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How to Paint a Boat Trailer: What’s Best and What Paint to Use

Covered Boat on Boat Trailer

Most boating enthusiasts understand the importance of keeping their boats clean and well-maintained. However, giving your boat trailer the care and maintenance it needs is just as critical.

Painting your boat trailer is essential to protect it from rust and corrosion. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to paint your boat trailer and how to choose the right paint for the job.

Why You Should Paint Your Boat Trailer

Keeping your boat trailer in good condition is essential. Without a functional and well-cared-for boat trailer, you can’t transport your boat to and from the water.

The purpose of boat trailer paint is not just to improve its appearance but also to protect it from exposure to the elements. Quality boat paint should protect it against rust, corrosion, and the effects of weather, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

It is important to pay close attention to the condition and maintenance of your trailer if you bought it second-hand. While buying used trailers can be a smart way to save money, the paint is often worn or scratched, requiring a new layer.

Even if your boat trailer is brand new, eventually, the factory paint wears off and exposes the bare metal to the elements. A fresh coat of paint can keep your trailer protected and prolong its lifespan.

Vehicles with boat trailers attached

What to Look for in Boat Trailer Paint

Before starting, you need to know what kind of paint to use on a boat trailer. Although there are many boat trailer paint colors to choose from, you must first look at other criteria, such as protective characteristics, longevity, drying time, and curing time.

  • Protective characteristicsThe two essential jobs your trailer paint must fulfill are rust and corrosion protection. Depending on your trailer’s primary material, you may only need corrosion protection.  For example, you won’t find rustproofing products for painting aluminum trailers because aluminum cannot rust.

    Besides rust protection and corrosion inhibition, look for paints that provide your trailer with additional protection against the elements. For example, Durabak Marine Liner protects against rain, snow, hail, UV rays, and exposure to chemicals such as engine oil and fuel.

  • Durability and longevityQuality paint for metal trailers should be resistant to abrasion, chipping, and fading. Once dried and cured, it should also be long-lasting. Your paint should protect your boat trailer for at least 2-3 years before needing a new coat.

    Polyurethane-based solutions such as Durabak Marine Liner provide exceptional abrasion resistance for a minimum of 5 years without chipping or peeling away.

  • Drying and curing timesGenerally, the longer your paint takes to dry and cure, the more durable they are. However, long curing times also mean your boat trailer must remain undisturbed for longer periods. 

    If you’re painting your boat trailer with a bedliner, such as Durabak Marine Liner, the drying time is approximately 60 minutes, and the curing time is 5 to 6 days, depending on ambient temperature.


How to Paint Your Boat Trailer: Step-By-Step Guide

Follow these steps to learn how to paint a boat trailer as efficiently as possible and maximize your paint’s protection.

1. How to prepare a trailer for painting

You will need gloves, eye protection, and a face mask to protect yourself from paint fumes and sanding dust.

Ensure you are working in a well-ventilated area when sanding, applying primer, or painting. The best environment is outside. If you must work indoors, keep your windows or garage door open.

Install your trailer on jack stands or blocks. The trailer must be as stable as possible while you work on it. The elevated position gives you access to the underside and hard-to-reach spots.

Uninstall all parts and hardware you don’t intend to paint off the trailer’s frame. Typically, this includes the bunk boards, rollers, lights, and wheels.

2. Sanding and cleaning

Directly painting a rusty trailer frame is not recommended; not only will the paint not remove the rust, but it may not adhere properly, wasting time and resources. To ensure the best results, sand the trailer first.

Once you have finished stripping the frame, it is now ready for sanding. Sandblasting is the most efficient sanding method because it removes old paint layers, rust, and oxidation spots.

Sandblast every surface, including the wheel wells and any other difficult-to-reach areas. If sandblasting isn’t an option, you can use extra-fine sandpaper (400 to 600 grit), a wire brush, or an angle grinder.

After sanding, give your trailer a thorough inspection. You cannot start painting if your trailer has damaged or broken parts. Check for signs of damage, such as broken welds, loose bearings, or bent axles, and repair as necessary. 

Once you have sanded and repaired your boat trailer, use compressed air to blow the dust off, then wipe it down with a cleaning solvent, such as acetone or xylene. 

3. Painting your trailer

If your boat trailer is made of steel, you must apply a layer of paint primer suitable for ferrous metals. The primer protects steel surfaces from rusting, and it will bond with your paint, allowing it to stick and last longer.

Paint your boat trailer using a roller or pump spray device. Although spraying is quicker, painting a trailer with a roller or a brush allows you to apply thicker coats.

The best paints for boat trailers should require no more than 2 or 3 coats to provide complete protection against rust, corrosion, and the elements. Wait until the previous coat is dry to the touch (after 1 or 2 hours) before applying the next. Do not reattach the trailer’s parts and hardware until after the paint has fully cured.

4. Post paint recommendations

After giving your boat trailer a fresh coat of protective paint, here are a few recommendations to keep it in the best possible shape.

  • Inspect your boat trailer before and after boating season. Check for rust, oxidation patches, cracks, and other signs of damage.

  • Give your wheel bearings an annual inspection, especially if you purchased a used trailer. Replace them if they are worn out or too damaged for the road.

  • When it’s time to put your boat trailer into storage, do not leave it sitting outdoors without protection. Store it indoors if possible, or shield it from weather and the elements with a cover to avoid premature wear and tear.
Durabak Marine Paint

Additional Tips and Considerations When Painting A Boat Trailer

Although painting a boat trailer can be done at home, it can sometimes be a long process. Here are a few tips to save time and make it easier.

  • Only open one can of Durabak marine paint at a time and stir thoroughly. The paint begins to cure as soon as it is exposed to air.

  • After removing any detachable elements from your trailer, tape off any areas you don’t want exposed to the paint with 3M blue tape. Remove immediately after applying the final coat.

  • If you’ve spotted minor dings, dents, or scratches on your trailer, the best time to repair them is between sanding and cleaning, alongside any major repairs or part replacement.

  • Don’t forget to inspect the wiring if you’re repainting a boat trailer with several years of use. Older wires are prone to corrosion and should be replaced every 5 years.
  • If you’re boating on saltwater, rinse the trailer after using it to wash off any lingering salts.

Get Ready for Boating Season with Durabak

The best way to keep your boat trailer maintained is to use the highest-quality products available. Without a well-maintained trailer, driving to and from the boating sites carries risks. Don’t take any chances; keep your trailer in good shape with Durabak Marine Liner.

Durabak Marine Liner is a polyurethane-based protective coating that you can use to protect multiple types of surfaces (steel, aluminum, wood, epoxy) from rust, corrosion, weather, and harsh sunlight. It is available with a smooth or textured surface and in a wide selection of colors.


What paint should be used on a rusty trailer?
You should never try painting a rusty trailer frame. Always clean away any rust using medium grit sandpaper, and apply a rustproofing agent to prevent further corrosion. 

After removing the rust, a polyurethane-based paint, such as Durabak, is the best option for painting your trailer. It is self-leveling to fill any cracks or chips in the trailer and provides a long-lasting coating to prevent rust

Can I paint Durabak Marine Liner over a galvanized trailer?
As long as you prepare the galvanized steel surface before applying. Start by cleaning it thoroughly, removing any oils, waxes, and other contaminants. Let it dry, then follow our preparation and application procedure for bare metal surfaces.

Can I paint Durabak Marine Liner on aluminum?
Durabak Marine Liner bonds to aluminum surfaces, making it easy to apply. There are two procedures for painting Durabak on aluminum, depending on whether your working surface is painted or bare metal.

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