Introduction: Car Door Warning Color

Picture of Car Door Warning Color

This is a simple 'Ible about using color to increase automobile safety.

Where I live, traffic is dense. We have a plethora of motorized vehicles in a relatively small area, from big trucks on down to scooters. We have a lot of narrow streets and alleys too. Also, here in Taiwan we enjoy a high percentage of motorcycle and scooter ownership. It used to be highest in the world, and may still be. Scooters and motorcycles are often streaming past cars, whether those cars are parked, standing, or under way. It is dangerous when a car door opens and oncoming traffic, either two- or four-wheeled, does not have enough warning.

I am particularly sensitive to this problem since a slight incident that happened a few years back. It was about 8:30 one rainy morning. I was riding my motorcycle on the way to work, and approaching a red light. Everything was a bit blurry because of the rain on my visor. Legally and in accord with local practice, I was passing to the right of the waiting cars when the right back door of one opened suddenly! The front of my cycle hit it and glanced off at an angle, but I didn't go down. A schoolgirl got out and seemed quite concerned that the car door had sustained no damage. That was annoying. What about me? Someone in the car was scolding her. But I didn't say anything and neither did she. Car door was okay, motorcycle was okay, she shut the door and walked, the light changed, and we all went our separate ways.

I've had two or three cars since then, and now I like to paint the door edges a bright, contrasting color so it is obvious to approaching traffic when a door is opening. As it happened, I painted another set of doors yesterday, and took some photos.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

1 can orange spray enamel or lacquer
1 can white spray enamel or lacquer
1 roll masking tape
1 non-orange car
(Optional) some newspapers, if you need to do more extensive masking

Step 2: Paint

Picture of Paint

Clean the surfaces. Remove any dirt, dust, or oil from the edges of the doors.

Tape off the gaskets, the latches, any screw heads, whatever else.

For a newer car, I would mask off both the outside of the door AND the inner panels to avoid overspray. This was not a newer car, so I didn't bother.

Spray on white paint as undercoat. The white helps the orange to cover and show up brightly. If you spray on orange without the white undercoat, it either looks dull, or it takes a LOT of orange. 

Don't close doors. Let the white dry.

Spray orange over the white.

Don't close doors. Let the orange dry.

Pull off masking material.

Done. Doors may be closed now, and vehicle is safer.

Seems to me that putting bright paint, or perhaps reflective decals, on door edges would be an inexpensive way for car manufacturers to increase the safety of their products, in case they were so inclined. I recall seeing some car doors with safety lights on the edge, and that's an excellent idea. Especially good at night.

If this little paint job averts one mishap, it has paid off. More than.


NewY1 (author)2015-05-10

Use clear reflective paint on the color. The difference at night is unbelievable.

milesfromneihu (author)NewY12015-09-02

Very dramatic photos. Looks like everything got painted, including spokes, trousers, shirt, helmet!

ViXiA (author)2014-07-07

Clever trick, nice!

spaceraver (author)2013-04-30

Like the idea, but what about at night?

The bright paint probably provides some slight increased visibility at night. But of course door-mounted lights are better.

kaveh feiz (author)2012-02-07

good idea but not perfect doing.

Perfection later.

Petric (author)kaveh feiz2012-02-10

See the bright side!

asteidl (author)2012-05-02

It's a wonder that auto mfgr's haven't thought of this.

milesfromneihu (author)asteidl2012-05-02

Yeah. One would think it wouldn't cost them a whole lot, and it would save some lives, and reduce injuries and damage. Maybe Volvo could start. They promote the safety angle. At least they used to.

[Okay. I just sent a message to Volvo, and got this response:
"Thank you for your feedback. Volvo Cars value your opinions!
Your Feedback has been routed to the appropriate party at our division."
I had to submit the suggestion (with link to Instructable) to the Volvo Sustainability division. Not ideal maybe, but best fit I could find that didn't require a chassis number. So can we expect to see a lot of orange-edged car doors starting next year?]

MrFixItGuy (author)2012-02-09

There are a lot of bright colored fluorescent paints available. Why not use them?

I agree. Fluorescent paint would be better, with white undercoat of course. Also, in the comments people have been promoting reflective tapes and LEDs. All have their benefits.
  • LEDs throw more light than paint, tape, or reflectors, especially at night.
  • Reflective tape is easy to apply, and more reflective than paint per given area.
  • Paint is durable, and will still be working decades later.
A good combination would be reflective tape or bright paint plus LEDs.

