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Traditional and Roller Methods with affordable paints

Mike's trailer, pictured above, (enhanced photo) painted with Rustoleum and the "50 dollar paint job"

Jerry's Rustoleum "Rattle Can" 1969 Cardinal Paint Project

From Jerry:  "I am using rustoleum appliance enamel for the white. When I apply I make sure to
keep it looking wet and always paint into the wet area. Keep the can about 6" from the surface and use even, medium strokes making sure to keep the can parallel to the surface...same as when using a paint

Just FYI, about what happens when you don't follow the manufacturers instructions....I painted the door and then got some dirt on it...I waited a day, sanded and recoated to see almost immediately the paint start to wrinkle....THEN I looked at the can and read to recoat within 1 hour or wait 1 WEEK to recoat!  All the paint was put on in very light mist coats, 3 to 4 all within about 1/2 hour, than all tape stripped off very carefully after about an hour.

I wanted to pass on some info to think about as anyone prepares to paint their trailers.
I've spoken to a couple of folks who have used Rustoleum and they both are happy with the results.... but...
Update from Jerry - July 2009
The white Rustoleum Appliance paint is holding up just great...still shiny and
cleans up well after a trip. The red, on the other hand, is fading some on the
curbside....that's the side that faces the sun ALL DAY in our driveway. I
haven't ever really waxed it, only wash it. The street side is still very red
and quite shiny.



Though we love the two-tone paint scheme, we will likely go with the all white look of the trailer on the far right, with just a Z stripe.  White is the number one color for deflecting the sun's heat, and this trailer needs it!  It's a good idea on any trailer to paint the upper portion, especially the roof, white for this purpose.  The two-tone pics above should help as a visual should you decide to go with this paint scheme.  

The two-tone Shasta became more scarce during the early 60's.  The picture on the right is more likely how our 1963 was painted originally. 

Our trailer is already painted and we don't want to try to bring her down to bare aluminum.  Therefore, instead of a bare aluminum Z stripe, we will paint ours on in silver paint. 


1. Paint the entire surface with the body color (white in our case).
2. Now use cheap masking tape as wide as you want the stripe, 2".
Run the tape like it was going to be the stripe itself.
3. Once this tape is on (don't worry about pressing it down real tight) use
a very good quality painters 3/4" blue masking tape. 3/4" makes it easy to
keep it straight by pressing a couple inches down tightly and then gently
pulling it taut three or four feet away.  Anyway, use the blue painters tape
to follow your masking tape stripe.  When you are finished pull off the
cheap masking tape, leaving a perfect 2" wide stripe.
4. Press the edges of the blue tape down with a putty knife (don't scratch your
new body color paint) all along the length.  Once this is pressed down you
can use cheap tape to attach newspapers on either side of the stripe to
prevent overspray.
5. Now use the same color paint you just painted the body with and spray a
light coat over the masked off stripe area.  This will seal the edges so
your stripe color does not bleed under the tape.
6. Now you are ready to spray your stripe color.  Use two or three
light coats and build up the color slowly.
7. When the paint is dry, not before, peel the painters tape off and make
sure you pull the tape off away from the stripe, this prevents the tape from
pulling the new paint off with it.


Below in first picture is a Shasta that has been painted by owner with industrial tractor paint.  2nd picture of Troy's Shasta is also painted with tractor paint.  (colors, international harvestor white and hesston red)  Quote from Troy:  "I found it was very easy to work with, flowed nice and was cheap at $20.00 a
gallon.  On my Shasta SC-16 I used approx 1/2 gallon each, I did not thin it at all, and shot it with a hvlp sprayer in my driveway".


Looks great and we will go with the same paint.  Much less expensive than auto paint and even if we could have afforded it, we had no desire to put car paint on our camping trailer.  I don't like to wax my car, (just ask my faded car) let alone try to keep a huge trailer lookin fine. 

