So You Want to Paint Your Hummer !

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Paint Truck

Here's how it all started on February 28th 2004.
My truck has been through many many off road adventures and buffed out as many times. I have a small dent in the front right door from a branch that just jumped out from nowhere and wacked me. The stock white finish does not have clear. It's a one step paint. I just have a ton of scratches and I want to keep this truck.

I have an opportunity to paint it at a shop that restores Rolls Royce's. My plan is to prep the truck in my garage and strip as many parts off it as I can. Then bring it over to the shop where I'll mask it off and paint it. It will just cost me my time the paint and supplies. I'll have to replace the marker lights (they're disintegrated) and some of the light sockets. The block off plates in the hood behind the clearance lights were rusted shut so I had to break them to get them off. The cavities in the hood under the plates were solid with red dirt. I pressure washed the whole thing today. We are in the middle of a winter heat wave. It's 50 here (North of Chicago) so I'm out in a T-shirt doing this.

Notes: If you are going to paint the truck to sell it you won't get your money back unless you do a real cheap job. A real cheap job is 2000.00. If the person buying your truck knows anything they will know the truck was painted and start asking if it's been in an accident.

Paint the truck the same color. Changing colors requires painting all the door jambs and many other places where the original color will show through. It's tacky to have the old color showing through although you can get away with black or white showing.

I got sucked in deeper and deeper. Since I had the truck apart I had to replace all the rotted out marker lights and all the window seals. I decided to put in the military rear lights and redo the power window seals. All in all I spent another 800.00 in misc parts. It's hard to put used parts back on a nice fresh paint job.

There is just a ton of labor involved. Before you paint the whole truck has to be scuffed so the new paint sticks. 3m makes a special pad just for this. This is all hand work and can take days with a truck full of rivets. Be sure to "Feather edge" the door jambs and crevices especially around the windshield frame and lights. Any part where you went down to bare metal needs to be sprayed with etching primer. Then you have to do body work which varies from truck to truck. You don't want to paint over existing dents. Once this is all done paint the truck with a good compatable sealer primer. If I'm fixing some surface corrosion I use glaze (comes in a tube). If you have dents etc. use normal repair techniques. Note: you have to put glaze, bondo and/or regular primer over the etching primer or the final paint will not cover.

Next time I fix any corrosion I'm going to get some primer for boats. West Marine has really good products for treating aluminum. Acid etching solutions to prep the metals and Zinc Chromate Primers. Look under the paint section, the manufacturers are Awlgrip, Petit, and Tempo. Awlgrip has the etching solution and a primer, Petit has a 2 part epoxy Zinc Chromate Primer, and Tempo has Zinc Chromate Primer in a can.

To be on the safe side I recommend obtaining all your paint products from one vendor. If you are going to use Dupont paint buy everything from Dupont including etching, sanding and sealing primers and reducers. There have been instances where problems occur when mixing and matching brands of primers and paint. (ask me how I know).

I'm nuts but I actually spent about a month 7 days a week working on the truck.I lost all the weight I had put on earlier in the winter (10lbs). I have a new appreciation of what it takes to work a physical job all week, let me tell you.It was a labor of love but now I can see how a super paint job can cost upwards of 10,000.

Seam Sealer

One friend paid 30,000 to have a classic Rolls painted. Those super paint jobs are all hand work. You have to wet sand with 1000 until there is no more orange peel and the finish is flat. Orange Peel is a bumpy surface that looks like the surface of an orange. You run a squeege across the surface to see which areas are shiny and which are dull. Once the whole thing is uniform you wet sand with 1200, 1500, 2000and then buff with compound using a slow buffer like a Makita 9227cwith a special 3m foam wheel (15.00). Once you are done with the 1000 the other papers just take out the scratches from the paper before. You need one kind of foam buffing pad for the compound and one for the glaze. Then you use a polish glaze.

I use all 3m stuff. They really do make the best compounds, glues and sandpaper. Speaking of glue. I spent over 6.00 on a tube of special glue; 3m Feathering Disk Adhesive Type II part number 051135 08051 to stick the vapor barrier plastic back on the inside of the doors. The quart of machine glaze costs 26.00. My friend wet sanded and buffed an old Bentley for 3 weeks. Then he let the newly exposed coat dry / season for a couple of months and is in the process of doing it again. I'm just going to sand the Hummer to get the high spots off and then compound and polish it. I don't care if there is some orange peel. Most factory cars have a fair amount of orange peel anyway.


The more parts you remove the less you have to mask and the better the job. Masking is only so good. You will get overspray on the edges of the window tracks, door seals etc. A good masking job on the whole truck is at least a full days work Overspray is always an indicator of a poor job.

The seams on the wagon roof are spot welded and not waterproof so the sealer in the seams is very important. The factory sealer calking compund doesn't last forever. I used POR-15 on the steel roof seam. So far, I"m happy with the results, I've had no rust since. First I dug out the existing filler. Then I used a dremel tool to grind out the rust leaving a nice rectangular notch. I treated the bare metal with POR-15's metal ready and painted it with POR-15 paint. I then filled the notch with Dynatron 550 grey body panel cement I picked up at Autozone. This product comes in a caulk tube. Another great product instead of POR15 is called Rust Bullit.

I painted all the hardware hood latches, headlight cans etc. with cans of primer and paint after removing all the rust with a sand blaster. I replaced all of the fastners with stainless steel nuts and bolts. A great source for all kinds of unique painting and body work products is Eastwood. I used their Chassis Black spray paint and their 10281z black phosphate paint which duplicates the flat black coating found on many fastners.

