoods come ready to install, and need no painting.

Painting a new hood yourself will save you money - and in this article, we've included a general guide on how to perform the process. Before you make the decision about doing things yourself, however, we recommend reading our related article What Are My Choices For Custom Hood Materials? It looks at the various materials used for custom hoods (polyurethane, fiberglass, and even carbon fiber) and discusses paint preparation challenges involved with each type. For some of them, practice and experience are generally required to get positive results.

So if automotive painting is new to you, there's no shame in using a body shop or a custom shop that knows how to address imperfections inherent with these materials - because specialized preparation and paint processes are also required.

You'll also want to consider the extra complexity of painting hoods with sharp creases, indentations, and ventilation slats. In these areas, slower and more careful paint application is a must to prevent runs and pooling. You'll need to spray at odd angles that require creative positioning of the hood panel as you work.

Half-Painted / Half-Faded Hood
If paint fade has occurred, it may be best to have a professional match that color on your new hood.
Manufacturer Paint Code On Door Jamb
Manufacturer paint codes can typically be found on door jambs or underneath the hood.

If you do decide to paint your hood, you'll need the color code that you plan to use. The paint code for your vehicle's color will typically be found on a label applied under the hood or to the driver side door jamb. Your vehicle manufacturer should be able to help track down the exact code you need if it can't be found anywhere else.

Hood Painting Process

Something that's important to consider is how much the paint on the rest of your vehicle may have faded due to prolonged sun exposure. Replicating your OEM code means your new paint will match the shade, brilliance, and hue of your vehicle's paint when it was brand new - not as it may appear now. For reference, look at the paint on the underside of your trunklid. If it's a mismatch with the fenders, you'll be better off using a professional body shop to create a blended shade that does match.

Preparation Tips

Experts in the field of automotive paintwork attribute several common mistakes to most of the disappointing final results they see.

First, waterborne type of paint is more common these days. If you'll be using it, experts recommend a paint gun filter with a mesh of 125 microns (or finer) for best results. Typically, spray guns come with 200-micron filters which don't work as well with this type of paint.

Use gloves at all times when preparing your hood surface. Experts say a big problem in this area is when technicians not wearing gloves lean on the hood panel for leverage as they're sanding. If they don't clean the salt and oil deposits from their skin before applying primer and paint, it's common for a hand imprint to show up several months later - often in the form of small blisters.

Wash things down properly with wax and grease remover - even if you're painting a brand new panel. Any number of contaminants may have settled on the surface during storage or shipping. Experts attribute primer separation primarily to panels that weren't cleaned properly in the beginning stages.

Proper cleaning is also essential before sanding as well as after. With Teflon coatings being more commonplace today, it's possible those coatings can build up on a rotary sanding disc that isn't changed frequently enough. Heat generated by sanding friction melts the Teflon or wax into the fine scratches generated by sanding. Once it ends up on the panel itself, paint separation can result after a short period.

Step 1

Test-fit your hood on your vehicle to be sure it lines up correctly with the proper fit.

Step 2

If sanding is necessary, first clean the surface you plan to sand with a degreaser that contains no lacquer thinner or reducer. This prevents any contaminants on the surface from being ground into the surface as you sand. Go ahead and sand using sandpaper with a grit rating ( see chart above) that's best suited to your application.

Grit Rating Chart

Step 3

Clean the sanded areas with degreaser again to remove dust from sanding, then wipe all areas clean with a tack cloth. This is a cloth with a specially-designed surface that traps loose lint, dust, or other particles that would pose a problem during paint application.

Step 4

Spray on a coating of adhesion promoter that's designed for your hood material evenly across all surfaces. Professionals say using the wrong type of adhesion promoter that's designed for a different body panel material is a cause of many woes. Once the adhesion promoter has dried, lightly sand the coating with finer-grain sandpaper such as 2000 grit. Use another tack cloth to thoroughly remove dust from sanding.

Step 5

If your hood did not come primered, go ahead and spray on two separate base coats of primer paint. After that's dried, use fine-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface for painting. Wipe away excess dust with a tack cloth.

Step 6

Next is the step where colored paint will be applied. Applying too thick a coat at once can easily result in pooling and running of the paint - so spray lightly with back-and-forth sweeping motions. After the first coat dries, apply and repeat with one to two more coats until you're satisfied with how things look.

Step 7

The final step is applying two light layers of clear-coat paint - generating a high gloss shine that compares favorably with your vehicle's other body panels. Allow the hood to dry for a full 24 hours before installation to ensure paint has hardened fully.

Your newly painted hood is now ready to install! Once you line it up straight, you'll literally be able to enjoy gazing at your handiwork as the miles roll away. We hope this article has helped you reach a decision, not only on the type of custom hood for you, but on the best approach to get that hood painted!

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