How to Paint Brake Calipers

Preparing to Paint Brake Calipers

Of course you're excited about spiffing up your wheels, but don't just dive in without preparing. Here's what you should have on hand:

  • A secure way to jack your car up and remove all four wheels at once. This means jack stands or a floor jack, not hydraulic jacks. Don't skimp on your own safety.
  • A tire iron
  • Goggles
  • A dust mask
  • Paint
  • Soap that removes grease -- whatever you normally use to wash up from auto repairs
  • Spray solvent, brake cleaning fluid or alloy wheel cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • A small paintbrush, about a half to 1 inch wide
  • Dropcloths, newspaper, masking tape, plastic grocery bags and whatever else you need to keep paint from going where you don't want it. If you're using aerosol paint, remember that it can travel very far. Cover everything.
  • Tools for cleaning the brake calipers. You may want to combine the efforts of a toothbrush, a small piece of sandpaper, and wire brush -- or a power drill with a wire brush attachment. Don't dream of using the drill and wire brush without goggles. Even good brushes can send those sharp little bristles flying [source: Neal].

If you're removing the calipers, you'll also need:

  • A way to suspend the calipers without putting any weight or stress on the brake line. Wire clothes hangers will do.
  • A ratchet to remove the brake calipers
  • A way to drain the brakes

Finally, a few optional supplies:

  • Acetone (fingernail polish remover) for cleaning up spills
  • A clear glass container in which to mix paint, if you're combining colors for a custom shade.
  • An abrasive cleaning pad, such as a ScotchBrite, if you're painting over an existing coat of caliper paint.

One other thing you should have on hand? Time. You won't be able to drive the car for 24 hours after painting the brake calipers, so plan well.

Preparation is what separates a good job from a messy one. Actually applying the paint is pretty easy. Find out what to do on the next page.