Dupont paint

Actually painting the truck takes about 2 or 3 hours depending on what you do. I used one gallon of Dupont Chroma bright white base on my white truck and have some (16oz) left over. I did use almost 2 gallons of clear although one would be enough. I didn't change the color or shoot the jambs. Just the base, clear and reducer costs 700.00 (wholesale) and that doesn't include the glaze, primer, masking tape, masking paper, sand paper, lacquer thinner etc.

If you can paint in a booth with a downdraft you will eliminate a lot of the overspray. Another trick is to have a second gun full of solvent/ reducer. Once you are done laying down the clear, spray the areas that are effected by overspray (roof) with the reducer. It will 'melt' the wet clear and make it smooth. I didn't do the above and learned the hard way.

Another owner had his truck shot with JetGlo polyurethane Dual stage metallic paint which is the same stuff they use on the Airplanes. It was painted at an Airplane paint shop. I was told that Imron which has been around for 35 years is a modified acrylic urethane which is really thin and not as durable as the more modern pure polyurethane.

Once the truck is painted you have to strip off all the masking. I suggest you do this within a few hours of painting so the tape comes off easier before the paint really hardens. Since I used base and clear there were areas that had overspray like the whole roof that had to be wet sanded because it was so rough it felt like course sandpaper. I hadn't counted on spending time for this. It took me 3 days to do the roof and over a day to do the hood. The rest of the truck wasn't so bad so I just sanded and buffed the areas where parts were going to be installed like the window openings and doorlock holes. I'll finish sanding and buffing the rest of the truck another day. You have to buff right after you sand because the surface is soft from the sanding.

You can get rid of drip marks by using a single edge razor blade bent in a shallow curve. Carefully shave the drip with the curved part of the blade. Bending the blade in a curve keeps the ends of the blade from scratching the adjacent surface. You may have to do this in stages. If the paint is fresh you will shave down to where the surface is soft. Stop and let it harden before you proceed.

There is no requirement to use different products on the hood, body or steel wagon top. I use 3m Perfectit Rubbing Compound 05973 and 3m foam polishing pad Glaze 50031-05995 (for light cars). This product has fine abrasive and will polish the finish. I have a white wagon. If you have a dark color they have a dark glaze for dark cars. You can use this stuff without a buffer but they have a Hand Glaze too. You can get these products at shops that sell automobile paint. The pads compound and glaze will cost you around 100 and a Makita buffer is 200.

You have to have a slow buffer that does 600 rpm and the right foam pads. If you don't do it right (like use a high speed) you will burn through the paint. The Hummer is a hard vehicle to do because of all the rivits and sheet metal edges. Paint is always thinner at an edge and a buffer has a tendency to 'run into' the edge and take off more material. Whenever there is a edge you run the risk of buffing the paint right off it. Buffing is a skill that takes some physical strength. If you're not used to it holding and controlling a buffer all day can be hard on your back and shoulders. That's why is pays to have a good shop do it if you don't know how. If you burn through the paint you will have to reshoot it which will cost you time and money. When I buffed out my truck I burned through the edge in the front right wheel well. I had to prep it, mask it off and repaint it. It took a good hour or two because you have to mix the paint and cleanup the gun when you are done.

This all sounds pretty daunting. Realize that body shops have all of this already setup. That's why people make a career in body work and painting. You can be fairly successful doing it yourself if you do your homework and have a place to work. The only reason I did it is because I had the opportunity to use my friends shop. Otherwise the best way to go would be to disassemble the truck, scuff the surface, and then take it to a body shop and have them do the body work and paint. Then put the whole thing back together yourself. You can refinish all the black hardware yourself with spray paint. That way you can get a first class job for the price of a basic paint job.

If you are going to cleanup and paint the undercarriage I recommend that you remove the rust, paint it with red oxide primer and then some good Rustoleum paint. I've tired POR 15 and Rust Bullit and in the long run they don't last any longer and are harder to use.

A Note About Interiors:

If the panels are in good physical shape, not cracked or torn, I would say a dye would be a good option. Much less expensive than a complet re-wrap. I've looked at the doghouse and I do vinyl work. It looks like a challenge. I've seen some wrap jobs on them and none of them impress me. Don't do the rattle can dye though. It will work, but something more permanent would be to get a pint or 2 from a professional paint shop and have them sprayed. We do that often if we cannot get an exact match to the vinyl. It is sprayed through a conventional paint spray gun. It works very well and will bring back a newness to your truck. If the surface is properly prepped, it should last and also be very durable.

A Note About Rivets:

Rivet diameters are measured in 32ths and lengths in 16ths.  So a #6 rivet is 6/32 or 3/16” diameter.  A #6-4 then is for a grip length of 4/16” or 1/2". The Hummer uses blind or pull rivets also labeled 'pop' rivets. Always use aluminum rivets in aluminum. The Hummer's body rivets are 3/16" structural blind rivets with fairly large flanges. A rough measurment of the height of the button is about 1/16" = .0625" = 1.5875 mm.

Most of the rivets are not available from AMG as parts so you have to find them yourself. Just looking around the web I found rivets made by Huck. It looks like their 3/16" Magnalock MGLP-B6-4 and B6-7 are the ones used in the Hummers. I found them at Crawford Products.