For car enthusiasts and even the average car owner, it is not enough that their vehicle work as intended, but they need to look great too! For enthusiasts, a car’s aesthetics is not just limited to the car’s exterior but down to the engine and internals of the vehicle itself. This brings us to the headers, which can be considered one of the engine’s most visible parts. In their normal state, the headers appear black and even rusty and can be a sore sight. Because of this, painting headers became a thing for car owners and enthusiasts.
While the automotive industry has professionals when it comes to doing car work and finishes, our worldwide situation now leans toward more economically-friendly DIY jobs and this brings us to the search for the best paint for exhaust headers. The problem is not the lack of choices but rather a large number of options that can muddy up the boundaries between price and quality. We hope that this article could become a guide to let you have that know-how to be able to choose what you really need for your project.
7 Best Header Paints
1. Design Engineering 010301The DEI 010301 silicone-based formulation is famous for various reasons. Still, the best explanation by far is that it can be directly applied to heat wraps and exhaust wraps, prolonging their usability and lifespans. Aside from this, it can also be applied directly to engine blocks, exhaust headers, manifold, and pipes due to its ability to withstand temperatures of up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from its thermal protection capabilities, this durable coating will protect the surface from chemicals such as oils and solvents. Furthermore, its application extends beyond automobiles as this compound can be used in other household items that need coatings, such as grills and other things. Check Price
2. PJ1 16-HITThe PJ1 Premium Performance Coating Fast Black was formulated with extreme heat in mind. This was primarily developed to coat spacecraft parts and protect them from heat during re-entry from space. Now that is extreme temperature, and as a result, the PJ1 heat-resistant header paint can withstand up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the ideal paint for anything that needs coating under the engine bay. The space-age technology behind the success of this compound is its composition, being a silica-ceramic hybrid. Those are two of the most heat-resistant materials known to man, and they combined the two into a usable form of paint for your auto needs. While it can withstand high temperatures, it also cures rapidly, providing a scratch and chip-resistant surface. Check Price
3. Rust-Oleum 249340Rust-Oleum is a pretty solid company for painting, and the Rust-Oleum 249340 Automotive High Heat Primer Spray Paint is a testament to their expertise. This product ups the ante as it raises the threshold for heat resistance of up to 2000 Degrees Fahrenheit. This is a huge deal as the competition only goes up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. The Rust-Oleum 249340 uses the tried and tested enamel base formulation with added heat resistance. The enamel means that when this cures, it will not only provide a durable coating but also make the surface waterproof, providing a seal that is corrosion resistant as well. Check Price
4. Eastwood Durable ResistantThe High-Temperature manifold paint from Eastwood is one formidable contender in this list. The Eastwood header paint removes cast iron and oxidation and directly bonds to aluminum. It also has the distinction of coming in both spray and can configuration, giving it flexibility in terms of application. What this means is that it can either be brushed on or sprayed on surfaces. While the usual color would be matte black, the Eastwood manifold paint comes in a classic silver-matte finish. It has a decent heat temperature resistance threshold at 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, making it perfect for engine components. Check Price
5. Dupli-Color DE1650The Dupli-Color DE1650 lives up to its name as it is the ONLY header paint brand that comes in almost any color. However, this enamel-based paint can tolerate up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considerably lower than its counterparts. It is marketed as an engine enamel paint, though, and is infused with ceramic components. This engine coating dries up to a glossy showroom finish that other paint brands can simply not match. The high gloss also acts as a heat reflector, adding to your components’ heat resistance. Check Price
6. POR-15The POR 15 High-Temperature paint comes only in cans and is famous for being used almost anywhere in the engine bay and its components. Its main selling point is its ease of application and flexibility, where it can be applied via brush or spray gun. The temperature threshold is well above what any regular engine can dish out at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, making it ideal for manifolds, exhaust, headers, and even stacks. It is manufactured using an oil-based formula that allows it to bond and form a durable and rugged layer over the metal surface that is painted over. This formulation makes it highly resistant to cracking and chipping. Check Price
7. VHT FLAMEPROOF CoatingVHT is also a mainstay in the automotive paints industry, and while the VHT Flameproof coating’s name may be over the top, it certainly lives up to its name. For starters, it has one of the highest temperature resistance ratings at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, the VHT Flameproof coating can be used on high-performance engines that generate more heat than the standard passenger car. Additionally, this is a self-priming paint, and that means you can apply this by itself, as long as the surface of the metal is prepared correctly. The header paint is silicone and ceramic-based, which explains its exceptional heat resistance and makes it ideal for anything under the hood. Check Price
What you should know before buying header paintsThe header is part of the exhaust system and is subjected to high temperatures as the engine goes about its job. Typically, the headers are just bare metal, which is why it is common to see them in rust color. When talking about painting them, it is not just about header paint colors; the exhaust header paint needed would have to withstand high temperatures and provide good surface coating and protection. With headers, paint is never just about aesthetics and color. With this, we took the time to research just what is essential when choosing the best exhaust paint available now. Take a look at them below.