If you can afford and would like a professional auto paint finish, then you will find the following of little interest.  It makes sense that an expensive auto paint, along with clear coat, is likely a better paint.  The difference in cost is also likely in hundreds, (or thousands) of dollars.  If you are looking for an alternative as we are ; a more affordable paint,  read on:

We most often camp pretty rustic, I don't want to be all that concerned about messing up our paint job while dragging it down two-tracks and through the woods.  If I can't take it in the woods for fear of scratching my expensive paint.... well, that's just not going to work for us.  My main goal is a tough finish.  How durable is it?  I liked this guy's remark:

"I've got JD tractors around here that are 30+ years old with it painted on the cabs, no chalky effect.  As far as the durability,  like I said, come take a look at our tractors, not a mark, nearly 30 years old of being a loader tractor on a cattle ranch in North Dakota. It has stood up to mud, gravel, sand, cow crap, snow, pressure washers, probably had just about every fluid imagineable spilled on it inadvertantly, still not a chip, flake, or signs of rust. I dont know what you would call that but I call it pretty dang durable."

Another quote:  "I've used that trailer paint before and it's not bad. You can use a catalyst/hardener with some brands and it makes it stronger and glossier. Without the hardener it will probably lose it's gloss after a while. Tractor Supply carries BPS brand made by Valspar and it's pretty good. I think the paint is less than $25  (gallon) and the hardener is $10. "

Note:  Though we have used this method of tractor paint, do so at your own risk.  This is what WE are going to do, and I'm sure we'll be happy with it.  (anything will be a huge improvement over what we have   We don't have the experience to know for sure how this paint will hold up over time.  Do your own homework, try it out on a small piece of aluminum, and make your own decision.

Purchased our paint today.  I decided to go with the above advice and buy our paint at "Tractor Supply".  This paint is made by Valspar, who also apparently makes "John Deere" paint.  We purchased:

BPS Agri Systems Tractor and Implement Paint in Gloss White - 1 gallon $21.98.  "A high gloss premium quality enamel designed to withstand tough wear and weathering.  Thin with up to 1/2 pint (8 fl. oz.) of VM&P naphtha per gallon of paint for spray application. Covers approximately 500 sq. ft. per gallon. Dries to touch in 4 to 6 hours. Allow to dry 24 hours between coats. Clean up tools and spatters with mineral spirits."  This same paint is also available in spray cans for touchups! 

Since this paint is also available in "rattle cans", I thought I would mention that some owners have used this method to paint their entire trailer.  Though obviously more expensive by the can, and though I can't speak from experience, this is yet another option to consider.

Valspar Enamel Hardener (Enhances gloss and hardness) (1 8oz can per gallon of paint) - 1 8oz can at $10.00,

 and Napththa (TM&P) Thinner - 1 gallon at $7.41.   (They also carry a primer to go along with the paint if needed)

Bob felt one gallon of paint will do the job on our small trailer, since we are using our paint spray equipment.  If you are using a foam roller technique, you will likely need a bit more paint.  $40.00 for a paint job.. pretty exciting!   Prep, Prep, Prep!  Make sure you've done a good job at prepping your trailer for paint.  Our trailer had been painted with a brush in the past, and anywhere we missed sanding these marks, you can see them up close, though the paint.  Our aluminum was also very rough in areas.  There is bondo available for aluminum and if you feel you have the skills, would be a good idea to use to "fill in" any dents, etc.  Though we did our best to repair/improve these areas, paint does little to hide dents and dings.  Also, make sure you wear a mask/respirator for safety.  There can be some nasty stuff in paint or hardner that you shouldn't be breathing!  You should also keep it off your skin.  Read the safety precautions that come with any paint you use. 

October 1st, 2005:  Paint goes on!  

Bob is quite impressed with the ease and quality of this paint.  Worked well with the spray gun and dried with a nice gloss.  One gallon gave us 2-3 coats, thinned for the sprayer and with hardner added.  We can't say it enough, make sure you ADD THE HARDNER.  Bob feels this will be the tough finish we are after.   As for the Z stripe, we will add that soon.  Here are pictures of our completed trailer.  Paint looks great.  Wings are simply 3/4" wood, painted with aluminum colored enamel paint.  We painted the rims with the same aluminum paint.  


