Frame Powder Coating: Part 2

Reader Contribution by Keith Fellenstein
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Editor’s note: In the July/August 2015 issue, we published a letter from reader Bill Adams, who wanted to powder coat the frame on his bike and wanted advice. Tech Q & A guru Keith Fellenstein has his own thoughts on the subject, and shared them in that issue. In response, we received several letters from readers, too long to print in the following issue. We’ve included them here in their entirety, along with the original letter that kicked off the discussion and a comment from Keith Fellenstein.

The original question and answer:

Q: I have a question that I thought you might be able to help me with, or at least steer me in the right direction. I’m restoring a 1984 Kawasaki ZX750E Turbo, and I’d like to have the frame powder coated. The problem is the factory applied federal standards stickers near the steering head. They would be destroyed in the powder coating process, but they would also be destroyed in trying to remove them. Do you know if these have to remain on an older, restored motorcycle, or can they be removed? I could take photos of them and have them reproduced and re-apply them, but I don’t know if that’s legal, or if legality needs to be considered in this case. Do you have any info on this in your experience? I appreciate any help you can give me, whether directly or from another source that you know. — Bill Adams/Pleasant Plain, Ohio

A: You may not like my answer, but here goes. I’m not a fan of powder coating frames for a number of reasons, some mechanical and some cosmetic. Let’s start with the mechanical. The thickness of the coating can interfere with refitting engine and frame components if you are not completely obsessive in masking off all the bolt bosses and threaded openings before having the frame done. More significantly, the flexibility and thickness of the coating can mask corrosion under the coating, and hide fractures in welds and other areas of the frame that you don’t want hidden. Those are my major concerns. A minor concern is that when, not if, the frame gets chipped, you can easily touch up paint, but powder coating, not so much. To your main concern, I don’t know of a way to protect the frame labels from the heat needed to fuse the powder coating. With many states increasing scrutiny of VIN numbers on older bikes, it becomes imperative to make the inspector’s job easier so you don’t spend time arguing with them over proper frame/engine numbering. My recommendation is to find a good paint shop and enamel the frame. Thanks for reading my column, and I’m sorry if this isn’t what you wanted to hear. MC

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