Heat ResistanceTypically, headers reach temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit on average, so part of how to paint headers would be considering how much heat the paint can handle. After all, the combustion engine is basically just housing for a controlled explosion, so there is a lot of heat generated. Regular paint will just end up being burned off the header’s surface, and therefore a specially formulated paint such as high temp spray paint for exhaust is needed. Heat resistance is the one consideration and factor that you cannot skip when choosing what to paint your vehicle’s exhaust system. Ideally, get the best exhaust manifold paint that can withstand temperatures of up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. For us, this would put your choice safely above this parameter. Always choose those paints that have a high temp header paint label on them.
Ease of applicationUsually, a can of spray paint is simply pointed, and the nozzle pressed in the direction you want to be painted. With specialty spray-on paints, it can be a little bit more complicated than that. As an example, in a vht header paint review, this product needs to be sprayed on in opposing directions to achieve its effect. This is contrasted by the rustoleum header paint, which you simply spray on and leave to dry. Each product would have a different way of application. Another way is to buy paint by the can instead of a spray can and use an air compressor to paint your headers. This would be the route to take if you operate professionally or need to paint several manifolds with high temp exhaust paint. In addition, you also have the ability to mix and match header paint colors with ease with this method. However, this needs expensive equipment, as well as a significant space to use them. If you are just learning how to paint headers, the header spray paint in a can would be the easiest way to apply. In terms of ease of application, ready-mix spray-on engine header paint such as the duplicolor header paint is the way to go.
QualityThe quality of the best header paint should always be top-tier; otherwise, it would not stay long in the market. When choosing, keep on the lookout for great articles that provide guides and even reviews, such as the vht flameproof review, among others. Making the mistake of getting a lower-quality manifold paint can cost you expenses along the way. For one, these lower quality paint will not have adequate protection against rust and the elements and can actually speed up corrosion instead of preventing it. One kind of header paint that stands out from the rest is the emergence of ceramic coating paint for headers and is a relatively new formulation. These kinds belong in the higher-end category of exhaust paint colors, and ceramic header paint is always high quality. Always choose the higher quality product for your peace of mind.
Rust resistanceRust is a major enemy of car owners, and rust on the manifold or headers is never good. Therefore always choose a hi temp exhaust paint that also has additional rust-proofing properties. Remember that the best header coating will always have this feature on their product. Along with rust inhibition characteristics, the header paint that you choose should also have oil and water resistance. Bear these in mind when choosing what is the best header paint. Chipping Along with its chemical protection, the best header paints also exhibit physical protection of the header surface from the elements, especially small debris. Lower quality paint can be prone to chipping and flaking. In reviews, like in the vht vs rustoleum high heat review and comparison, both of these brands exhibit high resistance to chipping. Keep in mind that headers and manifolds can be exposed to dirt and debris while on the road. With this in mind, any coating you put in there should be able to handle these.
Advantages of using header paintThere is an inherent advantage when you use tools and equipment specific for that particular job and it is the same with paint. If you have knowledge on how to coat headers, then you would know just about how useless it would be to use ordinary paint on headers. Using ceramic header paint or knowing how to paint headers with vht are just two things that add up to the effectivity of header paints. Below are some of their characteristics that illustrate their advantage over standard paint.
