The performance and style of open-design, alloy wheels has displaced use of steel wheels on many of today’s vehicle lines. The resulting peek-a-boo display of these vehicles’ brake calipers (particularly on oversized rims) motivated high-end sports car manufacturers to develop brake caliper paint used as eye-candy on their production models.
As Ferraris and other exotic cars began rolling off the line with painted calipers in the early 1990s, the world took notice, and by the middle of the decade brake caliper paint even became standard on several domestic models.
Why Paint Brake Calipers?
Highlighting brake calipers with a coat of paint serves no purpose other than as a cosmetic choice. Some would liken it to painting your toenails. For others, however, protecting the outer surfaces of calipers, brake-rotor hats and/or drums from unsightly corrosion is the logical endpoint after investment in alloy upgrades or custom wheels. In these cases, you may choose to bypass the bright reds and yellows found on sports coupes for a black or metallic shade. Whatever your choice, companies in the automotive market have options for you.
What Makes Caliper Paint Different?
Brake-part surfaces represent one of the most inhospitable environments for paint. Temperatures often exceed those found in the engine, brake fluid eats paint for lunch and brake dust coats everything in sight. These coatings must offer tough, heat-resistant performance that stands up to water, road chemicals and solvents.The first DIYers experimenting with caliper painting used engine paint because of its high-temperature tolerance. Paint companies noticed the trend and responded with dedicated products.
One caution: these paints are tough and once applied, going back may not be an option. If recoating, make sure the manufacturer recommends the product for painted surfaces. Otherwise, your choices are sandblasting or replacement.
Brake Caliper Paint Options
Painting bare metal usually starts with a coat of high-heat primer. Options on the market endure temperatures of up to 2000 degrees F.
Ceramic resin paint comes in both spray-on and brush-on formats. As an enamel-based paint, it typically carries a rating of 500 degrees F. or better and hardens into a durable surface. These paints are affordable ($8 to $15) and readily available. For the best appearance and performance, apply a heat-resistant clear coat over ceramic resin caliper paint. Most companies offer a kit containing everything you need for $45 or less.
And this is what to do if your car shakes when braking.
Two-Part Epoxy Resin Paints
Two-part epoxy resin paints survive even higher temperatures than ceramics (often 900 degrees F.) and last longer. They can be applied in two coats and do not require a separate primer or clear coat. They are more volatile, however, and require more protection for your skin as you work. An epoxy-based kit will cost you $60 to $80.
Other Brake Caliper Paint Options
Other options for customizing your brake calipers include powder coating (very tough and heat-resistant) and vinyl coating. Both can be applied by a DIYer and represent alternatives to solvent-based paint. Eastwood is a company that offers a variety of powder coating powders that cost between $8 to $20. But you’ll need a powder coating gun and a powder coating oven, all of which are also available at Eastwood.
Top Caliper Paint Products
Dupli-Color Black Brake Caliper Aerosol — Dupli-Color’s brake caliper spray paints ranks among the best in reviews. It garners 4.5 stars on Amazon and ranks highly among other reviews. Its ceramic resins resist heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and dries within 30 minutes. Dupli-Color black brake caliper aerosol pros include its fast drying ability. Dupli-Color brake caliper spray paint cons are that it’s heat resistance is lower than other brands.
Rust-Oleum 12-Ounce Red Caliper Spray Paint — The pros of Rust-Oleum’s caliper spray paint is that has a heat resistance of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which ranks among the highest of available caliper spray paints. The cons of Rust-Oleum are that consumers have complained about the spray nozzle not working properly and the color did not match what they expected.
POR-15 Red Caliper Paint — Por-15 Caliper Paint pros include its high heat resistance that is up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Por-15 Caliper Paint cons are that you must brush it on and you must remove your brake caliper before painting.
Tips on Painting Brake Calipers
Brush-on and spray-can options give you the choice of applying the paint on mounted parts (former) or after removal (latter). Note that some paints require heat curing, which requires an oven to accomplish. If you have the time and inclination, most experts advise removing the calipers and breaking them down because the paint can contaminate brake pads, affecting their performance. The paint can also find its way into places where it inhibits proper action of the caliper, which can cause brake failure. Pay particular attention to protecting carriage pins, brake-pad mountings and bolt threads.
Learn the proper way to remove a tire in the video below.