How to Paint a Box Truck With Tractor Paintby J.E. Myers
If you can’t afford to have your box truck repainted professionally, use “tractor” paint and apply it yourself. Tractor paint, available at all farm supply and most home improvement stores, is an especially durable oil-based paint that is nearly impervious to the elements. Farmers use tractor paint to prevent rust on outdoor farm equipment. You can use this same product to paint a box truck. The result won’t be a “showroom finish” but it looks surprisingly good.
Clean the box truck of any surface dirt. Use a wire brush or a power grinder to remove rust spots. Fill rust holes with a fiberglass product like Bondo. If the box truck still has the residue of old vinyl lettering, use the grinder to remove these tell-tale signs. If you merely paint over them, the lettering outlines will likely show through.
Mask any chrome trims, black plastic trims, lenses and glass surfaces. Use “red paper,” kraft paper, or newspaper and duct tape to create the masking. Remove any protruding objects like door handles. If thin plastic or metal trims cut through door panels, remove them rather than try to mask or paint around them.
Choose your paint color scheme. Tractor paint comes in a limited range of colors, mostly primary colors of red, yellow, green, and blue. Two shades of blue, “royal” and “navy” are sometimes available. Other shades like orange and purple are rare. Black, white, and grey/silver are also available. Don’t try to mix these colors to achieve different colors: the result will be muddy and disappointing. Consider painting parts of the box truck in a color, and other parts in white. Paint the top of the box roof grey or white to reflect heat and to limit fading of darker colors in the sun.
Prime the box truck. Use a red or grey primer. Apply the primer with a commercial spray gun connected to an air compressor for the fastest application. Otherwise, use a combination of paint rollers and brushes. Wipe out any drips before they harden.
Apply the tractor paint using large paint rollers for larger surface areas, and smaller rollers for smaller areas. Avoid using a paint brush if at all possible. Rollers leave fewer brush marks than paint brushes will. Apply one coat of the paint evenly and then allow to dry for 24 hours in a (hopefully) dust-free location. Discard the roller heads and brushes.
Paint on a second coat using a fresh roller head on your paint roller, or a fresh brush. Be very careful to blend wet edges of painted sections together and avoid overlapping too many layers.
Evaluate the results before you remove any masking. If the color looks flat, you may want to add a third coat of paint. Or, consider applying a layer of marine shellac to further protect the paint and add more gloss. Roll on any shellac but don’t brush it on.
Remove the masking and restore any handles.
Apply striping or other vinyl appliqués as desired. Use of striping will help hide the fact you painted your box truck yourself.
- "How To Paint Your Tractor"; Tharran Gaines; 2009
- "How to Paint Tractors and Trucks"; Timothy Remus: 2008
Things You'll Need
- Wire brush
- Grinder or sander
- Patching material, such as "Bondo"
- Masking material
- Duct tape
- Tractor paint
- Roller heads (several)
- High-quality oil brushes (several)
- Optional: marine shellac
- Optional: vinyl striping or appliques
A writer and entrepreneur for over 40 years, J.E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in personal computer maintenance and design, home improvement and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years. She currently serves as Director of Elections for McLean County, Illinois government.