If you’re wanting to change the look of your ATV without needing to spend the money to buy all new plastic body parts, one option is to paint the existing plastics. There’s a quick and easy way to get this done, and a longer more professional approach. Either way, it’s cheaper and more rewarding than buying new ATV plastics all together.
Most ATVs come with colored plastics already, maybe with some printed graphics on them. Some ATVs may even have hydrographics or water transfer printing done. This can lead to some pretty cool designs that would be almost impossible for the average person to recreate with spray paint or other painting methods. I go over hydro dipping in more detail below.
In general, to paint ATV plastics, you’re going to need to clean the plastics and sand them down, then remove contaminants in the plastic that prevent paint from sticking. After you’ve done that you’ll want to use a primer, paint, and top coat to seal and protect the paint job. I will go more in depth below with a step by step guide.
If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, there is a quicker method. It probably won’t last as long as taking the professional approach, but it works well. Before you begin either method, you’ll want to make sure your plastics are in good condition. Check out this article on Repairing ATV Plastics if you want to fix them up a bit before painting.
Paint ATV Plastics, Quick Method
This method is the easiest most straight forward way to paint your ATV plastics. Simply get a can of this Krylon Fusion Spray Paint For Plastic from Amazon. It can’t get much easier than just spray painting right?
You will first need to take all the plastic pieces off the machine that you want to paint, unless you’re really good at taping off the painting area. Every time I try to just tape off the area, I end up still getting paint where I didn’t want. It’s up to you on this one, I take the plastics off the quad from now on.
It’s also easier taking the plastics off because you need to clean them before applying paint. It’s best to use a bucket of warm soapy water, take extra care to get all of the dirt and grime that will prevent the paint from sticking. Use a rag or sponge to thoroughly clean the plastic parts.
Krylon claims that you don’t need to apply a primer before painting with Krylon Fusion paint. I’m a little skeptical about that, but it’s up to you. I’ve just seen the paint last longer when a primer is used. You might be ok if you’ve cleaned the plastic well enough.
Now you’re ready to paint, I’ve done this before by hanging the plastic from a tree with a rope. But this can also be done by simply laying the plastic on a bench or outside. Try to get into an area about 65 – 70 degrees if you can to help cure the paint.
I recommend painting from the bottom up. If you spray from the top down, then when you get to the bottom the over-spray will get into the top and make it look grainy. You should try to spray in light coats to avoid the paint running. If you spray too much in area the paint will lift. It’s up to you how it looks after the first couple coats if you need another one.
The paint itself will dry in about 15 – 30 mins but it’s recommended to wait 24 hours before handling. Also, it will take a week before the paint is chip resistant, according to Krylon.
The biggest problem with this method is it doesn’t last a long time. Chipping and cracking after a couple years is pretty common with this approach.
Hydro Dip ATV Plastics
Hydro dipping is only in the article because I think it’s one of the coolest ways to paint something. You may have seen this before. They lay a graphics film over a bucket of water and as they dip something into the film adheres to it giving it a cool graphic design paint job.
They do sell kits you can use at home for pretty cheap, like this HydroGraphics Kit From MyDipKit on Amazon. I can’t vouch for this myself because I’ve never tried it out. I do know, to get it professional done at a place is usually gonna run you somewhere around $500.
I’ve seen the hydro dip paint jobs hold up pretty well too, but again, those were professionally done. Not to mention you can get some pretty awesome looking graphics on your quad. It will definitively turn some heads.
Paint ATV Plastics, Professional Step By Step Method
This is not that hard to do, but it will take some time. A lot of sanding, cleaning, and waiting for paint to dry. First, take all the plastics you want to paint off the machine. You can’t do this method with the plastics on the machine, it just won’t work.
Step 1: Clean And Sand
Start by cleaning the plastics thoroughly with warm soapy water. This is just to get all the dirt and dust that you can off the plastic. Next sand the plastic with 180 or 200 grit sand paper. You don’t want to press hard enough to create wells in the plastics so be careful.
