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Restoring bike frame paint in 4 easy steps

In this article I’m going to explain what you need to do for restoring bike frame paint. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, since my Koga Miyata also received a frame polishing restoration step.

The bike we’re dealing with is a 1994 Giant Coldrock. The bike is in good condition overall. However, it’s dirty and scratched. So I’m going to clean it. And afterwards I’m going to polish and wax it.

Video Tutorial

Step 1. Disassembling the bike

bottom bracket

The process of restoring bike frame paint basically involves disassembling the entire bike. At least the crankset, wheels and brakes need to be removed, so you can access all difficult to reach parts of the frame.

Step 2. Cleaning the bike frame

wd 40 bike cleaner

Before you can really work on the polishing step, the frame needs to be clean. If you polish the frame with tiny pieces of grit left onto it, you can actually increase the damage to the paint, by creating new scratches when you rub the grit into the frame.

wd-40 bike cleaner

First I spray the entire frame and especially the dirtiest parts with WD-40 bike cleaner, and let it sit for 5 minutes.

wet whipe

The next step involves cleaning the frame with baby wipes and removing as much of the dirt as possible.

The baby wipes just didn’t cut it. A nasty film of grease stayed on the frame. So I decided to use a bit of white spirit, which dissolves the grease.

wet cloth

The last cleaning step is to remove anything that’s left on the frame with a wet cloth.

Step 3. Restoring bike frame paint by removing scratches

Meguiars Ultimate Compound

With the entire frame cleaned I continue with the following, which is using Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound to remove surface scratches from the paint.

Meguiars Ultimate Compound

The compound acts as liquid sandpaper and removes part of the clear coat. By doing so it enables the clear coat to more evenly reflect light. This in turn increases the shine of the paint.

Just to be sure, this is purely cosmetic, since it actually reduces the thickness of the clear coat.

To apply the compound to the frame, as well as the wax in the next step, I use Meguiar’s Foam Applicator Pads. Don’t hesitate to put some time and elbow grease into these cutting and waxing steps.

Step 4. Restoring bike frame paint by waxing the frame

Meguiars Deep Crystal Carnauba Wax

I use Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Carnauba Wax for the waxing process.

waxing frame

Waxing the frame actually does protect it a little bit. It does so because it levels out the clear coat, by applying a tiny layer on top of it. This is another way to increase the frame’s ability to directly reflect light and make it shine.

paper towel

Get the wax on the frame, let it sit for a couple of minutes to let it harden and then clean off the excess wax with a paper towel or dry cloth.

restoring bike frame paint

The final result is a beautifully restored paint job on your favorite vintage bicycle!

And that’s what restoring bike frame paint is all about! If you like this article give it a thumbs up. If you have any questions or suggestions for new articles, let me know in the comments below. Cheers.


Q: I just painted a frame but there’s orange peel on the clear coat… can i use the compound wax to smooth it out or do i wet sand ?

A: You can use the cutting compound to smoothen out the orange peel. That would be Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound. The wax won’t do anything because it doesn’t have an abrasive nature.

Wet sanding is also an option provided you use a grit which runs into the thousands. But in my opinion wet sanding is much more of a mess than using the compound. And don’t quote me on this but I believe the compound is relative to a 10K grit, so low risk of messing up the paint job.

Make sure you’ve applied multiple layers of clear coat. A minimum of 3. That leaves you enough room to not remove the entire coating when you get a bit too enthusiastic. Start in a place on the frame you can’t see; for instance the bottom of your down tube.

And if your frame contains vinyl decals underneath the clear coat (not water slide decals), I would be very careful near the edges, because the clear coat is thinnest in those areas. And the last thing you want to do is damage the decals with a coating already in place.

One of the safest methods of smoothing out orange peel, and something I’ve done on a frame that took me ages to restore, is simply to apply more clear coat. I did like 7 layers, was happy with the result and added protection, and left it at that.

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