How to paint a car engine?

This blog post will answer the question, ‘How to paint a car engine?’, and cover topics like standard operating procedures for painting a car engine and engine paint criteria and how to meet them.

How to paint a car engine?

These are the following steps to be followed for painting a car engine:

  • Remove all the cables and other attached components
  • Perform engine disassembly
  • Clean the engine by covering parts that need to stay dry
  • Perform engine deep cleaning using a degreaser to get rid of all the dirt and gunk.
  • Perform engine priming and painting while wearing protective gear
  • After letting the primer dry, apply engine enamel coating
  • Additional coatings can be applied in 24-hour intervals
  • After the desired coating is reached, reassemble the engine and clean the workspace

Standard operating procedures for painting a car engine

The following steps need to be followed in order, to successfully paint a car engine.

Drain Fluids

After removing all the cables from the battery and other related components, drain all the engine fluids from the engine block and turn over the engine on different sides to remove any leftover fluids.

Engine Disassembly 

Draining fluids is followed by engine dismantling. This step includes the disassembly of all the pumps like the water pump and steering pump along with the intake manifold. The cylinder head and timing belt can also be removed for a better painting process.

Parts that are attached to the engine using nuts or bolts are also recommended to be removed since they might cover up a significant surface area on the engine.


Using labels can prove to be very beneficial as there are a lot of parts in an engine and it might get difficult to find everything once the painting job has been completed.

This includes labeling all cables, spark plugs, radiator hoses, fuel supply lines, and also smaller connecting parts like nuts and bolts. These smaller parts can be placed in a plastic bag to access them after the painting process.

Engine cleaning

This is a very important step as it involves cleaning a lot of potential dirt and gunk-filled areas. We can use a dry bristle brush for most of it. Not doing this will result in paint chipping down the line.

For a deeper cleaning procedure, certain degreasers are available in the market that permits cleaning of the more persistent debris and gunk, or even rusty areas in the engine.

Degreasers are to be applied in such a way that they fully coat the engine. They should be rinsed by using a hose with pressurized water and need to be dried by means of compressed air.


For a better cleaning method, sandblasting can be used to remove persistent gunk and rust particles. A solution of water and vinegar mixed in a 1:1 ratio can be applied to these areas to neutralize the area, which is indicated by a foamy formation.

Primer coating

A wet cloth dipped in a paint thinner can be used to wipe down the entire engine block before applying the primer coating. Protective gear like a respirator and gloves must be used as the primer contains chemicals that irritate the eyes and nose.

A heat resistant primer should be used for this process and should be allowed to sit for a couple of hours before applying another coating in case the initial coating appears uneven.

Enamel Coating

Again, a heat-resistant enamel coating is what we must use for applying the enamel coating to the primer coating. Enamel coatings are applied to prevent the heat from the sun melt the paint.

Enamel coatings once applied, should be allowed to sit for about 24 hours before applying the next coating.

Engine Assembly

The engine along with all its cables and critical components needs to be assembled and placed back into the engine in a manner similar to how it was taken out. This is where the labeling step helps save a lot of time and effort.

After all these steps have been completed, it is vital to clean up the workspace for future use.

Engine paint criteria and how to meet them

These are the following criteria that need to be met to select a proper engine paint.

Heat resistance properties

Usage of acrylic enamel formulation in engine paints helps it maintain a glossy finish after painting while also boasting superb heat resistance capabilities. They are very easy to work with even while the engine is mounted in the vehicle and can withstand temperatures within 450-500F.

Retaining gloss

Acrylic enamel along with great heat resistant capabilities offers a good glossy look after painting and is good at avoiding scratches that often dull a surface over time. It also has the ability to retain color well.

Avoiding paint chipping and flaking

Metal expansion and contraction when subject to varying temperature conditions do not affect the likes of acrylic enamel formulation. Thus, they help in avoiding paint chipping and flaking and also protect it from getting cracked due to accidental strikes by a tool.

Protection against corrosion

Acrylic enamel formulation helps protect the paint against the forces of rust and corrosion. It also acts as a protective layer against oils, degreasers, and other additives.

Research has shown the best engine paints available in the market.


This blog post answered the question, ‘How to paint a car engine’.

We came across the standard operating procedures for painting a car engine and also discussed the various criteria to be met in order to select a good engine paint. Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to paint a car engine?

What kind of paint is used on engines?

Usage of enamel paints is very common for painting an engine as they have great color retention capabilities and help in maintaining a long-lasting glossy finish.

How many cans does it take to paint an engine?

The entire engine should be painted using two coatings from three paint cans.

Does Rustoleum enamel need primer?

Rustoleum enamel needs a high-heat primer before the application of lacquer in order to make the surface spotless.