Paint can be a perfectly acceptable alternative to powder coating in some instances. Both can be used to prevent rust and corrosion on metal parts of your car, bike, or appliances. Powder coating is much stronger and effective than paint, but it comes at a cost. We have everything you need to know about paint, powder coating, and other protective alternatives.

In This Article

Pros and Cons of Powder Coating

Powder coating is used to cover metal parts — such as auto parts, bike parts, and appliance parts — with a protective material by spraying it with a dry powder that is made of plastic or another type of polymer. The metal is electrically charged, which helps the powder adhere to the metal surface. Once applied, the metal is baked in an oven, which turns the powder into one solid, protective coat.

Powder coating is strong and durable. By charging the metal part, the powder adheres to the metal more consistently than paint. Additionally, the baking process creates a strong bond and makes the part more uniformly coated. The powder coat doesn’t contain any solvents and releases fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. And, since its baked, the powder coat can cure faster than paint can dry.

The biggest downside is cost. Powder coating is expensive and requires special equipment that not everyone has access to. For that reason, you will need to take your metal parts to a powder coating shop. Keep in mind that even specialty shops have size limits to what can fit in their ovens.

Another downside is that not all materials can be powder coated. You’ll need to check with a local powder coating shop to see if there are any restrictions — either for size or material type. In general, powder coating works best on metals, but it can also work on plastic as long as the plastic that can withstand heat without melting. To learn more about materials that can be powder coated, we’ve included a link.

Powder Coating Alternatives

Of course, there are alternatives to powder coating. We’ve listed them below, along with the pros and cons for each.

Paint

Paint is cost effective and easy to apply. It is a good alternative if the extra durability of powder coating isn’t needed. For example, most body panels of cars are painted, as are some wheels, bumpers, and interior trim pieces. The best way to get a coat of paint to look good is to spend a lot of time prepping the material to make sure the paint will stick. Also, you may want to apply more than one coat, and maybe even a few clear coats too.

Thermal Spray

Thermal spray is almost a cross between paint and powder coating. A heat source and high-pressure applicator are combined to spray a type of paint, which helps it adhere better to the part. Thermal spray can be used on plastics. Specialized tools are needed, so you’ll need to find a local shop that specializes in thermal spray. Cost may also be a factor with this method.

Hot Dip Galvanizing

Some iron and/or steel parts — such as steel nuts and bolts that are exposed to the elements — can be coated with a protective layer of zinc, which is more resistant to rust and corrosion than paint or powder coating. Hot dip galvanizing requires a vat of molten zinc and a way to submerge the iron or steel in it. If you have parts that you want to hot dip galvanize, you will need to find a hot dip galvanizing specialty shop or simply order parts that have already been galvanized bolts.

Phosphating

Phosphating is an alternative to galvanizing. Metal parts are dipped in an acid bath that has dissolved metals in it. The acid encourages the metals dissolved in the acid to adhere to the part, forming a protective layer. The part will then need to be coated in oil or some other type of sealant to complete the process. This is a less common method available at some local specialty paint shops.

Rhino Linings, Other Brands

Rhino Linings is a brand of protective coatings — typically applied to truck beds — that uses a special polymer that forms a shield much stronger than paint and doesn’t require baking or charging. Other brands make similar products you can apply on your own. Some people will even coat their entire vehicle in this product, making it virtually rust-proof.

Anodizing

Similar to galvanizing but more often seen on aluminum than steel, anodizing metal is a way to protect it. Instead of coating it in another metal, though, the metal surface is made to oxidize quickly; this layer of oxidation protects the core of the metal. Special equipment is needed. Instead, you can purchase pre-anodized parts.

In Summary

Powder coating is a great way to protect your car and its parts from the elements, but it isn’t foolproof or necessarily the best choice in all situations. Not all materials can be powder coated, and not all of them should be. If cost is an issue, paint is sometimes the best choice. For more on powder coating, see our articles: How Much Does Powder Coating Cost? and How Much to Powder Coat Rims?