How To Paint Your Fender

Adding Color to Your Ride One Layer at a Time


The shape and length of the Gold Wing front fender has remained largely unchanged since the 1988 introduction of the GL1500. Given the number of front fender extensions available on the Gold Wing aftermarket, you have to wonder why Honda hasn’t simply made the front fender extend lower to keep road grime off the front cowl. But they haven’t, so many Wingers add a front fender extension, including me.

While I have no objection to chrome accessories, I prefer chrome when a part looks like it is a unique, final piece of the bike. To me, a front fender extension should look like part of the fender, so I went shopping for a color-matched extension for my 2012 Alizarin Red GL1800. I quickly learned that the only company I could find that made them had gone out of business. At Wing Ding, though, I found a stack of front fender extensions at Gene’s Gallery, in a variety of colors, at a very reasonable $5 each. They had no mounting hardware, but that’s hardly a complex problem to solve. I bought two red ones, one for myself and one for my older brother, who has the same year and color Wing. I knew the color was way off, but I figured painting them couldn’t be that big a task. Wrong!

I had finished spraypainting another project and was carrying it in from the garage when I noticed that the red paint was a near perfect match for my bike. This couldn’t be any easier! I sanded the gloss off the two extensions, primed them with three coats, and shot three coats of red on them. I topped that off with four clear coats, held the extension up next to my bike (still sitting in the garage) and was ready to call it a win, as the color was pretty close.

Then I happened to be talking to Rich Thorwaldson at Ride or Race and he mentioned that he had some automotive accessory double-sided tape that was easily strong enough to hold the extension in place with no drilling. That sounded fine to me, so I took my freshly painted extension up to Mill Street to stick it on. But alas, when I pulled the extension out of the trunk and saw it next to the fender in the bright sunlight, it had mysteriously become several shades lighter. A color that had looked very close to a match inside was nowhere near the right color in direct sunlight. So I headed to the Web for information. I knew that for many years (actually, since 1991), Honda had been using U.S. Paint as the supplier for many of the Gold Wing colors. I went to its website, found the color coding for my bike and looked for information on how to order some. It quickly became apparent that it targeted professional body shops and not mechanics, as there were mixing tables, color codes, reducing percentages, measurements in grams, and well more than enough to convince me that this was not going to happen in my garage. I called around locally and learned that Reno Paint Mart could mix colors and prepare spray cans with the mixed colors, so I went there with my mixing information tables. After looking over the tables, I was informed that it couldn’t make that paint because it was a metallic base and a three-layer color. The metallic base contained tiny particles of aluminum and it couldn’t make a spray can containing that.

I was certain that several months ago I had seen home spray kits for Gold Wings mentioned in Wing World, so I went back through several issues and ran a few Web searches. Eventually, I located ColorRite, in Palmdale, California, who did indeed make spray kits for Gold Wings. After a bit more research, I learned that the kit required a separate base-color spray in addition to the colors in the kit. And they were custom prepared for each order, so it would take a few days to prepare the color combinations to match my bike. So I placed an order for $130, and started wondering if maybe an off-the-shelf chrome extension wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Meanwhile, I began sanding, sanding and sanding. I decided that I would get the best results by completely sanding off not only my 10 spray coats, but the original red paint as well. That only took a week. Chrome was sounding better all the time.

I had wet sanded the fender extensions with 320 grit to remove all the old paint. If you’re not familiar with this technique, it is just what it sounds like. You use very fine sandpaper designed to hold up to use while wet. Because it is so fine it doesn’t scratch the underlying plastic, but it takes an enormous amount of sanding to remove the more than dozen coats of paint. You keep the item wet and keep dipping the sandpaper in water while you sand. If you don’t keep everything wet, the removed paint will quickly clog up the grit of the sandpaper. The water turns the removed paint into a paste, which you wash off by frequently dunking both the sandpaper and the item in water. Eventually, after you’ve worn out half-a-dozen sheets of sandpaper and several hundred arms and wrists, you get all the paint off.

Eventually, I had both extensions down to bare ABS, although well after the kit had arrived from ColorRite. The kit was very complete, with detailed instructions, masking tape, cleaning swatches, tack cloth, primer, base-color, tinted topcoat and clearcoat sprays. I read over the instructions several times, making sure I understood everything, then took a deep breath and got to work. First step: more sanding. It was time to move to a much finer 600 grit, still wet sanding, to get the fender extensions as smooth as possible. Then I cleaned them with the oil-removing cleanser from the kit and rinsed everything thoroughly. Then it was another cleaning with the tack cloth and finally time to start spraying. The instructions made it clear how many coats of primer and base color were needed, and that each coat has a certain amount of drying time. Spray the next coat too soon and it will sag. Wait too long and the coats will not bond properly. I figured that it would be pretty easy to get confused somewhere along the way, so I wrote down the name of each coat as I sprayed it, the time I finished, and the time the next coat was to be sprayed.

The instructions called for two coats of primer, then two coats of base color. They were quite specific that you were to use exactly two coats of base color. Then, you were to start spraying on coats of top color and check the color match after each coat. The paint would get darker with each layer of topcoat. Once you had enough coats on to get the right color, you switched to clearcoat, and put on exactly three coats. They also cautioned you several times to keep a piece of properly prepared scrap material handy, applying the paint to that as well as the real item you were painting. You would use the scrap to check after each coat, determining when to stop applying topcoats. With all this ahead of me, and the fender extensions properly cleaned and dried, it was time to suck it up and start spraying.

After two primer coats came the first basecoat. I was immediately very concerned; the color was nowhere near the color of my bike. My first paint had been much closer! But, the instructions said two base-coats, no more, and then start applying topcoats. So, despite my concerns, I concluded that they knew more about what they were doing than I did, so I proceeded with the second basecoat. While it did darken down slightly, it was still way too light to be anywhere near a match.

With serious concerns, I switched to the tinted topcoats. As instructed, I applied a coat, waited the designated drying time and then did a color check to determine just how close the color was to matching my bike. Sure enough, as I proceeded through the topcoats, the color deepened until after the third coat is was so close to a match that I was thinking it was time to stop.

This is where the prepared piece of scrap material comes into play. While the instructions didn’t mention this, I had decided to use a piece of cardboard long enough that I could apply the proper layers of paint to one end while leaving the other end unpainted to serve as a handle. That allowed me to apply a layer of topcoat to the test piece, then take it out into the sun where I had positioned my bike and see how close the color was. Sure enough, the fourth layer of topcoat made the scrap piece too dark. So three layers of topcoat was the correct stopping point.

Next came three more coats of clearcoat. Again, the instructions were quite specific: no more than three coats. More would start causing a yellowing of the clearcoat, which would in turn change the appearance of the color. So after the three coats of clear were on, I put everything aside to dry overnight.

The next day, I removed the masking from the contact area and cleaned it, then cleaned the inside of the existing fender. I applied the double-sided tape, took a deep breath, squeezed the extension to compress the contact area and slid it up under the fender. Then I relaxed the compression and allowed the extension to expand into contact with the fender and pressed all the contact areas to insure a good tight joint.

Overall, I’m fairly pleased with the result. Out in the sun it looks like I could have gone with one more topcoat and darkened the color just a little more, but my sample strip made that fourth coat look too dark. In any event, it is done now and I hope this will cut down on the grime layers on the lower cowl.


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