My cousin points out that nothing really makes up for caution and awareness on the part of the person opening the car door. Many people here not only first look carefully, but open a car door an inch or two and hold it there for a few seconds to alert oncoming traffic. Then they ease the door open.
Ketzer (author)milesfromneihu2012-02-10

You can probably find retroreflective beads (the stuff they add to crosswalks and traffic lane stripes) to add to your paint when it is wet, but applying that to anything other than a horizontal surface might be difficult. Tape might be easier. The reflective strips used on life jackets might be a good choice - check your sporting goods/boating supply store.

I had a car that had red lights on the door that turned on when you opened it, but if I had that now I'd add a switch - sometimes you don't want your lights coming on when you open a door.

I agree though, for visibility, a combination of 1)contrasting color, 2)reflective material, and 3) LEDs would be best.

Just make sure your LEDs are noticeable (pulse or strobe them?) and make sure your lighting color scheme doesn't conflict with traffic laws (if it is red, it resembles a brake light, blue and green are often restricted to emergency vehicles).

asteidl (author)Ketzer2012-05-02

You can find conpicuancy tape just at just about any truck stop and/or RV supply center.

georion (author)Ketzer2012-02-11

you can "throw" the beads,have something to catch the ones that dont adhere to the paint and keep reusing them--actually all other ideas are "cheaper"

milesfromneihu (author)georion2012-02-12

I used to have a manual flock gun. I bet that would work with those beads.

apender (author)milesfromneihu2012-02-10

This is a good idea. Having the warning indicated so professionally and distinctly might decrease the time necessary to leave the door open to alert oncoming. So it saves time and guilty consciences by saving events for the video games environments and not where you have things to do.

asteidl (author)2012-05-02

Very good idea, milesfromneihu. Motorcyclist-awareness is something 4-wheeled drivers in my area lack. Lots of crashes and fatalities. Though my town has very little street parking, ya never know where ya might go. Definitely keeping this 'ible idea in mind.

projectsugru (author)2012-02-20

very smart, I love it 10/10 as a cyclist I think this should be standard on all cars, well done.

vwmadman (author)2012-02-10

Way to go with a simple solution.
Consider adding a step in the beginning to lightly sand the original car paint. Eventually, the spray paint should peel and flake without a roughed surface to adhere to. A cheap paint job (whole body/touch up) sometimes doesn't use a primer coat for paint adherence and instead relies on light sanding of the original paint. Most spray paints, purposes for vehicle coloring or not, will flake with time.

milesfromneihu (author)vwmadman2012-02-16

Light sanding would doubtless improve adhesion. I didn't do it. We'll see how my paint job holds up.

meenzal (author)2012-02-09

You can buy self sticking tape with embedded LEDs for about $20. Enough to do a couple of doors. They're very bright, you can select your color, and they also provide illumination at night when the door is open or ajar. They run at 12-15v, just right to wire into the door switch. Mine come on when the door opens 1/4 inch. Because they're self contained, no electronics knowledge is necessary and they're waterproof enough that weather and car washes don't bother them. An added advantage is, if you ever sell the car and the new owner doesn't like them, they can be removed without damaging the finish, the excess adhesive removable with a little GooGone. The LED strips are available from many online electrical supply and electric surplus stores. Cut them between the LEDs with scissors to fit them. Easy Peasy.

dagaherz (author)meenzal2012-02-09

Very interesting ideas, both painting and leds, but...
I am not sure if there is space enough in my car.
I've seen a kind of led stripes with different colours (blue, white, red,...) even I have some to put inside, roof and floor, under seats, killing blind zones (some day, promissed...)
Are you sure they are brilliant enough?
Could you tell the place or better a site to acquire?
It would be perfect to compare with mine


sokamiwohali (author)dagaherz2012-02-15

they will definately be enough at night, but during the day is the problem. i have seen led light strips that work equally well in the day as night.

meenzal (author)sokamiwohali2012-02-15

You want to make sure that you get "high intensity" LEDs. The regular ones would be a bit lacking.

I found this link: The website specializes in these LED products.

sokamiwohali (author)meenzal2012-02-15

i didnt even know they made HI led light strips. the only ones i have ever seen was at walmart!! :)

meenzal (author)sokamiwohali2012-02-16

I just found this company too:
Their stuff is also available at Amazon, which is where I found them.

meenzal (author)dagaherz2012-02-09

I happened to get the ones I used from West Florida Components about a year ago. They were sold as Ultra Bright LED strips. Sadly, I just looked at they are not available there now. But do a search on "ultra bright LED strips" and I suspect that you will find a source.

The strips I have are very low profile and fit with room to spare. They are very brilliant and visible in daylight as well as night.

