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How to paint chrome bumpers

Updated April 17, 2017

Painting over chrome may seem easy, but after a short amount of time, the paint will flake off and reveal the chrome underneath. Painting chrome involves a different process than painting regular metal. Learn how to paint chrome bumpers and get your vehicle bumpers to match the colour of the entire vehicle. The result is a clean, custom-looking ride.

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  1. Wash the chrome bumper with soap and water. Wipe it down with wax and grease remover to remove any fingerprints or dust.

  2. Use 36-grit sandpaper and a dual action sander on the entire bumper if the chrome is peeling, flaking or has large cracks. If the chrome is smooth and in good shape, use 80-grit sandpaper. Sand the entire chrome bumper until there are no shiny spots to be seen.

  3. Wipe with wax and grease remover and then spray the entire bumper with self-etching primer. This type of primer grabs onto the metal, allowing later coats of primer and paint to stick to the chrome. Allow it to dry completely.

  4. Spray regular automotive primer to the bumper, directly on top of the self-etching primer. Spray two thin coats, allowing each to dry completely before moving on.

  5. Sand the primer lightly with 800-grit sand paper, keeping the paper wet while sanding. Sand the primer without reaching the chrome surface. If you sand through the primer, reapply the primer and sand again, repeating the former steps. Allow the bumper to dry completely.

  6. Spray the paint on the bumper in light, even coats. Use four coats of paint, allowing each to dry completely before applying another coat.

  7. Apply three clear coats to the painted bumper, allowing each coat to dry before applying another coat.

  8. Tip

    Always use a face mask when sanding and when spraying primer and paint.


    Do not skip using the self-etching primer. Regular primer will not stick to the chrome and will peel and chip very easily.

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Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Wax and grease remover (found at auto paint store)
  • Self-etching primer (found at auto paint store)
  • 36- and 80-grit sandpaper
  • Towel
  • Dual-action sander
  • Automotive primer (found at auto paint store)
  • Automotive paint (found at auto paint store)
  • Automotive clear coat

About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including lovetoknow.com, autotropolis.com, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.

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