How to Paint a Steel Bike Frame

Written by ryan lawrence
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How to Paint a Steel Bike Frame
Sand down any rough or sharp, jagged areas on the steel frame. (sandpapier image by Thomas Aumann from

To apply a fresh coat of paint to a steel bike frame, you need to address a couple of specific issues. First, unlike wood, steel is a nonporous surface and must be conditioned to accept paint adhesion, or the finish coat will chip away over time. You need to apply a specific type of primer that will abrade the steel, or you will have no chance at paint adhesion. Second, because steel is so smooth, paint tends to run and sag unless it is applied in a specific manner.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Heavy-duty fabric dust sheets
  • Crescent wrench
  • Acetone-based paint remover
  • 2-inch paintbrush
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Bucket
  • Detergent
  • Coarse brush
  • Water hose
  • Rags
  • Power hand sander
  • 300-grit sandpaper
  • Spray can of bike etching primer
  • Spray cans of bike paint

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  1. 1

    Work outdoors, or in a ventilated area such as a garage. Cover the flooring beneath the bike with dust sheets.

  2. 2

    Disassemble all components from the bike frame including the handlebars, seat, chain and wheels.

  3. 3

    Apply a thin coat of acetone paint remover with a paintbrush. Wait 4 minutes and then scrape off the old paint using a putty knife.

  4. 4

    Clean the bike frame with detergent. Scrub the surface vigorously and then rinse it with a water hose. Allow the bike frame to dry completely.

  5. 5

    Smooth rough or sharp, jagged areas on the steel frame by sanding them down with a power sander fitted with 300-grit sandpaper.

  6. 6

    Apply a thin coat of etching primer to the bike frame. Spray the steel frame in short, intermittent bursts. Do not saturate the bike frame with primer as this may lead to runs and sagging in the final finish.

  7. 7

    Allow the etching primer to dry and cure for four hours, and then apply four coats of bike paint using the same application technique you used with apply the previous coat of primer. Allow two hours of dry time between coats.

Tips and warnings

  • Bike paint and primer are available at most mountain bike speciality stores.
  • Never attempt to paint over a steel bike frame unless it has been coated with an etching primer first, or the finish will chip and flake over time.

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