Over time, ATV plastic exposed to the sun and other elements will get a thin coating on them. The point of this step is to remove that coating.
Step 2: Remove Contaminants
Use a scouring pad or scuff pad like they do with burnt on stuff on the dishes. Like a Scotch pad or Brillo pad. Use whatever cleaner you’d like for this step, 90 – 95 percent alcohol works or even carb cleaner if you have any laying around.
Make sure to scrub good this time, not to wear out the plastic but to get a good scrub on all parts of the plastic. This will determine how well the paint sticks to the plastic, it needs to be super clean.
Step 3: Sandblast
You should sand with 200 grit sand paper again if you notice any spots you missed the first time around before starting with the sandblaster. Use 80 grit aluminum oxide in the sand blaster.
If you don’t have a sand blaster, sand with 400 grit sand paper and scrub again with a cleaner. It’s best to use a sandblaster, but if you can’t, do the best with what you’ve got right?
Step 4: Plastic Cleaner
Get the plastics dry and spray down with a surface cleaner or degreaser of your choosing. Something like this Panel Prep Surface Cleaner and Degreaser from Amazon will work just fine.
Spray a nice heavy coat of this stuff onto the plastics and give it a minute to work. This will dissolve any contaminants still on the plastics surface that might prevent the paint from sticking. After waiting a minute or so, wipe the cleaner off with a paper towel or rag.
Step 5: Adhesion Promoter
Now apply an adhesion promoter of some kind. This will help keep the paint stuck the plastics for a long time.
It helps keep your paint job durable and prevent chipping and cracking in the future.
I use this Polyvance Plastic Magic from Amazon. It’s an aerosol spray like a can of spray paint and it’s nice and easy to work with. Apply two coats of this, making sure to let it dry completely.
You will need to let the first coat flash before applying the second. You’ll see it sort of change color and it should happen pretty quick.
Step 6: High Build Primer
Now apply a coat of a high build primer of your choice. Here’s a link to a 16oz Grey High Build Primer if want to stick to the spray cans.This step is important for filling any scratches left by the sanding or sandblasting steps. Or any existing scratches you had that you want covered.
Wait for the primer to completely dry before continuing. After the primer has dried, sand it down with 320 – 400 grit sand paper. A lot of primers dry with a thin top coating you need to remove. Plus this will smooth out the surface for the next step.
Step 7: Flexible Sealer
Before applying the flexible sealer, now is a good time to fill any gouges and big scratches with some type of flexible filler like Putty Flex. Let cure and sand down until smooth to match the rest of the plastics.
The flexible sealer is for use over any primed plastic parts. You could skip this step, and a lot of people do because of how expensive the sealers can be. It’s not totally necessary, but will extend the life of your paint job for sure.
The all season sealer will protect against cracking due to the heat of summer and cold of winter. Here’s a link to a good option if you want to check it out. It’s the All Seasons Waterborne Flexible Bumper Sealer from Amazon.
Let the sealer dry completely before continuing.
Step 8: Base Coat And Clear Coat
Finally, the actual painting step. Use a paint and clear coat of your choice, if you still want to use spray cans the Krylon Fusion for plastic we talked about above will work. When selecting a top coat, make sure there is a flex additive in it or add one yourself.
Let the paint dry between coats and don’t put too much paint on at once. The paint will run and you’ll have to sand down and start over. If you do need to sand down the paint, just sand down to the primer or sealer, I would start with a higher grit like 600 – 800 and drop to 320 if you need to. That way you don’t have to re-do those steps.
That’s it! it’s really not too hard once you get going. It can be time consuming waiting for all the different primers, sealers, and paints to dry though. Just to recap, the quick method works great, just won’t last for years and years. It’s definitely a lot easier though.
If you want your machine looking pristine, go with the professional method. your time and effort will surely show once you’re done.