October 16th.. Now that's white!  Today we decided to put a 1" Z stripe on the trailer to break up the white just a touch.  (a 2" would have been really would have looked better) We also purchased an old metal Shasta emblem and placed it in a rather "non-traditional" area.  6 months later, we're done!  Woo-hoo! Ready to roll!


2 year review:  We are still thrilled with this paint.  This trailer has been dragged through the woods, whipped with branches, and sat outside over Michigan winters.  The paint has not faded, chipped or scratched.  Not to mention that at the price of our paint, not having to worry about what the weather and camping elements are doing to our paint job has made this paint perfect for our trailer needs.   Here is a picture this year, two years later, washing off the dirt of winter.  As you can see, still a beautiful glossy, bright white. 

We suggest you may wish to use a hvlp airless sprayer, which will require little or no thinner, which works best with this paint medium.  Too much thinner added to the paint will break down the integrity of the paint.  You will have to choose what works best for you.   This tractor paint is also available in Rattle Cans.

Here is some further information concerning JD/Valspar tractor paint:

Some of the colors available:

International Harvester red  (My favorite Red)
Allis Chalmers orange
John Deere yellow
New Holland yellow
New Holland red
John Deere green
Ford blue
Ford gray

Gloss white
International Harvester white
Gloss black
Low gloss black

Ford red
Massey Ferguson red

Here are some paint tips and instruction on using this paint that I've read online:

From: Valspar Paint General Manager.

#1. If the existing paint is relatively good condition (ie. no peeling paint, no large amount of rust, etc) no primer is needed. Scuff sand the existing paint with extra fine grit sandpaper, wipe surface with a clean cloth and then apply John Deere paint.

#2. If primer is used due to bare metal or minor surface defects, we suggest the John Deere Buff Primer (available in aerosols, quarts and gallons). This is a very "user friendly" formulation that provides good sandability, excellent filling/sealing properties and enhanced corrosion resistance.

#3. A reducer is needed for optimum sprayability and appearance. We suggest the use of the John Deere thinner/reducer (available in quarts gallon and fives). It is formulated specifically for John Deere paints. The mix ratio is 8 parts John Deere paint : 1 part John Deere thinner.

#4. John Deere Blitz Black is an "air dry" formulation...but if a you want the paint to dry faster and harder, John Deere has a hardener in their product line. It is available in pints, part number REN3001. The mix ratio is 8 parts John Deere paint : 1 part REN3001 hardener : 1 part John Deere thinner.   The exact same formulation is used in the aerosols as in the quarts/gallons. This helps with touch-ups and is critical in low gloss applications

Shooting to a good surface IE: Bare metal, John Deere Primer, or to a good base of existing paint scuffed up.
1 light tack coat and wait no longer than 15 minutes to shoot the full wet coat.
For a second coat which is NOT needed but why not:
Wait up to but NO longer than 3 hours to apply second coat.
But if you go past 3 hours DO NOT shoot another coat because the paint will react.   Wait 36 hours until you shoot the next coat. For each coat the same times apply. But one good coat with the 8 to 1 to 1 (8-1-1 paint-thinner-hardener) will be more than enough.

 ROLLER METHOD, SEE BELOW:  Some folks have achieved quite good results using foam rollers (with round ends)  Had we not felt comfortable with a air spray gun technique, we would have opted for either this foam roller method, used the spray can method or went with a small HVLP Sprayer, (airless paint sprayer) 

Update:  Tractor Paint on our 1964 GMC Truck:  Tractor Supply allowed me to open all their cans of Red,  to choose the red I liked best.  International Harvestor Red was my choice... having no "orange" tones.  I choose the International Harvestor White for the cab.  A very nice almond or off-white color.  The red tractor color proved more difficult to work with on our truck, requiring a lot of thinning for the air spray gun.  (Not sure if it was the actual paint or the use of a different brand paint gun this time around)  Too much thinner will ruin the integrity of the paint.  Therefore, unless you know your conventional air paint sprayer will work well, we would suggest trying a hvlp airless paint sprayer, "Rattle Can" or the roller method.  In any event, the truck turned out GREAT!


