Michael Galimi
June 1, 2007
Noted Mustang racer Carlo Catalanotto applies black powder to a piece of 2x3 square frame. Our piece of frame was cleaned, coated, and cured in less than an hour.

You've just finished a complete makeover of your Mustang that turned it from an ordinary ponycar to a rolling shrine of style and performance. The unfortunate part is that underneath the pretty paint, behind the sweet dubs, and next to the billet components, are boring metal brackets that can be an eyesore as weather and time take their toll. Restore the luster and enhance the appearance of those raw and exposed metal objects using a do-it-yourself powdercoating kit from Summit Racing (PN SUM-01-6100). The process is quick, easy, and can be done at home thanks to the environmental friendliness of the Summit kit.

Powdercoating is a great alternative to painting parts because the finish is more durable and longer lasting. Powdercoating can be best described as a thermosetting powder that is sprayed onto a metal piece. Low-voltage electric current runs through the piece to electrically charge it so the powder sticks to the surface. High-school science taught us that opposite electric magnetic fields attract, therefore the powder clings to the electrified metal. Once the part is covered, it's cooked in an oven at 400 degrees. The powder melts when baked at that temperature for 10-15 minutes. A bond is formed between the individual dust particles and the metal part-the result is a flexible, corrosive-, impact-, and scratch-resistant coating that will last for years.

Prepping the product is extremely important because grease, oil, and rust will hamper the looks and finish of the final product.

Any metal piece can be coated, from control arms and rearend housings to A/C and super-charger brackets. The components will need to be broken down and fully stripped of pieces that are heat sensitive. For example, if you're coating suspension pieces, then the rubber bushings will need to be removed along with other items that cause interference, such as bearings, clamps, nuts, bolts, and so on. The procedure requires an electric oven. Once that oven is involved in a powdercoating project, it can never be used for food preparation again.

The first step of the process-and the most critical-is to clean the parts. The cleaner the surface, the smoother and better the powdercoating will look. Failure to remove grease, rust, oil, and the like will result in a poor finish. The instructions have several recommendations on how to clean the part. Powdercoating can be laid over painted products, provided that paint can withstand temperatures around 400 degrees-if not, then strip the part to the bare metal. We received an interesting tip after we coated a few things for this story: Preheat the part at 150 degrees for a few minutes before spraying on the powder. This eliminates the orange-peel look that's oftentimes present on a powdercoated product. Another cause for orange peel can be traced back to a dirty surface or incomplete cure.

We taped off half of our square-tube frame to illustrate the difference between powdercoating and bare metal. Over time, the powdercoated surface will retain its luster and the metal will be protected. The unfinished portion will eventually corrode, let alone be ugly looking.

Once the part is cleaned, it will be either hung or laid on top of the oven rack. The instructions recommend hanging the parts for a clean and even coating, otherwise the bottom side will have lines from the oven rack. Support the oven rack between two objects such as jackstands or chairs. If you're only coating the top portion of the part, then it's OK to lay it on the oven rack rather than suspend it. Summit supplies 10 two-inch wire hangers to suspend the part under the grill.

The application gun is filled with powder, and Summit offers 20 different colors. We chose black for this story, as we will be using the kit to coat most of our suspension products. The ground clip is required to be attached directly to the component, grille, or hooks. The next step is to let it rip and squeeze the trigger to shoot the powder on to the subject. Keep the gun approximately 6 inches away while applying the powder. Make sure the powder is evenly applied to the entire surface.

Here's the square tube with half of it powder-coated black (left) and the uncoated portion (right). Powdercoating will ensure a longer lifespan thanks to corrosion and scratch protection. It also gives parts a clean look that's easy to clean and maintain.

Place the covered product in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees-an electric oven is required; do not use a gas oven. Most pieces take approximately 10 minutes of baking, with larger parts requiring upwards of 20 minutes. Check the oven every 5 minutes to see if the powder has flowed out, which is when the powder turns to a gel or gloss form. Remove the part from the oven once it is fully cured. Let the part cool down, and put it back into service.

The entire process took us approximately 45 minutes, which included reading the instructions and starting with a fairly clean product. Dedi-cating a day to coating can yield dozens of coated parts. Those parts will endure a long service life as well as add great looks to other-wise boring components.

Safety First
We don't want to scare anyone, but there are some warnings that need to be brought to your attention. It cannot be stressed enough-only use an oven that is not slated for food preparation. The type of oven is important as well, as it cannot be a gas-heated unit.

Another safety tip is to perform this task in a ventilated room or garage. Our baking process ended with some smoke billowing from the oven, so we opened the garage door for fresh air. Do not perform this process in an explosive atmosphere, such as around flammable liquids, gases, or dust.