Can You Spray Paint Car Radiator- Revive It In 8 Easy Steps

pexels inline media 5232618 Can You Spray Paint Car Radiator- Revive It In 8 Easy Steps

Your car’s radiator helps eliminate heat from the engine while you drive. The constant movement in the radiator causes considerable wear and tear, and you might notice its paint fading and becoming dull. Don’t worry because you can fix this problem at home by spray painting your car’s radiator.

You can spray paint your car’s radiator by draining the coolant first. Next, remove the radiator from the car’s engine bay and scrub it with a wire brush and cleaner. Strip the old paint and clean any residue with mineral spirits. Finally, apply three to four coats of spray paint before reinstalling it.

Painting a car’s radiator is as straightforward as painting a car’s hood. As long as you know all the steps, you should be able to do a good job. I have made it easier by breaking it down into 8 quick steps that you can follow along to repaint your car’s radiator.

Why painting the car radiator black is a good idea

You must have noticed that car radiators are usually painted dull black. The reason is that the black color is a good radiator and absorbs heat. It emits the heat generated by the engine through radiation. This allows the car’s engine to cool down quickly.

If you decide to paint your car radiator, you should stick to the same color as it has a purpose. Just make sure to use high-quality spray paint that can withstand high temperatures. Buying low-quality paint can decrease your radiator’s efficiency and performance.

A step-by-step guide for painting the radiator with black spray paint

Now that we’ve decided on the color for our radiator spray paint let’s discuss the steps you need to follow to get the perfect finish.

Step 1- Drain the Coolant

The first step is to drain the coolant from the radiator. Depending on the model of your car, you may find the drain located at the bottom of the radiator. Open the valve and remove all the coolant. It’s up to you to discard or store it in a suitable container for later use.

Step 2- Disconnect the radiator

If you want to ensure a good paint job, removing the radiator from the engine bay is recommended. You can refer to the car’s manual for instructions on disconnecting the radiator safely. Since every vehicle is different, take your time examining how it is installed to determine how you can remove it.

Apart from bolts, you will also need to detach any coolant hoses connected to the radiator.

Step 3- Clean the radiator

Wash the radiator with water and soap to remove dust and dirt from its exterior. Use a wire brush with the cleaner to scrub away any oil and grease on the radiator. Once you’re done, clean the surface with a dry cloth.

Since you’ve removed the radiator from the engine bay, you can have it pressure-tested for leaks before painting it. Take it to your nearest radiator shop so the professionals can check it and repair any bent cooling fins if necessary.

Step 4- Strip the old paint

If the existing paint on the radiator is chipped or peeling away, painting on top of that surface is not a good idea. Therefore, strip the old paint with a paint stripper.

Apply the paint stripper on the car’s radiator and let it sit for a few minutes. Follow the instructions given on the stripper’s label to determine how long you should wait. When you see the paint bubbling, wipe the paint stripper with a clean rag. You may need to scrub the area to remove the paint completely.

Step 5- Clean the surface with mineral spirits

Take a clean rag and soak it in mineral spirits. Wipe the radiator’s surface with the cloth to remove any oil and residue from the paint stripper.

Step 6- Apply a coat of primer

Primer helps spray paint adhere to any surface it’s applied to. Make sure to select a primer designed for metal surfaces. You also need it to withstand high heat since the radiator is placed inside the engine bay.

The VHT Engine Enamel Primer is a good choice for this job as it easily endures temperatures up to 500 degrees when cured correctly.

You should apply 2 thin coats of primer, allowing drying time between coats. You can check the primer’s label to find out how long you should wait before applying the first color coat.

Step 7- Apply radiator spray paint

Once the primer is dry, spray a light and even layer of radiator paint. Let it dry for a few minutes before applying the second coat. You may need three to four layers of color coat to achieve solid coverage.

Allow the paint to dry completely for a few hours. If you can leave it overnight, that would be even better.

Step 8- Reinstall the Radiator

Once the paint has fully cured, reinstall the radiator into the engine bay and reattach any hoses that were removed. Fill it with coolant and start the motor to check for leaks. If everything is functioning correctly, stand back and feel proud of your achievement!

Can you use normal metal paint on radiators?

The simple answer is no!

Regular paints are designed for metal surfaces but not to withstand high temperatures. The best spray paint for a car radiator is different because it is formulated to block heat from the engine and is usually black in color. Therefore, even the best spray paint for metals will not deliver good results on the car’s radiator.

Best paints for automotive radiators

Here are my top picks that are readily available in the market.

1. VHT Engine Enamel Spray Paint

This is an engine enamel paint formulated especially for your car’s engine. It offers superior durability and finish while withstanding temperatures up to 500°F. The paint works best when used in combination with a primer and top coat.

2. Rust-Oleum Automotive Engine Enamel Spray Paint

Another great option, this paint is formulated for use on automotive engines and other surfaces that are exposed to high temperatures up to 500°F. It is gas and oil-resistant, making it perfect for your car’s radiator. In addition, the formula helps prevent rust, increasing the life of your paint job.

3. Rust-Oleum High Heat Spray Paint

This oil-based paint formula renews and protects metal surfaces against high temperatures of up to 1000°F. It is ideal for painting car engines and radiators as it has excellent color retention even under extreme heat.

Another benefit of using this paint is that you don’t need a primer to improve adhesion. It sticks to metal surfaces delivering a rich satin finish that prevents chipping, rust, and corrosion.

4. Krylon High Heat Spray Paint

This is an enamel spray paint that can be used to paint your car’s radiator. Since the color can endure high temperatures, you can use it on your engine, cooking stove, and other surfaces exposed to extreme heat.

Is it safe to paint your car’s radiator?

Paint is prone to flaking and chipping. If this happens near the radiator’s thermostat, chances are it will malfunction. For this reason, you should be careful applying paint near the thermostat. Moreover, the color should be kept from any sharp edges or corners.

For your paint job to last on the radiator, it’s crucial to use high-quality paint explicitly designed for it. Ordinary paints will not perform the same way and eventually chip off under high heat. If you want long-lasting results, try one of the options listed above to paint your radiator black.


Do I need special paint for radiators?

Yes, for your paint results to last, you need to use a specialist radiator paint. That is because it is heat resistant compared to its counterparts.

Can Rustoleum spray paint withstand heat?

Rust-Oleum offers a variety of paints, including high heat and automotive engine enamel paint that can withstand high temperatures up to 1000°F.

Is enamel paint good for radiators?

Enamel paint is an excellent option for radiators as it is more resistant to heat than latex paint. You can also find ‘high-heat’ enamel paints to be used on automotive engines and other parts exposed to extreme temperatures.


The radiator in your car is a crucial part of your motor’s cooling system, but as it gets older, the paint starts fading and chipping from being exposed to continuous high heat. Spray paint can help revive the appearance of your car’s radiator efficiently without a professional paint job. Just follow the steps mentioned above, and you should have an ‘almost new’ radiator ready in no time.

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