To survive under your hood, you need a special type of paint.Engine paint must be resistant to extreme temperatures, as well as resist gasoline and oils. It must also look great, especially if it is used as a focal point of your hot rod or show car.

Paints are made specifically for engines by companies such as Dupli-Color and VHT. What makes a good engine paint? Dupli-Color/VHT experts shared their top tips and gave us some advice on how to apply the paint to achieve the perfect finish. According to Mark Eichelberger, Associate Product Manager at Dupli-Color/VHT/Tri-Flow, a good engine paint should have three characteristics: heat resistance, gloss retention, and resistance to chipping and flaking.

This is why engine paint is usually an enamel paint.

Enamel paints are known for their hard-wearing, glossy appearance and excellent color retention. Enamel paints can also resist heat, which is a requirement for automobile engine use. A good engine paint can withstand temperatures up to 500°F, as under-hood temperatures are typically between 250-300 degrees. Dupli-Color and other companies may add ceramic resins in their engine paint to increase heat dissipation. Ceramic has been proven to be very effective in high-temperature paints for headers, exhaust systems, and can even be used to make jet engines.

Enamel paints are extremely chip-resistant when properly dried. They also resist corrosion and rust. You can apply them by spray, brush, roller or brush depending on what paint you choose. This makes it easy to use even when the engine is still in the engine bay. Sprays are the most popular engine paints. These can often be found in simple aerosol cans.

Enamels can be made in many colors. Manufacturers have a lot of choices. This includes factory-matched colors such as Chevrolet Orange, Ford Blue, or Cummins Beige. As with any paint, the final appearance of your engine paint is determined by how it’s applied and how patient you are.

Application Tips

  • Sand the engine well. To remove any old paint or debris, you can use a wire brush.
  • To remove oils and other chemicals, clean the block with a grease-and-wax remover.
  • To remove any particles, wipe down the engine with a damp cloth or use an air hose.
  • For maximum corrosion resistance and uniformity in your top coat color, use a high-heat enamel primer.
  • To avoid sags and runs, apply primer before applying engine enamel color.
  • Spray applications should be applied in a long, continuous motion.
  • For the best coverage and smoothness, apply two more thin coats. Then, apply a medium-weight wet coat. A few thin coats will give you a better finish than a few heavy ones.
  • You can add extra protection by using a high-heat engine enamel clear coat. It should be applied in the same manner as the primer and topcoat engine enamel colors.
  • Use a mask when applying paint or in an area that is well ventilated.

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