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When Is Powder Coating a Good Option for Your Volkswagen Restoration Project?

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Working on a vintage Volkswagen—whether it is one of the more common Beetles or Buses or a harder-to-find gem like a Karmann Ghias or a Thing—is a fun restoration project. But the nature of Volkswagens as affordable cars on the market makes one much different from a high-end sports car or a designer vehicle.

Powder-coating engine parts and other areas of restored cars is one way to make them look great and increase their durability. The process of powder coating involves the use of an electrostatic process to attract a special powder in an even coat on the metal part. Once the powder is distributed evenly, it's cured by heating to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The part will look painted but be more durable and resistant to corrosion and chemicals.

Some key parts that are often powder-coated include the intake manifold and the belly pan, both of which will benefit from the durable finish. On the interior, the brake, accelerator, and clutch pedals can be powder-coated to resist dirt and look more attractive.

But there are some instances when powder coating is more advisable for Volkswagen parts. Here's the rundown of when powder coating is a good solution.

  1. Your parts are all metal. If parts of your VW have been filled with plastic or epoxy, the heat-curing process won't work. Some pot-metal parts, which are common especially on older VWs, have a low melting point and are also poor candidates for the high heat of powder coating. But all pure metal parts can easily be heated to the necessary temperatures. Plus, metal parts are relatively easy to clean of grime so that the powder can adhere properly.
  2. The color options are a good match. Powder coating does come in several colors, but if you're trying to get an exact match to a vintage Volkswagen color, you may be out of luck. You can't mix powders to get an exact shade.
  3. Thickness doesn't matter. Powder coating does form a thicker layer than plain paint. Engine tin on vintage VWs can be coated, but fitting the pieces back together tightly may be difficult because of the gaps that the powder coat creates. Any place on your vehicle where there is a machined fit may not work with thicker powder coating.
  4. You only need to do the outside of engine parts. Temperatures inside of some parts may rise above what is advised for powder coating. Most of the time, the exterior of the engine parts doesn't get to this temperature, and even if it does, it is much less likely to impact the way your engine performs. Plus, most of the time, interiors of parts aren't visible, so the treatment is overkill.

You should also avoid powder coating any parts that cannot be out of balance, like fan blades. If the coating is accidentally applied unevenly—even just a bit—this can impact the fan's performance.

Talk to a powder-coating specialist such as Powder Coating Specialties for more information on whether your vintage Volkswagen parts are right for this type of treatment.