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How to Paint Truck Door Handles in 10 Steps

How to Paint Truck Door Handles in 10 Steps

Truck door handles are one of the first parts on any vehicle to get damaged or show signs of wear. Not only do countless hands grip them daily, but the rings and bracelets they wear will scrape or chip off paint, rendering the handles in serious need of a touch-up. Thankfully, any truck owners can restore their door handles to their former glory or change paint colors completely all by themselves.

In this article, we’ll go over how to paint truck door handles in ten simple steps so that you can have a clean, sleek-looking vehicle for a fraction of the cost of a professional job. This is a great DIY project for anyone looking to add some flair and personality to their truck- whether you’re just tired of the color, you want to restore the handles, or you’re prepping your truck for sale.

Necessary Tools and Materials

Before you can start painting your truck’s door handles, there are some essential tools and materials you’ll need first.

Below is a list of everything you should have to successfully complete this guide, but you might not need all of them depending on your door handle’s material.

For this guide, you will need:

  • A Scuff Pad (link to Amazon)
  • X-fine 320 sandpaper
  • A sponge
  • A Plastic Paint Scraper (link to Amazon)
  • A stiff brush (ex. a new toothbrush or dishes brush)
  • Dish soap
  • 1 Microfiber Towel (link to Amazon)
  • Paint Remover (ex. Aircraft low odor paint remover)
  • Spray Adhesion Promoter (link to Amazon)
  • 1 can of spray automobile paint primer
  • 1 can of spray automobile paint of your preferred color
  • 1 can of spray automobile top coat
  • 4 slim blocks of wood
  • 1 piece of wood or cardboard large enough to cover a work surface
  • A heater (optional)
  • Gloves and a mask

In addition to these materials, you’ll want to have a covered and well-ventilated area to work since the spray paint will emit potentially harmful fumes, which is also why gloves and a mask are recommended for safety.

Particles in the air might also settle onto your paint and interrupt its smooth surface, so having the handles in a more confined space will help prevent this. Usually, people will paint either in their garage or a shed.

What Paint to Use for Truck Door Handles

Realistically, anyone could paint their own truck’s door handles themselves, but the level of success you’ll have long-term really relies on the paint you use.

Your truck’s paint needs to be able to withstand layers of dust, dirt, and debris, and even some physical hazards like pebbles and insects between washes. Therefore, you can’t just toss any coat of spray paint on your truck door handles and expect the job to last.

The majority of modern cars are painted with multiple coats of paints in order to ensure optimal color and protection. For your truck door handles, you’ll need a paint made of acrylic polyurethane “enamel” with a pigmented basecoat (enamel paint) or a lacquer paint with a clear topcoat.

Here’s a video showing an alternative method using Plasti-Dip (link to Amazon), with a full guide to painting door handles below:

As you’ll see later in our guide, one coat of paint just won’t be enough, and your truck handle material will alter how effective certain paints are. So, make sure whatever paint you purchase for your truck is made specifically for motorized vehicles like the two listed above and match its material as well.

  • If you’re trying to match your truck’s current paint color, you can do this easily by finding its paint code.
  • Paint codes are a series of numbers that entail what specific color is painted on your car and can usually be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door jam.
  • There will be two codes: paint, which is for the outside of your car, and trim, which is for the interior of your car.
  • The paint code is what you will search for on any paint you purchase for your door handles.

Remove the Handles from the Truck

Once you have everything you need for the guide, you can get started! However, we’d like to state that this guide will probably take a full day to complete since multiple layers of paint and other materials must dry before adding coats. So make sure you have a decent 10+ hours available before you start.

That being said, the first thing you’ll do is remove the handle covers from your truck’s door handles.

  • To remove them, you’ll pull on the handle and then feel for the tabs that keep the cover connected to the rest of the handle mechanism.
  • You should be able to pull the tabs back and release the cover from the rest of the handle easily.
  • Repeat this for all remaining handles.

For older truck models, you might have to use a screwdriver and some other tools to remove the entire handle by removing the inside door panel and unscrewing the handle screws.

If you’re truly having a hard time removing your truck’s handles, you can paint them while they’re still attached. However, this guide is going to be much easier if you can remove the handle covers completely, and doing so will greatly reduce the risk of you accidentally getting the handles’ new paint or harmful chemicals on your truck.

This guy explains how he removed his door handles in this video, with the guide continuing below:

Strip the Handles of Paint

Now that you’ve removed all four of your truck’s handles, you’re going to clean and prep them for their new paint job. Truck owners who have non-painted metallic handles, congratulations, you get to skip this step.

If your handles are already painted a different color, you’re going to need to strip this paint first before moving on. You don’t want to paint over the old paint, which could affect new paint adhesion, surface texture, and color.

To remove this old paint, you’ll want to first prop all four handle covers on your thin wooden blocks to elevate them off your workspace (this should be covered with your wood or cardboard to protect whatever surface is underneath).

Next, apply a generous coat of your paint remover onto each handle cover and gently run it into the paint using your brush. You’ll then leave the paint remover to cure for about 15 minutes.

Alternatively, if you’re really trying to save money, you could spend the extra time and arm strength to simply sand off all of the paint instead.

