How to Paint an Aluminum Trailer

by Christian Killian

Painting an aluminum trailer starts with some preparation, because aluminum by itself does not allow the paint to adhere very well. You must take a few extra steps if you want the paint to continue to look good down the road. Some paints claim they are fine to use on bare aluminum and may work fine in some applications, but if you want the finish to last, do the preparation correctly. This will deliver a long-lasting finish that will make you proud.

Wash the entire surface of the trailer with a good degreasing soap and water. Allow the trailer to dry completely.

Sand the surface with 80 grit sandpaper on a block to remove loose paint and to smooth the surface. You are not trying to get the aluminum completely smooth as much as removing contaminants.

Sand the surface using 180 grit sandpaper to further smooth the surface and remove more surface scratches.

Sand the surface with 400 grit sandpaper, working slowly. This is final sanding before primer, so you want to make sure the aluminum is clean and smooth.

Wipe down the trailer with a tack cloth, which will remove sanding dust from the surface.

Spray a conversion coating on the aluminum and allow it to sit. The wait time will be specified by the manufacturer, so check the instructions.

Rinse the conversion coating off the aluminum with water, and allow the trailer to dry. Any remaining water on the trailer will contaminate the primer, so make sure all the water is out of any cracks and crevices.

Apply aluminum oxide primer in several thin coats. Allow the primer to tack--but not completely dry--between coats.

Wet sand the finished primer with 600 grit sandpaper, then again with 800 grit, to remove any scratches or imperfections before painting. Keep the sandpaper wet for best results.

Clean the surface with isopropyl alcohol.

Paint the aluminum trailer with the paint of your choice. For best results, use multiple thin coats.

Tip

  • check You can buy conversion coatings at a good paint store. They come in several different types; ask the associates at the store to help you find the right one for your project.

Items you will need

About the Author

Christian Killian has been a freelance journalist/photojournalist since 2006. After many years of working in auto parts and service positions, Killian decided to move into journalism full-time. He has been published in "1st Responder News" as well as in other trade magazines and newspapers in the last few years.