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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone, I know there has been many other posts about this, but some are old and don't have pictures anymore, so I thought I would contribute my experience from when I decided to paint the lowers on my '03 B5.5 to try and match the rest of the car.

Obvious Disclaimer: I am not a professional painter, nor do I guarantee results the same (or better, or worse) than my experience. This post is purely for information, and if you take of pieces of your car and paint them, there is no guarantee that you will like it, and no guarantee that you can make it back to the way it was before, because you will be sanding pieces and changing the overall appearance of certain items. There, now I said it!:salute:

So, after many different searches, and debating whether or not to go with a body kit or not, or just a front valence, etc. I decided to start off by painting the lowers. I think it renews the car, and gives it an updated look, all without breaking the bank. This took me an entire day, but remember, you have some downtime while you're waiting for some paint to dry...(Hint:downtime = :beer: time)

First things first, the products I used. Good ol' Kragen(O'reilly or other national chain) had everything I needed, plus I used a few things from the garage. I used:

Dupli Color Adhesive Promoter (helps paint stick to things like plastic) = 1 can did it for me
Primer (I used grey, my car is reflex silver) = 2 cans
DupliColor Paint (matched for VW reflex silver) = 3 cans
DupliColor Clear Coat (self explanatory) = 3 cans
Handheld Sander (trust me, you don't want to hand sand everthing)
Painters tape
Various screwdrivers and pliers to take off body pieces
A buddy helps, but not necessary
Patience

Ok, so the first thing you'll want to do is take off all the lower pieces. I decided to paint mine off the car, I thought it would give a finished look, but if you want to paint it on the car, be sure to have a lot of plastic or newspaper around and be good at taping things off. The front valence comes off from one hex screw in the front of both wheel wells at the bottom, and a clip that I used a pair of pliers to separate. (right above the screw) Then, carefully to not scratch the paint, take a flathead screwdriver or trim tool and pop off the valence where the black plastic meets the painted surface of the car. Work your way from both ends of the wheel wells working to the center. It should come out easily. I also took out the lower grille that covers the fog lights and the center portion, as I was going to paint a portion of them.

vw lowers 012.jpg

The side skirts have a whole bunch of those hex screws all over the place. Just start in the wheel wells again and work your way under the car. Open all four doors. You'll then see a black cover strip running along the bottom, just above the step plate, about 1.5" that needs to come off. Take your screwdriver at one end and just pop it off, working your way to the other end, until you can take it off the car. Repeat on other side of the car. I decided not to paint these strips, as I thought they would recieve a lot of knicks from doors being opened and closed, shoes kicking them. Plus, you can only see it when you have the doors open. There are more screws under that strip that hold on the side skirts, and those need to come off too. The skirts should then be able to come off the car. They are in two pieces, there's an end cap towards the rear wheels that is held on by a screw in the wheel well, a screw under the car, and a plastic pop-in piece. There's also the pieces that are connected to the door that are held in place by some screws at the the bottom of the inside of the door, and pop-ins on the outside, take off the screws and pop them off the door, but be careful not to bust the clips.

As far as the rear valence goes, we're out of luck there. I had to do this one in place, as mine is molded to the rest of the car and can't be taken off. Oh well.

vw lowers 019.jpg

Now that we have all the pieces off the car, it's time to prep. You'll want to first wash the pieces in a mild detergent solution, to get off all residue and cleaners, such as Back to Black or whatever else you may use. I just had a bucket full of water with a little dishwashing liquid (dawn), and two towels. One to wash, the other to dry.

This next step is where you get to decide. Sanding. I decided that because the front valence will get the most abuse from rocks and road debris, I wouldn't put extra time in sanding it. Plus, there's only a small portion that is actually visible and I can't tell that it's not sanded now. I did decide to sand the rest of the pieces, so that there wouldn't be as much as a two tone effect from the pattern on the plastic. It's up to you how far you want to sand, just start with a lower grit, like 80, and lightly sand down the layers, trying to keep everything even, working your way up to 320 grit. That will get it nice and smooth. If you try to go to fast, you risk gouging a part of it and it will throw a dark shadow on the piece. Take your time to do it right. I also took a damp towel and wiped down everything between sandings, so I could see how everything was coming out.

Now its time to paint. Read all paint cans and definitely work in a ventilated area. I f you have an empty garage to work in, lay down a crap-load of newspaper and lay out all the sanded pieces. Go and open the garage door now if you haven't already done so haha. The first step is to apply the Adhesive Promoter. This will help the paint stick to the pieces without bubbling or warping or cracking. Just make sure you get it all over the piece, it dries very fast and is clear, doesn't leave any residue whatsoever.

vw lowers 013.jpg

Give it about 2-3 minutes to air dry, and then start with the primer. In my experience, I can not express how important this next part is. PAINT IN LIGHT COATS!!! Don't try to cover everything at once, there's nothing good to come from that, other than running paint and extra sanding time. Just hold the can about 8-10" away and give it a light coat. The primer dries fast too, so you can come back in a couple of minutes and apply the second and third and maybe even fourth or fifth coats until everything is primed. I think I did 4 extremely light coats of primer. Let everthing dry while you go grab a beer. 15-20 minutes.

