How to Paint Motorcycle Exhaust Pipes

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How to Paint Motorcycle Exhaust Pipes

The motorcycle exhaust looks great when new, but the wear and tear caused by excessive high temperatures and burning fumes takes its toll. After just a few years, they can begin to degrade the rest of the bike which may otherwise still look as new. A rider has the option to cover the pipe with a muffler heat shield, paint it, or do both. The challenge is not only to paint the exhaust pipes so as to look authentic with the appropriate finish, but to achieve correct adhesion so the paint does not bubble and peel.

eBay has motorcycle accessories that can help achieve this objective, although that does not negate the importance of following the rules. There are several steps the operator must take to ensure success, but the right medium is the foundation to attaining the desired outcome. For motorcycle enthusiasts keen to restore their bike to its former good looks, having the necessary provisions and applying the correct technique is paramount.

Reasons to Paint the Exhaust

There are really only two reasons to paint the exhaust; restoration and decoration. Any decorative painting, however, must be seen as an addition to an already well prepared and primed exhaust. Restorative painting, then, is essential to anything else. Although decorative features can be added to an exhaust, this is often superfluous with many of today's decorative heat shields.

Exhaust discolouration is the natural consequence of the repeated heating and cooling cycle. This is far less serious than rust, although still unsightly to many motorcyclists. Painting the exhaust a flat black can provide the best solution.

Product Choice

Choosing the right paint is perhaps the single most important step. A high temperature-resistant paint is one that can withstand temperatures of between 1,200 and 2,000 degrees celsius. This is the only kind that should be used on a motorcycle's exhaust, although if necessary, heat resistant paints for barbeques and grills can suffice. Such paints, however, are less likely to last as long which means the procedure may have to be repeated sooner. When choosing the right paint, the restorer should find the type with the highest temperature endurance factor.

Exhaust Preparation and Painting

Before painting, the restorer should ensure the workspace is well ventilated and that protective equipment, such as gloves and face mask, are at hand for spray painting and sanding. Correct preparation of the exhaust system is one of the key elements in achieving successful paint adhesion. Rushed restoration work is rarely satisfying, so the operator must ensure that they not only have the right tools at hand, but have also allowed adequate time to complete the task. If the restorer wishes to complete the job in a day, they should start early. This is because a few hours of the operation is dedicated to drying and curing.

Cleaning the Exhaust

The exhaust should be placed in a position that facilitates easy access and thorough cleaning. With latex gloves on, the operator should begin by scouring dirt and grease, as well as old paintwork, from the exhaust. For this task, a rag soaked in paint thinners and a wire brush should be used. Once the old paint is gone, some sanding back should follow, with coarse sandpaper to smooth out any ripples or unevenness. Finally, the exterior cleaning procedure should conclude with another wipe over with paint thinners.

The inside of the exhaust can be cleaned also with a narrow and long handled wire brush. When the exhaust is dry, the restorer can mask off with tape and newspaper if there are some areas that are not to be painted.

Painting the Exhaust

The exhaust should ideally be suspended for painting, as this offers the best results with greater overall evenness. This can be done by hooking a cable through one end of the pipe if it contains a latch or hook, and attaching it to an independent rig. Or alternatively, the restorer can thread wire through the pipe and suspend it from the ceiling. Suspension offers the most efficient way to achieve an even result as the operator can move around it with greater ease.

The bike restorer should apply a coat of primer before applying the chosen colour paint. Doing this increases the bonding power between paint and steel, improving paintwork longevity. After a drying period of 15 to 20  minutes, a second coat of primer is applied. The first coat of colour paint should be applied 20 minutes, or longer, after the second coat of primer. This coat should be sprayed with light evenness, and allowed to dry for at least one hour. A second coat of colour paint should then be applied, and allowed to dry for another hour. Finally, a clear top coat should be applied in the same way as the colour paint, and allowed to dry for at least an hour.

Curing the Exhaust

The curing process can be done in an oven, a kiln, or on the bike itself. For practical reasons, the majority of motorcyclists choose to use the heat from their own bike's engine to cure the fresh paintwork.

When the clear coat has completely dried, the restorer should cover the first fifteen centimetres of the manifold end of the exhaust pipe with heat wrap before reattaching it to the bike. This helps protect the hottest part of the pipe and preserves the paintwork. On reattachment, the restorer should start the engine, let it run for 10 minutes, then switch it off and let it cool for twenty. Following this, they should restart the engine, let it run for 20 minutes, then switch off and let cool for 20 minutes. Finally, the restorer should run the engine again for 30 minutes before switching it off and letting exhaust cool completely.

This completes the curing process, although depending on personal discretion, an additional heating and cooling cycle can be added if believed necessary. In this case, the restorer would run the engine for 40 more minutes after it had cooled for twenty from the last heat cycle.

DIY versus Professional

When faced with the need to paint the exhaust, a motorcyclist should ask themselves if they have the required skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the task successfully. If they do not feel completely confident, they should opt for professional service. However, if the step by step instructions are followed carefully, the procedure can successfully be carried out by non professionals with moderate to high skill levels. The below chart illustrates the advantages and disadvantages of a motorcyclist painting their own exhausts, versus having them painted professionally.





Cheap; complete creative control

Risk; operator responsible for any possible mistake


Less risk; workmanship may be guaranteed

Expensive; less control over final outcome

Assistance is recommended for those undertaking the do-it-yourself method. Although it can be carried out as a sole operation by an experienced person, a second pair of hands can save time and improve efficiency.

How to Buy Motorcycle Exhaust Accessories on eBay

When you know which type of accessories you need for your exhaust painting operation, use a broad search option such as "protective face mask", or a product-specific keyword search such as "latex gloves". You can also refine your search further with the various filtering options. Looking through all relevant listings, compare the specifications of each, and make the necessary comparisons between them. Always read the terms of sale and returns policies very carefully, as these do vary between sellers. Also consider the postage and handling options and choose whichever is most appropriate according to product type and distance from seller.

Additionally, you should find out enough about your designated seller to feel comfortable in purchasing from them. Check to see if they have an eBay seller certificate, and consult their customer feedback rating. Also, see if your designated seller has their own eBay shop. This is valuable for when you are looking for an elusive item, or in situations when you want a specific and hard-to-get brand.


Motorcyclists take great pride in their equipment, especially when new and displaying all of the style features so vividly. The exhaust, however, is usually the first part of the bike to lose its shine. Rust and corrosion can degrade the rest of the bike and lower its perceived value. In cases like this, replacement may be the best option. On the other hand, when the exhaust has merely become discoloured from heat, painting is a much cheaper alternative to replacement and serves its purpose well. Although many riders conceal most of their exhaust from view with the heat shield, an exhaust in good condition is an important aspect to maintaining the overall integrity of the bike.

Motorcycle maintenance products available on eBay provide the opportunity to complete a bike overhaul very affordably. If the owner has the ability, experience, and labour assistance, they could save a bundle if the work they have in store is particularly extensive.

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