This will take much longer and could cause uneven wear of the metal or plastic underneath the paint, but it’s a more budget-friendly option for the truck owner who doesn’t want a whole gallon of paint remover for a few door handles.

After the 15 minutes have passed, use your stiff brush or plastic paint scraper (or both) to gently scrape away the paint.

If some are still valiantly resisting removal, you can apply more paint remover and allow it to cure for another 10-15 minutes, and try again.

Lightly Sand the Handles Using a Scuff Pad and Sandpaper

After your handle covers are free of paint and squeaky clean, you’re going to lightly sand the surface of each. This step is going to feel so wrong in so many ways, but it’s the best way to ensure your new paint adheres to the handles for long-lasting results.

Additionally, if you have metal handles, there’s probably a light protective coating covering the material underneath. Much like how we stripped the paint in the previous step, you’ll need to remove this coating for optimal results.

Therefore, we advise you to start with your X-320 sandpaper for this job, and if the coating is being particularly stubborn, you can use the scuff pad sparingly to get it off.

If your handles were painted, you could use the 320 sandpaper alone to lightly scuff up the handles’ surfaces. While you want to be thorough and sand the entire surface of the handles, be conscious not to over-sand them, as you’ll cause uneven wear in the material and unnecessary damage.

Just sand the surface enough to give it some grit and texture for the paint to grip.

Give the Handles a Quick Wash

With all of the paint and protective covers removed, and the surface nice and sanded, it’s time to give your door handles a good wash.

You won’t want to skip this step, as your handles by now are covered in chemicals and grit from sanding and paint removal. This means any paint you put on them now is going to stick to this debris rather than the handle’s base material, so it is more likely to peel and chip with time.

So, give all of your handle covers a brief wash in some warm soapy water with a sponge, and then rinse them off and towel dry them completely. 

Apply Your Adhesion Promoter

Door handles on any vehicle are tricky when it comes to painting, as they are made of metal or plastic that doesn’t permit the best paint adhesion. This is why any paint job that is done poorly or with one coat of paint won’t last long.

We’re assuming if you’re using this guide that you don’t want to be re-painting these handles again any time soon, so let’s do it right the first time and use materials that will give you the best chance for paint longevity. This will require the use of an adhesion promoter.

If you have metal handles, buy a metal-specific adhesion promoter and if you have plastic handles, buy a plastic adhesion promoter.

You can opt to purchase a clear spray or a colored spray that matches your other paints.

  • All you’re going to do is stand a decent distance from your handles (you’ll want your hand a decent 8-12 inches from the handle surface) and apply your adhesion promoter onto the handles.
  • Applying from an increased distance will prevent you from applying thick layers that pool and drip from the handle.

Allow that coat to settle for a couple of minutes, and then apply two to three thicker coats of the spray. You’ll then leave the adhesion promoter to cure for 15 minutes.

Apply 1- 2 Coats of Primer

This might be the only debatable step on this guide, but we highly recommend you apply it if you can. Primer will help prep your handle covers and further promote paint adhesion, but since you’ve already applied a few coats of adhesion promoter in the previous step, you could argue a primer isn’t necessary.

However, primer and adhesion promoter aren’t exactly the same thing.

Adhesion promoter just helps the paint stick to the material, while a primer will prepare the material and fill in scuffs and marks as well as promoting adhesion.

Therefore, all of those scratches you made from sanding will be smoothed out with the primer, in addition to it creating another adhesive surface for your coats of paint.

  • For this reason, we think it best that you apply at least one coat of primer to your handle covers.
  • If you want to be safe, apply one thin layer, let it dry, and then apply a thicker second coat.
  • If you opted to skip the adhesion promoter altogether, you should definitely have at least two coats of primer on your handles.

To expedite the drying process for this and the following steps, you can turn on a space heater near your handles.

Apply 2-3 Coats of Paint

Finally, it’s time to paint! We won’t draw this step out any more than necessary. Using the paint of your choice, apply one coat at a time, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

If you’ve purchased a painting kit that includes multiple paints, you’ll want to apply the “base” or “ground” paint for the first coat and then the “mid coat” for the rest. Make sure you have complete and even coverage when applying your paints, and do your best to minimize any dripping or pooling.

Sometimes as you work, you might notice some bumps or imperfections on your handles trapped by the paint, preventing a smooth finish. To remove these, you can simply use your 320 sandpaper to lightly sand them away.

Apply Clear Coat

The end is in sight. By now, all of your truck handle covers should be sporting a beautiful, clean, and smooth paint job. But you don’t want to stop here. While the multiple layers of paint and primer can certainly withstand a rainy day or some off-roading mud, they won’t be able to do so for long.

This is why you’ll need to apply a clear coat for extra protection, especially from scratches and chips.

Once the desired number of paint coats are applied and dry, you can apply your clear coat. You’ll want to apply at least two coats of this, as the first will ensure UV protection, and the second will ensure paint longevity.

Reinstall All Handles onto the Truck

Those clear coats will need to cure and dry for several hours, but once they’re done, the painting process is complete. Now, all that’s left to do is to pop all of the handles covers back in place (or reinstall the handles if you had an older model), and you’re done!

Goodbye, old and chipped paint or gaudy chrome handles, and hello to your sleek, freshly painted ones.

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