Next comes the real paint. I got to give it to Duplicolor, they really have a good product on the shelf, the paint even had the shiny flecks in it to match perfectly. Once again, PAINT IN LIGHT COATS!!! It's hard to tell how much paint is going on, so be careful not to overspray any areas, this will run the paint and look pretty bad....Give 5-10 minutes between coats, you want to make sure the first coat is pretty well dry before adding any layers. I think I did 3-4 coats on each piece, the side skirts may have had a fifth. Let these dry longer, probably 25-30 minutes. Grab another beer or go watch the game for a little.

vw lowers 018.jpg

Last step, the clear coat. Same as before, light coats will do the trick, and give you the best results. Let this dry at least an hour before re-installing. If you have time to let it sit over night, that would be best.

Re-install everything, stand back, and admire your work. I like how mine came out. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Am I happy? Absolutely. I can notice slight variations, and I think I'm going to redo the rear valence over again (I can see some sanding swirls...:( ) But overall, it loks great and cost me under $50 in supplies. I think I was seeing people getting quoted anywhere from $400-1500 to get it professionally done. Yes, I know it would be better quality, but I would much rather put that kind of coin into something much more significant.

vw lowers 022.jpg

vw lowers 025.jpg

I hope this helps anyone that may be thinking about doing this to their ride, it was relatively simple and produced a good look. haven't had any issues at all with cracking on the flexible rubber pieces on the door, just be careful not to open your door on a curb or kick itor anything. Your work will last as long as you take care of it. I couldn't figure out how to embed images and have more pictures. I'll post them on the same thread, next post...
 

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it is awesome that you took the time to do this... but I think you are going to find the paint is going to chip like crazy, based on the past experiences of people here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm expecting some chipping for sure. I put 3-4 coats of clear on it, hopefully it withstands a little beating. And if it does get bad, since I've already sanded, primed, and painted, I have a couple cans left over to redo any major chipping. Keeping my fingers crossed...
 

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the key to this is to use a paint that doesn't harden too much - the softer the paint is, the less prone it will be to chipping. unfortunately, most of the backyard mod crowd doesn't have access to those kinds of paints, only pro body shop guys.
 

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I'll probably be doing this within the next few months. Don't think I'll sand too much though. I'm ok with a little bit of the natural texture showing vs. sanding swirls or pitting. A good wash, dry and adhesion promoter should work good enough. What type of primer did you use? I've done a bit of painting on the middle section of the lower-front valence (gives it a bit of an audi or b6 look). With that I used a filler primer that goes on a little thicker and might be a bit more flexible. Paint and clear was like yours though. After driving around NYC for a few months and numerous gas station power washes, I haven't seen any chipping issues, which is surprising because this is the area that would be most susceptible to taking a beating from various road debris, rocks, bugs, etc.

I did the same to the chrome on my rubstrips but it's chipping very badly. I'll have to redo those, but I know where I messed up. I didn't do a good job of sanding on those. The chrome surface really needs to be prepped/sanded throughly in order to get a good surface for the primer/paint to bond. I didn't use adhesion promoter either, which I will definitely use next time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well it depends on what finish you'd like. I've seen people use the filler primer, which I'm guessing would take away some of the texture, but I used just regular old primer and applied the thin coats so that it would be in layers, not in one single coat. I live in orange county, California, and don't drive too far for work, so I'm hoping that I don't get too much chipping. Like I said earlier, it's inevitable, and will probably have to redo something for sure.

Take a look at the filler primer though, and let me know if you do end up using it. I might use that for my rear valence to help fill in any imperfections when I redo it.
 

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here's a few pics of when i first de-chromed the rubstrips and did just the center portion of the lower-front valence. i used filler primer for both. the rubstrips are peeling/chipping badly, but that's due to my poor prep job on the chrome. the lower valence still looks solid.


 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Koidragon - How well did the filler primer work to smooth out the texture on the plastic? I am definitely going to redo my rear valence, and was wondering if that would help me out. Did you sand between coats? And from the research I did on painting chrome, I believe you actually have to basically sand off the chrome for anything to stick...

royal - As far as I can tell, the B5's and 5.5's are similar, not exact. I haven't worked on one myself, but the side sirts look very similar and I'm guessing that they would be attached in a similar fashion. And the front valence does seem to come up a little furthur, but once again, should be connected in the same way. Just carefully try and take off the inserts, and then see if there are screws or tabs holding it in. I'm guessing tabs...
 

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I didn't do any sanding. Just cleaned it up real good. No sanding between primer and paint either. The way the primer lays, it kinda makes it's own texture. I was ok with this, as I prefer to keep the lowers a little textured and the surface of the primer seems to be holding up great in keeping the paint in place. If you let it dry and sand it a bit, I'm sure you can smooth it out though. I also did a several coats of clear to help add an extra layer of protection for the paint. Even with the bit of texture, the clear really helped things blend well with the rest of the body. I'll be doing the rest of the lowers soon. I may do a bit of sanding on the surface of the lowers, but probably just some light prep work. I'm not planning to sand the primer. The chrome however, I will be sanding things quite a bit and using the adhesion promoter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for sharing your experience. I think I'm going to get some of the filler primer and play around with sanding, multiple clear coats.
 
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