Auto paint alternatives:

Newest project:  

Though we decided once again to go with tractor paint, we took some time to look over some other paint options.  One option we considered is PPG's Omni brand.   This auto paint is more reasonably priced then most and I've read you get quite good results.  If you want an alternative to the more expensive auto paints, need to do the work yourself, yet have misgivings about the tractor or rustoleum paint, you may want to research this paint. 

Another option to think about is the paint found here:  This gives some nice  options/selections for color and at a little over $40 a gallon, is an affordable price.  They have some nice "vintage" type colors available.  Another Shasta owner pointed out to me that some of these colors are "metallic"... nice, but not what would have been found on these trailers originally.  Your preference of course.  We are not familiar with this paint, yet the price might be worth giving it a try.

Roller Methods

Not everyone can afford to have their trailer painted by a professional and need a easy and economical way to paint these trailers.

50 Dollar Paint Job:  (Rustoleum Paint)  Recently, Ruth found this great site on painting with rollers.  Check it out HERE

I picked this up from a post on another forum and emailed Michael.  It sounds like an easy and inexpensive way for most anyone to paint-your-own, without too much experience or expensive equipment.  I've also read of others using this type of technique with good results. 

Michaels Roller Method

This is the method I used to paint my exterior, and my
galley interior. It worked great - the finish looks
very close to a sprayed paint job. It doesn't take any
special skills or equipment. And, an added advantage
is you can paint one side of the trailer one day,
another side on another day, etc.

My trailer had badly oxidized paint from sitting in
the sun for years. It had been repainted at one time,
probably with spray can paint. It DID NOT have latex
paint on it. If you suspect yours does, let me know.
There only was minor rust on the tongue, propane
bottle holders, and back bumper.


The first thing i did was wash the exterior. 

Next was a light sanding with an oscillating palm
sander. Makita makes a good one, and it's only about
$50.00. If i recall, i used 180 grit pads, but finer
is better. The purpose here is to take any gloss off,
and to smooth out areas where the loose paint has
peeled away. You're not trying to remove paint,
per-se. If you had areas of loose paint, lightly
scrape the areas with a putty knife held at a shallow
angle, to lift up any more loose paint still around
the margins. i didn't worry TOO much about totally
smoothing out (feathering) the "craters" with sanding,
in the few areas loose paint had come off. i found the
thick body of the paint filled these in nicely. Then,
one more thorough washing with Scotch-Brites.

Of course, prior to all this i had removed all emblems
on her sides, and the license plate bracket/light.
Anything you can easily remove is better than trying
to sand around it, then mask it. i'd also removed and
resealed all her windows, and caulked hers seams,
before paint prep. i used polyurethane caulk, but i've
heard good things about RTV sealant too (not sure how
paintable it is, though). Anyway, obviously all
weatherproofing issues should be addressed prior to
beginning paint prep. All rusted fasteners should also
be replaced. i washed & prep'd my roof as above, then
applied a rubber roof coating after the foam roller
paint job. Anyway, all this is the subject of another

Ok, back to the paint job. After drying, I
treated the minor rust on the tongue and bumper with
rust converter, as per label directions. On the few
areas of siding where loose paint had come off all the
way down to bare metal, i spot primed with BIN oil
base primer/sealer in an aerosol can. Finally, i
masked off the edges of the windows and trim with blue
painters tape. i masked off the outline of the stripe
using a no-bleed masking tape called Kleen-Edge. Go
slow and careful with the masking, be precise. Be sure
the edge of the tape is pressed onto the surface all
along the run, so you get a good seal. Buy the best
tape you can find - you get what you pay for.
Remember, you don't have to mask off the entire window
- you're not spraying. i just masked enough to allow
the roller to lap over onto the tape covering the
edges of things not being painted, like window frames.
Again, you can approach this one trailer-side at a


