LAST UPDATED: June 27, 2019
Best Engine Enamel Paints: Overhaul Your Engine’s Look
Enamel paint can take your engine from boring to exciting in just a few coats
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PUBLISHED ON June 27, 2019
Engine enamel paints have two main purposes: to keep rust out and to make your engine look good. Most automotive engines feature a nice luster when new, but that shine can dull over time as the car is used. You can restore your engine’s ability to withstand the elements and its overall look by painting your engine block. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the best engine enamel paint for your needs.
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Benefits of Engine Enamel Paint
- Customize your engine. Engine enamel paint gives you the opportunity to choose your engine color. If you always wanted a bit more flash under your hood, enamel paint is the perfect option.
- Protect against rust. A properly prepped and the painted engine has an increased ability to resist rust. That’s great news if you live in a humid or otherwise wet climate, where rust is common.
- Aesthetics. Not only do you get a chance to customize the color of your engine block, you can also choose the finish. Most enamel paints dry to a glossy look, which catches the eye, but matte formulations are also available.
- Resale value. That extra wow factor under your car’s hood can really impact its resale value. If you’re thinking of trading in your car down the line, then painting the engine an eye-catching color is a good option for upping the value.
Originally made only for professional drag racers to decrease air resistance, VHT is now sold in a number of colored formulations for automotive use. The company has been around for more than 50 years, so you know you can trust the formulation. A bestseller is its Engine Enamel Black.
Founded in 1921 in Evanston, Ill., Rust-Oleum is a leading manufacturer of protective paints and coatings for home and automotive use. Its formulas are known for their excellent anti-rust properties, making its Heat Protective Enamel a favorite.
One of the leading manufacturers of DIY automotive paints, Dupli-Color has been around since 1938. A favorite among automotive enthusiasts, its formulations are easy to use and provide long-lasting results. Top products include the Ceramic Gloss Black Engine Paint and the green Engine Enamel with Ceramic.
Engine Enamel Paint Pricing
- Under $10: You can find a few goods, quality options in this price range that will get the job done. Most come in a spray can for easy application, but the package size will be smaller, so you’ll likely need more than one can.
- $10-$20: The mid-range is home to a couple of good options, so you’ll definitely find something to suit your needs and tastes. Spray applicator cans and regular paint cans are available, as are a large array of different colors.
- Over $20: If you’re looking to get fancy, this is the price range for you. Paints at this price point often include ceramic that add an extra smooth finish and even more heat and element resistance. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to spend this much to get a great product.
A number of engine paints come in a spray bottle for easy application, while others come in regular paint cans and need to be brushed on. You also have the option of filling the engine enamel paint into a sprayer so that either formula can be applied in this manner. We like the cost-effectiveness of the spray paint.
Most enamel paints are pretty similar in terms of their base ingredients. Where things start to differ between brands is in the additives. Depending on the color you choose, some brands contain additional stabilizers to ensure that the color comes out mixed correctly. In addition to that, some also feature more heat-stable ingredients to up the heat resistance factor.
Most enamel paints are rated heat-safe of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Some products take that a lot higher, sometimes up to 2,000 degrees. Keep in mind that your average engine will not produce temperatures even nearing that range, so the extra heat resistance isn’t necessary. If you want your product to double up for other purposes though, like coloring your fire pit or grill, then the extra heat resistance can be a good thing.
- Quality: This is an important factor to consider, especially when looking at more inexpensive paint options. Good quality paint will adhere well and cure properly to avoid flaking. Cheaper options don’t necessarily match up to that standard.
- Packaging Size: Spray can typically don’t contain all that much paint, so the paint can be the way to go if you’ve got lots of surface area to cover. This is especially important if you’re using colored paint, as it will require a couple of coats to really look good.
- Finish: Most enamel paints will dry to a glossy finish, but there are a few matte options on the market. These tend to be a little pricier, as the formulations need to be adjusted to change the typical glossy finish to a matte one.
- Kits: If you want to do things properly, you will need a primer and a top coat. There are lots of enamel paint options that come in kits to include all the essentials.
Best Engine Enamel Paint Reviews & Recommendations 2020
A favorite of automotive enthusiasts and backyard BBQ-ers alike, this Rust-Oleum enamel paint is suitable for use on grills, wood-burning stoves, engines, radiators, and other metal items. The finish is a rich satin black that resists up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, and the formula itself is restorative and protective, preventing paint chipping and flaking.
The paint is very easy to apply, and the fast-drying formula cuts down on drying time. Superior durability and color retention are two more factors that set it off from competitors as well as the paint’s suitability to indoor and outdoor use. Rust-Oleum protects against rust and corrosion as well, so your engine will benefit from increased longevity overall. A quick note about the packaging: the paint comes in a one-quart paint can, giving you lots to work with.
