How to Paint a Motorcycle Exhaust

Whether you are giving an old motorcycle a makeover or coordinating a custom paint job, painting the exhaust pipes can add just the right amount of detail to your motorcycle. Careful selection of a heat-resistant paint and thorough preparation will ensure that the pipe's new finish will not be baked off as engine temperatures rise. This project will take a considerable amount of prep work and waiting, so be prepared to spend at least one to two days to complete it.

Remove the exhaust pipes from the motorcycle. Scrub off as much dirt and corrosion build-up as possible from the surface of the pipes, using a wire brush.

Scour the surface of the exhaust pipes to remove any remaining dirt and the original paint coat, if any, using a sandblaster.

Wash away the sanding dust and oil residue from the exhaust pipes' surface, using a degreasing cleaner. Rinse well with clean water and wipe dry, using a shop rag. Allow the exhaust pipes to air dry for a minimum of 1 hour.

Hang the exhaust pipes from the ceiling, using a length of wire, to support the pipes during painting.

Wipe the exhaust pipes with denatured alcohol and a shop rag to remove any finger prints. Wipe the pipes again, using a tack cloth, to remove any lint or dust particles.

Spray the exhaust pipes with a high-temperature primer. Concentrate on spraying the tighter curves and joints between the pipes, using light coats. Coat the remainder of the pipes with primer. Allow the primer to dry for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Spray the exhaust pipes with a high-temperature colour spray paint. Spray between the exhaust pipe's joints, using light coats. Coat the remainder of the pipes with spray paint. Allow the paint to dry for a minimum of 24 hours.

Mount the exhaust pipes back onto the motorcycle. Start the motor and let it idle to bake the painted exhaust, indicated by light smoking from paint. Allow the motorcycle to idle for 10 minutes or until the smoking stops. Let the motorcycle cool for 30 minutes then repeat again.


Refer to a factory service manual for detail exhaust pipe removal and mounting instructions. For best results, select a paint that can withstand 1200°F.


Don't handle the painted exhaust pipes for a minimum of 24 hours. Touching the pipes before they have cured can embed fingerprints permanently into the paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush
  • Sandblaster
  • Degreasing cleaner
  • Water
  • Shop rags
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Tack rags
  • Wire
  • High-temperature primer and spray paint
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About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.