This is not to say LEDs are a better solution --the author of this 'ible has a great idea that's easy to do. This is just another idea, like reflective hazard tape. Maybe to be safe, paint the area, apply reflective tape, and put LEDs on top. :-)

By the way, in case an accident does occur, I suspect an insurance company would look fondly on this as demonstrating the car owner tried their best to avoid problems.

dagaherz (author)dagaherz2012-02-09

They changed names of pics... where you can see meassures and prices.

1st- 1,20m 12V 2700-3500K = 10,20€
2nd- 5,00m 12V 3500K= 3570€
3rd- unknown

milesfromneihu (author)meenzal2012-02-09

Who could not like them?

555mst555 (author)2012-02-10

You realise, when your door is fully opened, people will be like" why in the world is it orange?!" But, screw what they think. This practical! On another hand, you could also put reflective tape so that it's also visible at night. But still, this is a great idea! and without this i'bles i wouldnt even think about reflective tape.

apender (author)555mst5552012-02-10

Why are people underwear strange colors? Because it is private. Door should be closed unless exchange of people.

laedal (author)2012-02-10

That extra second is what it is all about. Сериал Ад на колесах

Derek Scott Customs (author)2012-02-09

Older Rolls Royces had reflectors, kind like this. The same idea non the less.

Yeah. Reflectors, reflective tape, reflective paints, lights; they all go under the Door Edge Visual Enhancement heading.

caarntedd (author)2012-02-09

This should be standard on all cars. Great Idea, go make some money with it.

milesfromneihu (author)caarntedd2012-02-09

I don't see any way to monetize it.

But if it saves some mishaps, do I get credit in heaven?

ilpug (author)2012-02-09

Such a simple idea. Made me facepalm for not thinking of it. Commendations upon thee.

londobali (author)ilpug2012-02-09

ME TOO!!! :)

draghkar (author)2012-02-09

It's a pretty good idea, Although I'd consider reflective tape. But hey, you made bikesnobnyc's blog too!

milesfromneihu (author)draghkar2012-02-09

Wooo. Bikesnobnyc took some shots at me! I'm coming up in the world.

Blaise_Gauba (author)2012-02-09

Very SMART idea! Thank you! I live in Los Angeles and there is a LOT of traffic here and a lot of crazy drivers too boot! I'm going to do that. ~Peace

ampersand2006 (author)2012-02-09

Great idea! Most cars have reflectors just inside the door on the inside panel. But, this is much more visible during the day. I think masking the inner panel and the outside of your door might make it look cleaner though. But, if you are a pure functionalist, then what the hell—just mask the seal.

Yeah, if it were a newer car, I would've masked inner panels and outsides of doors. I was careful, but did get a wee bit of overspray here and there. But the car is not that new, and I didn't feel like going upstairs to get newspapers.
I did mask the gasket. It's all a matter of balance--cost/benefit tradeoffs, etc.

NatureGeek24 (author)2012-02-07

Great idea, but a reflective neon yellow may be a better color choice. Easier to see at night, and "pops" a little more than orange for those who are chromatically challenged.

(My husband didn't like red-green deficient, the dog is color blind, so we created chromatically challenged. :)

Yellow might indeed be better. The day after reading your comment I saw a street worker wearing a high-visibility coolie hat. (Not out-of-place here in Taiwan.) It had alternating pie wedges of: yellow and orange. So somebody says we're both right.

The general drift of comments is toward reflective tape. It's easy to apply, and even more reflective than bright paint.

All dog-related feedback is welcome. I was born in the year of the dog myself, and have always felt close to the canines. ;^)

Organize74 (author)2012-02-07

Do they make a reflective paint? You should promote this to car manufacturers it should be standard. A light strip would be great there too.

If I were friends with any car manufacturers, I would definitely make the suggestion. Some cars do have lights on door edges, which is obviously better in some ways, though I think it would cost a bit more to implement.

empire007 (author)2012-02-09

This is a great idea, kind of like a public service.. In the US if you open your door and it get hit by a passing car it's your fault. And I cant tell you the number of times I've been riding my bike at a good clip and someone opens their door and I don't see it until the last second. If automakers did this I think the world (at least my urban area) would be a better place.

-A-N-D-Y- (author)2012-02-09

Excellent idea, comes at a time here in New Zealand where opening car doors has been in the news:

A judge has thrown out the case of a man accused of causing the death of a cyclist.

He was accused of carelessly opening his car door while parked on the side of the road, causing Bishop to swerve her bike into the path of an oncoming truck.

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