The one downside we found to the formulation is that it is on the thinner side. That translates to more coats overall, and more work time. However, the paint longevity is hard to bear, making it worth the little bit of extra initial effort in painting your engine from top to bottom.
Available in a staggering 28 colors, this Dupli-Color Ceramic Gloss Engine Paint is tough to beat in terms of value. The formulation resists temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for most engine applications. In terms of finish, this one is high gloss thanks to the durable ceramic formulation. An EZ touch nozzle makes the spray application a breeze and the quick-dry formula will cure just in time for your next joy ride.
Since this is enamel paint, you can also use it to cover other metal surfaces, which makes it a great workhorse. For the best final result, make sure that you give the paint a bit of heat to cure properly. On an engine, that’s easy to do -- just drive around for a bit when the paint has mostly dried. On other applications, you’ll want to blast the paint with a heat gun.
Although this is a great product for the price, it’s important to keep in mind that the formulation doesn’t quite hold up to higher quality products. For instance, this formula has a tendency to wrinkle a bit if you apply additional coats more than an hour after the last one.
The original product that started the engine enamel paint trend, this VHT engine enamel gloss comes in 31 different colors, ensuring that you’ll find one to match your tastes. The formulation is overall very durable, offering superior heat and chemical resistance. It also withstands temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit when cured properly. This paint works best when it’s used in conjunction with a primer and a top coat to seal everything up.
The formulation itself is also super easy to apply and requires only a few coats to look its best. It can be used to cover up spots that are starting to corrode, but keep in mind that it’s always best to try to clean out the surface as best as possible before applying another product over top. This will help prevent further corrosion and peeling of the fresh paint. An important note about this product is that the paint has to properly cared for so that the finish lasts.
We weren’t big fans of the fragile cap and nozzle combo that made applying the paint a little more difficult than it needs to be. The formulation is also a bit sensitive to separation, so make sure you shake the can well before every use. Other than that, the performance of this paint definitely makes it worthy of honorable mention status.
If you need to paint your engine black, then you can’t go wrong with this Fast Black spray paint from PJ1 Coatings. This paint has a satin finish, but the company also offers a gloss or flat finish. You can use this paint on the engine or the engine case, as it’s safe for up to 500 degrees. While it was originally designed for motorcycle engines, you could potentially use it on any engine.
What’s unique and nice about this paint is that you have several options when it comes to the size of the can you buy. If you only need a little, then you can buy the 11-ounce can. If you need a lot, you can buy up to 44 ounces, or a four-pack of cans. This paint is extremely durable and will resist peeling, chipping, and scratching. It also wipes clean should you get grease or dirt on it.
Unfortunately, this paint takes forever to dry. You can speed up the process by running your bike or car’s engine. The heat helps the paint to cure better. You’ll need to be careful not to stir up dirt and dust that can ruin the finish. This is also just a “black” color and not matched to any OEM color.
Brite Touch paint is specifically designed for engines. The paint comes in an aerosol can with 10 ounces of paint. This color is universal black, but there are a few other colors available, including clear.
This paint is fast-drying and is dry-to-the-touch in just 30 minutes and safe to handle in an hour. It’s safe for use in both interior and exterior applications. It will protect against corrosion and rust. The spray nozzle on this paint can is designed to ensure you get the maximum coverage to eliminate having to apply several layers of paint.
Unfortunately, the colors aren’t OEM-matched, so this color may not seamlessly blend in with your other already-painted components. This paint is also meant for professional applications, so it won’t be the easiest or most user-friendly spray can or paint. This can lead to not getting enough or any of the paint out of the can. You’ll be left with a spray that is heavy in solvents and aerosol gas.
This engine enamel is designed for matching factory colors. It’s safe in temperatures up to 350 degrees. There are seven colors to choose from, including Buick Green, Cadillac Dark Blue, and Chevrolet Red. The colors are carefully formulated to be incredibly rich and last longer than other paints.
The paint is guaranteed to not burn or peel off. You also get a lot of paint in each can—16 ounces or one whole pint. This is more usable paint than what you’ll get in an aerosol can. This paint is also nonflammable and complies with environmental safety standards, making it safer to use.
While it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, this paint doesn’t come in a spray can. This can make the application more challenging as you’ll need more supplies and skill. This paint is meant for professional use only, so if it’s your first time painting an engine, this probably isn’t the best paint to choose. It also has limited color options.
If you’re going to paint your engine, you should do it with paint from a trusted paint company. Rust-Oleum is known for producing high-quality paint. This automotive enamel spray paint will coat and protect your engine. This particular shade is the OEM color of classic Chevy Orange, but it also comes in several other colors. Each can is 12 ounces.
