How to paint stainless steel exhaust?

Hello all –

I’m not partial to the look of a bare stainless steel exhaust underneath my XK120. Just doesn’t look “right”. I’d like to paint it black – any sort of black – before it goes back on, but I tried doing this once before some years back and the paint immediately started flaking off – especially at the flexible portion even before it went back on the car. I’m not looking for the final finish to look pretty, just something that will last.

Advice please, from those who’ve been down this road before?


Have you tried using the high heat paint that is available to use for outside cooking grills?

Oh yeah. But apparently stainless steel is a different animal altogether when it comes to prep and throwing the requirement of withstanding high heat complicates things still further. An internet search leads me to inconsistent replies all over the map. I figure others on here must’ve painted their stainless exhaust headers, mufflers and tail pipes in the past so I’m wondering how they went about it and how the results have held up over time.

Dod you sand it, and try zinc phosphate primer?

Nope. None of those. Back then it was just a rattle can of high heat stuff on bare metal. That’s why I’m asking this time around so I get it right.

There are some special bluing solutions for stainless you might get lucky with:

And I don’t know if the oil+heat trick works with stainless. Maybe worth trying :slightly_smiling_face: no experience with any of the above, but I am sure that paint directly won’t hold up at all. Too shiny and nothing to hold on.

It wont: i think the only way to paint SS exhausts would be something like Jet Hot.

Thank you, I like that link. That would work for me but instead of sanding, I’d opt for the easy way out by taking the pieces to the local blasting shop to rough up the surface.

Wiggs, in what way do you think the bluing would fail?

Done it may times, athough for lower temperatures, in chemical plants and distilleries. To get anything to adhere to stainless you need to provide an abraded, totally oil free, surface. To do that, abrasive blast the substrate to “near white metal”. The technical reference for this is SP10 (used to be SSPC10). Once spotlessly clean and suitably abraded, you will need to use a coating that is suitable for the temperature involved. I would suggest that you look at this silicone product from McMaster Carr, which is recommended for stainless steel.

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I don’t: bluing isnt paint.

Okay, I getcha – thanks.

I saw this too, Mike. I wondering though if it would still be a good idea to use a high-temp primer before applying the finish coat.

I don’t think so. The abraded surface provides the “tooth” that you would get from a primer. But I would follow the instructions provided by whoever makes that hi-temp silicone based paint. I wrote dozens and dozens of paint specs for chemical plant projects. About the only time we ever painted stainless steel was the interior of a silo and I don’t remember why we did that. The reason you spec stainless steel construction is so you don’t have to worry about corrosion and paint. I always spec’d stainless steel boiler stacks for that reason.


How about having the pipes powder coated :thinking:
Or Ceramic coated , but that’s expensive .

I doubt powder coating would survive the temps.

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Maybe from the back box back it would , Ceramic coat the front , or , stop looking under the car :rofl:

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I’m intrigued by Sur-Fin Chemical’s video showing a piece of 304 being blackened. I think I’ll try that first. I imagine there won’t be as much of a stink upon first firing it up and subsequent heat cycling. Again, I’m looking to minimize the bright/ shiny stainless steel look so maybe I’ll amend the title to “How to darken stainless steel” instead of limiting myself to just painting it.

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I googled, “how to paint stainless steel exhaust” and got lots of hits, like this one:

Common threads in all that seem to be well thought out recommend sanding to give the paint something to grip. a thorough cleaning and degreasing, and using a self etching primer.

I seriously doubt that process is for anything but the MUCH cooler exhaust tips.