Lotus Elan Central
Painting Your Brake Calipers

So did I hear you say you want to make your car look cool and you have nothing better to do??

Well I have the answer for you!!

Folia Tec Paint

Ever since I purchased my car used, I have wanted to take off the wheels and clean the wheels and wheel wells. I’ve also seen sports cars with brightly painted brake calipers and wondered if I could get my baby to look spicy like that! Well I found the answer when I read about "Folia Tec Brake Caliper Paint." I suppose standard high-temp paint could be used, but the Folia Tec paint is specially formulated and packaged just for the job. It can likely be found at your local performance sports car shop and sells for about $50 US. It comes in various colors: Yellow, Red, Black, Gold, Silver, and Blue.

Since I’ve already started with yellow accents to my British Racing Green car, I got some yellow caliper paint. The Elan calipers are not too visible with the stock wheels in place, but I considered that a plus for painting them bright yellow. The paint comes in the box seen here and includes 3 cans: (1) caliper cleaner spray, (2) caliper paint, and (3) paint "hardener."

The prep

First, plan on spending some quality time with your car! I opted to use the Factory Jack as I knew it was designed to fit the ‘jack-points’ well. Knowing the car would be up for a while, I thought this a better choice than my floor jack (which doesn’t fit the car perfectly). Jack up the car and remove one of the wheels—put a paper towel between the tire iron and the lug nut to avoid scratching it up.

  • BONUS SECTION: Just before you remove the wheel, you can check the wheel bearing’s play with the wheel slightly raised off the ground. To do this, grab the tire with both hands, one on each side of it (top & bottom or forward & rear sides). If you can shake the wheel and feel play in the bearings, you should then proceed with "wheel bearing adjustment." Mine were fine but Steve P. related a story to me that his were in need of adjustment. This is also a perfect time to check your spare tire’s pressure! Mine was only 10 PSI (recommended 60 PSI). Now aren’t you glad you fixed that too? You can check your brake pad and rotor condition as well.

Be careful not to set the outward painted surface of the wheel on the ground to avoid scratches! Get some good cleaning products (I used Simple Green and Eagle One Wheel Cleaner) and some small sturdy brushes and get to work ! Try some steel wool on the metal surfaces to bring back that happy shine, but do this before you get anything wet. Start by cleaning the years of brake dust and dirt build-up from the inside of the wheels and throughout the wheel wells! Marvel at the up-close viewing of one of the world’s most incredible suspension set-ups!

When the grime is done flowing from the car to the floor, you know you’re getting close. Scrub the caliper with vengeance and give everything a final rinse. Get out the Brake Caliper Cleaner and use it to soak the water off the caliper! This cleaner is a volatile hydrocarbon spray and evaporates leaving a perfectly dry finish. BE SURE the caliper is perfectly dry before painting!! If you are really handy you can remove the caliper for easier painting, but this is not necessary and will only make things take even longer and can introduce the possibility of screwing the brake system up.

The Painting

Buy some small paint brushes and even some very small modeling brushes to help you get the details right. Mask off the rotor and anything else you may flail paint on! The instructions say to add the paint and the hardener (3:1) and mix. You will likely do one caliper at a time like I did, unless you have a home auto lift or levitation powers! Be prepared to use only about ¼ the allotment of paint for each caliper. Look at the caliper and figure out exactly how much you want to paint, and be sure you don’t paint any of the moving parts! Carefully brush your desired area and watch it become the color you wanted—I hope you like the color now since it’s too late to quit!

The paint starts to set-up after about 5 minutes so don’t take forever! Be sure not to put on too much paint, and be ready to smooth the bottom edges that will want to drip. Don’t go crazy painting the entire caliper—you can just paint the area that will be seen with the wheel on! After another 10 minutes or so, when the paint is no longer threatening to drip, you can put the wheel back on—CAREFULLY—so not to touch the drying paint.

Front before painting     Front after painting

Rear before painting     Rear after painting

The Aftermath

You could do all the calipers at one sitting or separately—but don’t get the one you just painted wet! Let it dry at least 12 hours before driving the car. Yes, the rusty haze on the rotors is normal after washing the car—in case you never noticed it before.

You now have that jazzy look you wanted.

Final look of the front wheel     Final look of the rear wheel

The benefits: looks, looks, looks!!

The paint will make cleaning the calipers easy, as the brake dust will just slide off the glossy finish now. You also just cleaned the armpits of your car, which is something you always wanted to do!!

Bonus Points

Since I had all that paint and the whole car in front of me, I decided to paint the raised "LOTUS" letters on the valve cover yellow as well!! It was easy with the use of my old model painting skills and a very fine brush. I reasoned that if the paint is designed for the extreme temperatures of the brake calipers, it can handle the valve cover as well. See the results in the picture here and maybe you too will try your hand at it.

Isuzu Lotus

You can find other, similar caliper paint products in various auto magazine ads, at your local speed shop, or online at the Tire Rack.

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