Increase heat toleranceThe engine bay, where the manifold and headers are located, is a hot place. Exactly how hot, you ask? Some engine bays can generate up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to burn off standard paint on any of its parts. While headers on their own can withstand this heat, the other engine parts surrounding them may not. Adding a coating of protective header paint will dramatically decrease heat output to more forgiving levels. This alone can add years to your car’s paint job’s longevity, not to mention the other parts themselves. Bottom line, paint your headers if you want them to last longer.
Prevents discolorationRust is ugly, especially for a car enthusiast, and painting your headers will prevent this from ever happening. Adding a layer of header paint will not only make your header aesthetically pleasing but be protected as well. Rusted-out headers can be dangerous to run, not to mention expensive to repair. Discoloration also happens to the hood of the car itself. Luckily a layer or two of good quality header paint can save you from having these problems in the long run.
Prevent corrosionThe manifold and your headers are often not just exposed to extreme heat in the course of its life, but also the elements and chemicals in the engine bay. When bare metal when exposed to moisture and the elements for long periods, it gets rusted out. This is where good quality header paint comes in; it creates an impenetrable layer that protects vulnerable metal parts from being corroded. The coating is not only effective against water but other fluids as well, like oil and solvents. Additionally, it also protects against small debris and particle impacts as you drive along the road.
Improved efficiencyWhen an additional coating of heat-resistant header paint, you contribute to how your vehicle manages heat efficiently. Heat is what mostly contributes to speed up wear and tear on parts. With the coating, heat is contained where it is supposed to be, which is inside the manifold itself to be taken away by the headers to the exhaust tip. Because of this, the exhaust action will be sped up, and there will be decreased backpressure resulting in an overall improvement of the engine’s efficiency.
Protects other partsOne of the signs of poorly managed exhaust and heat dissipation is the faster discoloration of the hood paint, but that is the least of the worries that will arise from this. A bare header without adequate coating can radiate heat to other vehicle components, such as the electrical wiring, plastics, and tubing. While these are rated to withstand higher temperatures, the extra may push them to experience temperatures above their rating, causing damage. Adding that header paint coating will drastically decrease the chances of this from happening.
To ensure we are covering all the basics, here are some of the most common questions about header paint and their comprehensive answers. Take a look at them below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How long do painted headers last?
As a rule of thumb, a good quality header paint can last for three years on average. Still, advances in color and materials technology assure us that it can last even more, especially if correctly applied. Like any other paint job, surface preparation is essential for proper adhesion and the correct curing times.
If done correctly, header paint can last for several years, providing protection as well as aesthetics to your ride.
How to remove temporary header paint?
Header paints still behave like any other paint, after all, but just a whole lot tougher. They are formulated to resist oils and solvents, so ordinary paint strippers will not work on them.
Prepare an industrial or aircraft-grade paint stripper and apply it in much the same way you would in a standard paint removal situation.
After the allotted time has passed, apply some elbow grease, and the job is done.
Do these paints have UV protection?
While this is not unheard of, it is often rare to find this feature in a header paint product. For starters, the header and the manifold where these are applied are usually internal, where the sun’s harmful UV rays will not reach.
There is simply no pressing need for this feature to be incorporated into these products. This header paint has thermal protection as well as physical protection for wear and tear for your headers.
Are stainless steel headers better than ceramic?
Good old stainless steel wins by a large margin over those products touted as being ceramic. These ceramic products are, in reality, just mild steel that is coated with ceramic. While this gives them excellent thermal resistance, they do not offer anything by way of strength and corrosion resistance.
On the other hand, stainless steel offers both strength as well as protection from corrosive components. When you apply header paint to stainless steel headers, you add that tough layer of protection that also has thermal insulation properties.
How do you apply header paint?
Header paint is applied the same way as you would paint, and the secret to painting anything is to prepare the surface for maximum adhesion. Properly mask off any surface where you do not want the paint to stick to and carefully remove any contaminants on the actual surface that you would be painting.
The first step is to remove any old paint on the surface if there are any; this would involve an industrial-grade paint stripper or sanding, whichever the case may be. Next, ensure that there are no oils or chemicals on the surface to ensure proper adhesion. Remember that each product may vary as to how far the sprayer should be from the surface or how many minutes you need to wait before each coat. Because of this, read the fine print on the can of product you will be using for any special instructions in the application process. Once you have done that, you are good to go.