Introduction: How to Repair and Repaint Motorcycle Exhaust Pipes

It is riding season again and I was doing some routine maintenance on my bike when I noticed that my exhaust pipes had become nasty looking.

Moving from the South to the Northwest had taken a toll on my scooter.  My pipes had started to rust on the bottom, and the finish had started to crack while surface rust was starting to spread.

Considering that a new set of pipes is about $400-$1200 depending on your style - there was only one option for me.

Here are my steps to making everything look right again.

Please read this whole thing first because the last step is tricky.  If you aren't up to it...find an alternative.

Step 1: Things You Are Going to Need

Here are some tools and materials you will need:

Brake parts cleaner - available at all auto stores

Carb and Choke cleaner - available at all auto stores

High heat exhaust paint (color) - available at all auto stores as engine block paint.  You could also use any high heat paint - the Helix brand pictures I bought on and it is especially made for exhaust pipes.  I would recommend the brand as it dries fairly fast and is good up to 2000 deg F of momentary operation (if you are running that hot, your bike might melt).

High heat exhaust paint clear coat - optional, but it can help with scratching

Automotive wet/dry sandpaper in a variety of grain sizes.  I used 400 and 600

Angle grinder

Cable grinder cup - for the initial finish remover

Wire grinder cup - to smooth out the pipes

Old cardboard box - something to spray on top of

Step 2: Remove the Old Finish

Remove the pipes from your bike - Since I don't know what type of bike you have, I'll have to let you figure that one out.  What you want is the pipes and the slip on covers (if equipped) - set all the other parts aside for reassembly.

Use you cable grinder cup in your angle grinder to grind off the old finish - it should come off fairly easily

After that, use the wire grinder cup to smooth out the pipes and get all the rusty bits off.

Sand out any other imperfections that you find.

Step 3: Prep for Painting

Now that the finish is all gone, and you have to clean the pipes up a bit to get a good finish.

You can clean the outside of the pipes off with brake cleaner and let it evaporate.  All the oil and dust should be gone after spraying.

If you want, you can spray some carb and choke cleaner in the pipes you get some of the buildup out of there.  

Wipe everything off with a clean rag when complete.

Step 4: Paint

Lay your pipes down on the cardboard and spray with your colored paint.  Sweep the nozzle across the length and try not to get any buildup, or you could get streaks.  If you do get streaks, wait for it to dry and hit it with you sandpaper and try again.

After you get both sides covered, take a clean rag and wipe off any residue.  You should be left with a satin finish.

Allow them to cure overnight.

Reassemble (if you have pipe slip ons) and touch up any spots that may have gotten scratched.

Apply the clear coat over the assembled pipes and allow it to cure overnight.

Now, you can reassemble you pipes and attach them to your bike.

Step 5: Bake-on the Finish

OK, here is where I am going to lose the faint at heart.  If you aren't sure about this, the directions come from the rattle can - I didn't make them up.  In order to cure fully, your painted surfaces have to heat up.  If you have a pizza oven or something, you can do it while the pipes are off the bike.  If not, you'll have to do it like this.

Start you bike (with pipes attached) and idle for about 10 minutes, allow pipes to cool down naturally.  WARNING:  Do it outside, because this creates smoke down the length of the pipes.

Start your bike again and idle for 20 minutes, allow pipes to cool down naturally.  It is still going to smoke.

Operate the bike normally for 30 minutes and let it cool off.  

You should be good to go, ride safe!