There will be a materials list at the end of this
email, so i'll just cover the technique here. You
won't want to use full size rollers. i got a 3" roller
frame, and cut regular foam rollers to length. In
hindsight, i would have done this differently. If you
look at the factor edges of the foam roller, you see
they're beveled. When i cut them to size, i had one
factory bevel and one squared off cut edge. The cut
edge tended to leave little ridges in the paint, which
i never was able to completely smooth out. Perhaps if
i had taken a razor knife and trimmed a bevel, it
would have helped. If i was to do it again, I'd get 3
and 6 1/2 inch round ended "hot dog" foam rollers (also called
weenie rollers, slim-jims, or long-johns). These are
the perfect size, and have pronounced bevels on the
edges. They fit on to special roller frames.
not a common item, check a paint supplier like
Kelly-Moore or Sherwin-Williams.

To get the best results, use an industrial alkyd (oil)
gloss paint. It should say somewhere on the label that
it's suitable for painting equipment and machinery,
and has good gloss retention. i used Ace brand
Industrial Gloss. Read and follow the label directions
for the brand you select. Get the best paint you can -
again, you get what you pay for. i did not thin the
Ace paint, and it flowed on very well.

To apply, simply pour some paint in a roller tray and
get started. Begin at an upper corner, working down
and toward the other side of the wall. Maintain a "wet
edge"! Go slow, apply a thin even coat (you'll be
applying 2 or more coats - don't try to get complete
coverage with less than 2). Smooth and even out the
paint film as you go. Don't worry about the bubbles,
they will level out by themselves. CONSTANTLY,
CONSTANTLY check back over the areas you've covered
for drips, runs or sags. If there are any of these,
simply go over them, lightly, with the roller (don't
load it with paint for this). Use a foam brush on any
areas where the roller won't fit.

If you have masked off for a stripe or other color
change, apply all your coats (with proper drying time
between) to one area, remove the masking, remask along
the line of the new paint, and repeat the above
process for the next color.

For the tongue, bumper, wheels and propane holders i
simply used alkyd gloss in spray cans, applying
multiple light coats.

Basically, that's it!

Keep in mind:

Use light pressure on the roller, it's basically a
sponge and will ooze too much paint if you press hard.

Go slow! One coat on one side a day is a good pace.

Prep is everything!

Runs happen around window frames, screw herads, etc.

Apply light coats - this will eliminate sags.

Throw away your foam roller and brush at the end of
the day. Use new ones next time. And, use paint tray

It's VERY helpful to practice - an old car hood, or a
sheet of tempered hardboard (pegboard without the
holes, it has a smooth, non-porous face) would work
great. Stand it vertically to get a feel for gravity
on the paint.

Any questions - ask me!

i painted mine 2 years ago. It gets full time use, so
it's been out in the seasons and weather. Still looks
as good as new: glossy, cleans easy, doesn't hold
stains. i think i'll wax it this year, just to see
what happens!


For an 18' canned ham, with a stripe, i used the

1 box nitrile exam gloves (disposable rubber gloves)

1 can rust converter

1 stiff natural bristle scrub brush

several Scotch Brite pads

several 180 grit sanding pads

1 spray can Zinsser BIN alkyd bonding primer

2 gal industrial alkyd gloss - white

1 gal industrial alkyd gloss - green(stripe)

1 roller frame

16 foam rollers (with round edges/ends)

6 foam brushes

2 rolls 3/4" blue masking tape

2 rolls "Kleen-Edge" no-bleed masking tape (stripe)

16 paint tray liners

6 spray cans alkyd gloss paint - black

There you have it! It's a viable alternative to a
spray job. Looks smooth, shiny, and it's durable.

Have fun!


Hope you have found enough information here to get that new affordable paint job accomplished!  

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