This paint is protective in temperatures up to 500 degrees. This is plenty of heat resistance for the operation of your engine. It also comes in several quality colors from OEM-matched shades to custom colors, and even metallics.
Unfortunately, the spray nozzle on this can isn’t precise or clean. This can lead to messy and sloppy applications. You’ll also need to pay careful attention to the application instructions of the proper climate and preparation procedures. Otherwise, you risk the paint not sticking or curing correctly. This limits the paint’s durability and useful life.
This acrylic lacquer comes in a 12-ounce aerosol can. This paint is a stunning metallic silver, but there is a wide variety of colors in this paint line. Many of them are a perfect OEM match, while others are custom color options. The paint is heat- and solvent-resistant. It can be used on outboard and inboard marine motors.
While this paint is originally meant for marine engines, you could use it in any high heat application. The formulation of this paint is designed to give it extended staying power on your marine engine, so it’s extremely durable in harsh environments.
Unfortunately, because this is meant for marine engines, you’ll struggle to find OEM-matched colors for your car or truck engine. You’ll also need to apply multiple layers of paint to get the look and performance that you want.
The engine paint from Seymour is a high-tech layer of protection. It comes in several factory colors of engines, transmissions, and other OEM equipment. It’s heat-resistant up to 300 degrees. It’s also resistant to gas and chemicals. There are 16 different manufacturer colors to choose from.
This can and paint is specially formulated for you to be able to use it in close work applications. This helps you to get the paint exactly where you need it and nowhere else. The factory-compatible colors will restore your vehicle’s parts to their original OEM color. What’s also nice is that Seymour is committed to being a responsible corporate citizen by protecting the environment. Their coatings are waterborne and contain high solid resins instead of the traditional solvent-based polymers.
Unfortunately, this is more of a utility paint and less about looks. The only available colors are OEM colors. It also has relatively low heat resistance.
This red oxide spray paint is a primer for your vehicle’s engine. It also comes in black. It’s high-temperature resistant and creates an enamel coating on your engine parts. The paint comes in an 11-ounce aerosol can.
You’ll find that this paint dries fast and becomes a durable and tough finish. Once cured, it’s resistant to peeling and blistering. This primer layer will give your engine components a protective layer to prevent corrosion and rust.
The downside to this paint is that it’s a primer, so it isn’t going to give you that beautiful gloss finish that other engine enamels can. You’ll need to buy a color paint enamel to complete your engine’s protective coating. It’s also limited in color options.
- Before applying the paint, make sure to wipe down the engine to remove loose particles and dirt. We recommend sanding the engine thoroughly to remove old paint and debris.
- Start with a high heat engine enamel for maximum corrosion resistance and uniformity of the top coat color.
- If you’re using a spray applicator, use long, sweeping motions to apply the paint without it running. Apply two coats for the best finish.
- You can top your work with a clear coat to seal everything in and keep the paint looking fresh for a long time.
- Don’t forget to wear a mask when applying paint and only work in well-ventilated areas. This will help to protect your lungs from the more harmful particles contained in the paint.
Q: Can I apply enamel paint to a warm engine?
A: Although enamel paint is rated to withstand the high temperatures associated with running a car engine, you never want to apply the paint on a warm engine. Make sure to let the engine cool completely before starting the application process to ensure safe working conditions and a great final result.
Q: Do I really need to use a primer and top coat?
A: Yes and no. It really depends on the look you’re going for and the durability you’re seeking. If you want your paintwork to last, we recommend using at least a top coat and properly prepping the area beforehand. The longevity is increased even further if you also use an engine primer.
Q: What temperature ranges can enamel paint withstand?
A: Enamel paint is designed to withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations surrounding an engine, and is usually rated to at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit, if not more. In most use cases, however, you really don’t need an extremely high-temperature rating, although it can be a sign for the quality of the product.
Q: Do I have to wait for enamel paint to dry completely before using my car?
A: The short answer is yes. You want the paint to get a chance to cure properly so that the finish and durability are optimized. If you want to make your paint dry quicker, leave the car in a well-ventilated area that’s low in humidity and make sure you’re applying thin, even coats to begin with. Then, once the paint is mostly dry, take your car for a drive to heat up the engine and finish the curing process.
Q: Can I use engine enamel paint for adding color to my brake calipers?
A: Absolutely! Engine enamel paint is one of the best options for coloring brake calipers, thanks to its superior durability. Just make sure you regularly use a degreaser to clean up the brake dust to maintain that high gloss finish.
Our top pick is the Rust-Oleum Heat Protective Enamel. It’s one of the most heat-resistant products on the market and features a great formulation with a rare satin finish.
If you’re looking to keep a bit more cash in your wallet, check out our best value option, the Dupli-Color Ceramic Gloss Black Engine Paint. It works well and is available in a wide range of colors to suit your tastes.