How to Paint an Aluminum Truck Toolbox

by Dakota Wright

A flawless, do-it-yourself paint finish on aluminum toolboxes starts with extensive preparation. Aluminum tool boxes have a corrosion resistant coating of aluminum oxide, which prevents rust. This oily substance is great for counteracting corrosion, but it impedes the adhesion of bonding primers and paint. Inadequate preparation work will result in a paint finish that cracks, peels and scales under extreme conditions. You wouldn't want to paint your toolbox every month; take your time in the prepping stages to ensure a quality finish.

Step 1

Clean and degrease the entire surface of the tool box. Aluminum oxide will rapidly reform on the surface, so prepare the surface and paint it in the same day.

Step 2

Sand the surface of the toolbox with 80-grit sandpaper to scratch the surface. If you want a showroom finish, sand the surface again with progressively finer sandpaper -- etch primers use these scratches to penetrate the surface of aluminum and burrow into it.

Step 3

Clean the toolbox after sanding with a degreasing cleaner. Wipe the surface dry with a tack cloth to remove small particles. Particles of dust or metal contribute to flaking paint and rust. If the surface feels slick or oily, repeat these steps until you breach the aluminum oxide coat.

Step 4

Soak a cloth in rubbing alcohol and rub down the tool box. Let the alcohol evaporate from the surface before using etch primer.

Step 5

Shake the etch primer aerosol can vigorously for two minutes. Apply two even coats of etch primer. Wait five minutes between each coat. This lets the etch primer "flash-off" or begin the chemical compounding process -- etch primer should cure for 20 minutes before painting.

Step 6

Paint the tool box with high-heat or all-weather paint. Follow the directions on the spray can and apply light, even coats. Allow each coat to cure before moving on to the next. Your tool box will be exposed to severe weather and temperatures throughout the year. Painting with a paint that can withstand these conditions prevents flaking and scaling.

Step 7

Spray on a quality paint sealer. Paint sealer or clear coat can be purchased in different degrees of gloss. For a truly flat finish, paint the surface and buff out the shine with a steel wool pad.

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