Paiting your intercooler pipes and engine cover

Last summer I got bored with the engine bay look of my CSRT4 and decided to spice things up by customizing a little the charge pipes and engive cover. The end result turned out pretty cool (in my opinion at least) and since a lot of people asked me how I did it and what was the process, I though that maybe it will be nice to do a quick "how to" :).
The process is not complicated at all. It just requires a lot of preparation and patience.

Things that you will need...

  • Sandpaper (100 grit) or even better, just a glit hand pad
  • Primer (usually if is possible is good to get something that is close to the color you want to apply)
  • Paint (aerosol cans with the favorite color you wish to have)
  • Clear coat (something that is good quality and able to rezist the high temperatures that are inside the engine bay)
  • Goof Off (or any other similar product that you prefer and is able to clean grease and paint)
  • Painter's mask
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Aerosol can handle (not required, but it will make your job easier and you have a better control over the cans - highly recommended from my point of view)

And if you plan to do something similar with what I have done, you will also need some Sharpies. Here are the ones I have used - ready available at your local art suplier (feel free to experiment with others - in this case try them on a test part painted in the color you are going to use):

  • Sharpie Pen - Fine (any other point size will OK as well - is up to you basically)
  • Sharpie Oil Based PAINT - Medium (again any other point size is OK...)

Removing stuff; stuff to pay atention to...

Well, first things first... remove the items you want to paint from your car.

In the case of pipes, is usually a couple of clamps that needs to be removed and any other sensors that you might have connected to them. Then you can just slide the pipes out of the silicone connectores; they are usually straight forward and easy to remove (unless the engine bay is cramped and reaching for stuff is tight).
What I would recomment, the ends that you do not remove (turbo and intercooler inlets), try and cover them with some clean rags; this way critters and debris will not enter your charge system while you are creating your materpiece :).

The engine cover tends to be a little more tricky since you have to remove all the screws/nuts that hold the cover and sometimes there are other things connected to them - like ground wires, supports/brackets for the fuel delivery system and various hoses.
Just pay attemtion at what you remove and is a good idea to take pictures so you will know what goes where. Put all the screws/nuts in a the same place and try not to loose them - keep them organized.

With the engine cover you also have to pay attention to the gaskets. Usually are made of rubber and you need to pay attention not to damage them or contaminate them with dirt and other stuff. Put them away in a cool, dry and clean place. Placing them in a clean transparent bag that you can seal is also a good idea. If they do get dirty by any chance, clean them with a clean rag, gently so you don't scratch them. Consider this also a good time to inspect these gaskets and replace if needed.
Cover the engine top with some clean rags so nothing will fall/enter by mistake. Be very carefull here... anything that falls under the cover will be nothing but big troubles (if you don't realize or if you can't actually remove it any longer). Keep the engine top covered and hood closed until you are ready to re-install the cover.

Preparing your items for paint

The pipes are very easy to prepare. Remove any sensors that you might have connected (if any) and then using your sandpaper / glit hand pad, lightly score all the areas you want to paint. Make sure to seal the areas you do not want to paint with automotive painter's tape.
After everything is nicely scratched (and there is no lose paint), clean the pipes with some Goof Off (or whatever else you prefer that does a similar job). I would recommend to wear gloves at any time, to make sure you keep the oil from your hands off the items.

If by any chance you have any kind of rust on your pipes (some oem charge pipes are not aluminium), make sure you completly clean the area until the metal is nice and shiny and NO rust is present. If you have holes in your pipes (as a result of corrosion), replace the pipes (might sound obvious, but better to say it...)

The engine cover will require a little more work. The inside of the cover is usually coated with engine oil and you need to clean this before doing anything or else the oil will drip and eventually find a way on the outside and paint will not stick.
Grab a few clean rags, and with your favorite grease remover, clean the inside and outside carefully.

On the cover you will need to tape off any pieces where the hoses gets connected and also the holes for the sparkplugs. Have a piece of carboard under the cover, trace a shape of it, cut it and then tape it to the bottom. The important thing is to make sure you do not get paint inside the cover because oil will eventually peal it off and you will get into big trouble.
Once you have done all that, is time to lightly score the cover just like we have done with the pipes. Make sure you get to every little corner or else paint might not stick properly. Clean it once all sides are scored nicely.

Painting... steps and what to pay attention to

Before you start painting anything, make sure you clean each part separetely just before you start painting them.
Chose a place where you can have air circulating, but in the same time is not too open to the outside, from where wind can bring dust and other stuff on your parts.

IMPORTANT!!!

Have your mask, protection glasses and gloves on at all times when painting!

We apply the first coats with the primer (usually anything between 2 to 4, or even more if really needed). Always apply light coats and slowly build them untill all surfaces are cover by it - the goal is to try and make sure you don't get any paint runs. Better to do multiple coats and be safe. Wait for the primer to dry between coats - the time depends a lot on the primer you are using and the surrounding temperatures - read the instructions on the cans regarding drying times.
Once the parts are completly covered by primer, depending on the primer you used, you might have to very lightly sand them again to create a binding surface for the paint - again, read instructions on the can. Just make sure is very, very light... you don't want to go back and re-do it again. Use grits like 800 and up to make sure you take just very little off.

After the primer is dry, you can start painting the parts. As with the primer, make sure you apply light coats to avoid runs, especially on this step. Any mistakes now, will mean that you will have to start this all over again - sanding, priming, etc...
If you are planning to just have one color (no fancy artwork), once the paint is dry to the touch you can start applying the clear coat. If you plan to do some artwork, you have to let the paint dry completly over night.

If you are doing some hand paiting using sharpies, you can do so once the paint is completly dry. Just grab you favorite color sharpies and let your imagination run wild :).
Personally I worked with the part, folowing its lines and be random. I had no plan when doing it. It was pretty much doodling. Just work slow and do not press to hard on the paint. Depending on the tip of the sharpie, you might run the risk to scratch or worse, take off the paint.
Have fun with it :).

Applying the clear coat is pretty much like paiting as well. If you used sharpies, make sure the first 2 coats are very, very light. If is too heavy, first of all, it will run, but worst of all, it will run with your sharpie colors and get nothing but smudges.
If you are not using the sharpies, you don't have to be so light on the first 2 coats... but still, like the paint, don't go too heavy either - runs are bad ;).

Once you are happy with the end results, be patient and don't install anything yet... let it dry over night!
Next morning... put everything back in, sit back and admire :).

Annnd... that's pretty much it :).
I hope this helps you guys and answer some of your questions regardin how to paint parts; and I also hope you had fun doing this.
Remember, patience and preparation is the key to the whole process.

Sorry about the bad quality pictures, I used a very cheap camera because I didn't wanted to ruin my phone while working with paint (not that my phone is any kind of amazingly high end stuff...).

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me by using the Contact me form.
I will do my best and help as much as I can.

Disclaimer!
I am NOT a professional mechanic. Everything I do I gathered from my experience and from other car enthusiasts.
While what I advise and recommend is one way of doing things, please understand that you take your own chances following my DIYs and I cannot be held responsible if you damage your car or hurt yourself by not following the "proper procedures".