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Ford F-150 Power Stroke - Custom Paint

10 Things You Should Know Before The Paint Sprays

Photography by , Bryan Kinney

Making the plunge to opt for custom paint on your diesel truck is a big decision and not one that should be taken lightly. There's a lot you should know before you sign a job order and the paint starts flowing out of the gun. We've seen a lot of truck owners go through a little bit of hell due to bad decisions, when it came to custom paint, so we've decided to give you some food for thought on the matter. We talked with several reputable custom paint shops and have distilled what they've said into these four pages. If you still want to go ahead and forge off into directions unrecommended, just be forewarned that it can be a long and messy process.

The end result of a new custom paint job can cause such a strong pull in the emotional chain that people lose sight of their senses and will believe anything. The solid businessman who has earned enough money to be in a situation to own an expensive diesel pickup and have the extra cash available to add custom graphics would seem to be the kind of person who would make measured and reasonable decisions about who should paint his truck and how it should get done. Unfortunately, customizing vehicles is a passionate hobby and many otherwise sane individuals will often lose sight of what's sensible and go off the deep end with trust.

And that brings us to rule number one. Find out a lot about the person/shop that is going to be painting your truck. If they work out of their garage, or a dirt lot somewhere, ask yourself why that is the case. Usually, there's a reason why a guy has no shop and seems to be several thousand dollars less than all the reputable shops you've encountered. It's a simple saying: "You get what you pay for," but it is usually accurate. A guy without a shop who usually offers no guarantees on the paint might have questionable business practices and may not be there in six months when you come back with an issue to solve, or worse...they might just be less talented than their counterparts who've set up shop with all the right facilities. A shop has gone to the trouble of getting a license, obtaining insurance, and will most likely be there when you come back for warranty work. Chances are the shop has better equipment, too.

Rule number two is to make sure you see lots of vehicles that this company has painted. Ask for references that you can call to inquire about their satisfaction with the process. Check out the vehicles that you are able to look at carefully. Look for defects, and ask if the truck has had repair work done to it.

Rule number three is to stick with your base color. Completely changing the color of your truck-say, from white to red-is cost-prohibitive if done correctly and a mess if not. We know a guy who had a Topkick changed from white to red and it cost him $50,000 to do it. That's because it was done right, the doorjambs were painted, the firewall was painted, under the hood was painted, and everything was painted. If you don't go to this much trouble, then you will always have the reminders of the former color there to annoy you. There's nothing that will kill resale value more than a potential buyer pulling your carpet up and then wondering why the floor is a different color than the rest of the truck. We were able to find shops that would do a color change on a regular-sized pickup for around $10-15,000.

The way to add a custom paintjob to your truck, according to Rick Price of SoCal Paint & Body in Santee, California, (619) 449-2500, says the trick is to incorporate the base color into the new custom paint so that the doorjambs and the rest can stay the base color and it makes sense. Adding a two-tone section or flames or graphics over your original color can be done for a reasonable amount of money, too.

Our informal survey of shops determined that a two-tone custom paintjob with a dividing line separating the colors would run in the neighborhood of $3,500 to $6,000. That's for good quality paint, two to four colors in the graphics, pinstriping separating the colors, and quality clear over the top. Which brings up rule number four: Make sure the shop uses quality products. You want to see brands like PPG, DuPont, House of Kolor, or one of these company's derivatives. And don't forget the brand of the clear. There are a lot of shops that will throw on "Johnny Zippo" clear and save some bucks and maybe some time, but the cheapie clears don't have the UV protection that custom paint needs. The clear is your first line of defense against the elements, so make sure they are using the best product available so that you can enjoy your custom paint for many years down the road.

Don't get too focused on the price of the job. That's rule number five. If you're comparison-shopping and end up going with the lowest price, you will probably get what you pay for. There's a reason why one shop is a grand or more less to do the same job. You're probably best served if you throw out the highest and lowest bids and then average the rest of your quotes to come up with a reasonable amount that you should be paying. Don't forget that these guys are artists plying a craft and they don't appreciate you trying to put the screws to them for a lower price.

Rule number six is make sure you pick graphics and colors that won't go out of fashion in a few years. You can't miss with flames. They have always been popular and probably always will be. Bryan Kinney of KC Customs in Santa Rosa, California, (707) 888-7437, says current trends include water spots, true flames (they look like real flames), cracks, line graphics, skulls, and murals. For a very long time, the most popular colors have been blues, purples, orange pearl, and yellow pearl. There's a growing number of green pearl and red colors being used, too. Most flame jobs can be done for around $3,000-$4,000. Of course, keep in mind that all of the prices mentioned in this article assume that your truck is in good condition and doesn't need any bodywork.

Rob Miller of Rob Miller Customs in Santee, (619) 889-6607, says when you start shopping around and comparing prices and quality of work, know what it is that you want. That is rule number seven. It wastes a lot of time if you come in talking about a two-tone paintjob and then change your mind to flames, and then change again to a mural with lightning bolts running down the side of the truck. While the shops might have great suggestions and tips to make sure your ideas are fully executed, don't just walk in and expect them to completely design a paint scheme for you. Time is money-if you make them do all the design work, then you should expect to pay for it. And don't waste more of their time by calling every other hour and inquiring about how the job is going. Let them get the work done and call you when it's ready. They'll love you, if you do.

Rule number eight is making sure the shop offers a warranty on their work. You want to have the comfort of knowing that if the clear turns milky white after a couple of months the shop is going to take care of it.

Make sure you take care of your custom paint. That's rule number nine. Ask the painter what steps you should take to protect the paint and then follow the advice, religiously. You're protecting your own investment. You might want to go back to the painter after six months to have them look at the truck for any issues, and maybe they will want to detail the truck for you (you're going to pay for that, of course).

Make sure the shop is using a paint booth-that's rule number 10. That way, you know the environment the truck is painted in is free of contaminants, and weather no longer plays a role in the outcome of your paint.

Stick with these 10 rules and you should end up having a good experience. You'll love your truck more and so will everyone who looks at it.

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