This how to guide will show you how to paint a go kart. The steps include metal preparation, priming, and spray painting the go kart. Soon you will have some cool ideas for go kart paint designs, and the confidence to complete your go kart paint job for the frame and rims.
Metal Preparation: Removing the Rust
Prior to painting a go kart, you need to prep the base surface. In this instance, we have a go kart frame that we fabricated from scratch with the free go kart plans. However, the frame began to rust the moment we began to handle it, and now it has what is called ‘surface rust’ (which really looks worse than it is). Luckily, all one really needs to do is remove the rust, and here’s how:
- Secure the wire wheel attachment to your angle grinder.
- Wire wheel the rust away with your angle grinder.
Wipe down all surfaces with mineral spirits prior to painting.
Rust removal is easy. Just be careful to not catch the wheel on anything and wear earplugs, gloves and jeans so you don’t accidentally remove some skin or hearing ability in the process.
If you already have a painted go kart, or painted rims and want to change the color, here are your options:
- Old Paint: Remove old, chipped paint with a full cable twist or knotted wire wheel attached to your angle grinder.
- New Paint: Use a foam sanding block (available at any hardware store) with a fine grit to scuff the paint. This abrasion will allow the new coat of primer and paint to adhere to the surface.
What Go Kart Spray Paint Do I Need?
Painting a go kart can be overcomplicated. You may think you want to use some special automotive paint, or powder coat it, which is OK to do. I just kept it simple and got some Rust-Oleum professional primer and paint. That’s right, go kart spray paint. That’s all you need. Here is the list of materials I used to paint the go kart:
- 2 cans of primer for frame, pedals, and rims.
- 1 can of black paint for rims, spindles, and pedals.
- 4 cans of paint for the frame, and rims.
- A respirator with organic vapor cartridges (optional).
- Wire to hang the go kart frame (optional).
Prime Before Paint
I used Rust-Oleum professional primer to prime the rims and frame prior to painting the go kart. Primer has bonding agents, which will allow it to adhere to the frame better than paint alone. Primer is cheaper than paint. If you prime before painting, the topcoat will go on much smoother with a uniform color, and you will use less top coat.
How to Paint the Go Kart Frame
Let the primer dry according to the instructions. You may need to wait one hour before the surface is ready for paint. Although spray painting a go kart is relatively straight forward, if you apply the paint too close or at the wrong intervals, your go kart paint job will end up looking less-than-stellar. Here are the steps that show you how to spray paint a go kart frame the right way:
- Shake the can for at least 1 minute prior to spraying.
- Hold the can at the same distance from the workpiece (about 12-16 inches).
- Move the can back and forth, spraying in thin spurts.
- Reapply top coats if necessary within the first 10 minutes, or you will likely get wrinkles in the paint.
- Let the paint fully cure before handling the go kart frame.
If you want to use other go kart paint designs, like striping, you can use painters tape to mask off the cured top coat, then apply a secondary top coat. You can also find paint-safe vinyl decals, which you can apply a clear coat over top to protect. I just kept it simple with the paint scheme for the frame, but did a two-tone paint job for the rims.
How to Paint Go Kart Rims
Painting go kart rims with a cool two-tone design is a little more complicated than the original go kart paint job. From the metal prep section we know that we need to sand the existing paint, prime, then apply a top coat (the pictured black coat). However, if you want a cool paint design, here are the steps for two-tone rims:
TIP: Use a heat gun between thin coats for the secondary color.
- Let the top coat fully cure (usually a minimum of 48 hours) before adding the second top coat.
- Using painters tape, mask off a circular portion of the rim.
- Cut out a paper plate, and tape it on the interior of the rim.
- Mask off the exterior portion of the rim.
- Apply a very very thin coat of your secondary color (the orange in this case).
- Use a heat gun between the secondary color coats. Applying heat for 3-5 seconds, then adding an additional coat within 10 minutes. This process will prevent wrinkling and bleed through as it flashes off more of the solvents that would get under the primary top coat. You can get away with not using a heat gun, but will need to apply very very thin coats and wait for the paint to cure between coats.
You are now 95% complete. Congratulations! The only thing left to do is patiently wait at least 48 hours for the paint to cure, then assemble the go kart parts back together.