Car Door Warning Color

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Posted in WorkshopCars

Introduction: 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

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

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.

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    67 Comments

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

    volvo-lifepaint-reflective-safety-spray.jpg
    1 reply

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

    Clever trick, nice!

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

    See the bright side!

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

    1 reply

    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?]

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

    6 replies
    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.

    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).

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

    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"

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

    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.

    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.

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

    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.