Rattle Can Paint Job: Part 1 – Tractor Prep & Proper Technique

Forward by Mr. K: This is the first in a four part series where we cover how to improve the cosmetics of your sun-faded Kubota. We take you through the stages from cleaning and prep to priming, painting and installing fresh decals. You will need to know Kubota’s paint part numbers and which type of paint reducer is best for your application in order to get the most out of this tutorial.

The Rattle Can Paint Job
If you own an earlier B or L series Kubota tractor, you already know that the paint, now 25+ years old, looks faded and dry, dull and powdery, rusty and thin. That is the curse of Kubota paint! There is a great way to restore the pride of ownership of your Kubota tractor and that’s with a new paint job! In the following four posts we’ll show you how over the course of a weekend you can dramatically improve the appearance of your Kubota with a few spray cans and some time honored body shop techniques. A small investment of time and money will produce professional results and a Kubota that looks a lot less than 25 years old!

A late 1970s Kubota L2000 that has been repainted using some careful preparation, a spray can and the techniques described in this article

A mid 1970s Kubota L2000 that has been repainted using some careful preparation, a spray can and the techniques described in this article

The Wash Rack
Step one in your rattle can paint job starts with a good through cleaning and degreasing of your Kubota. It helps to have a pressure washer to assist in blasting off dirt and grime. You may consider loading your Kubota onto a car trailer and take it to the local car wash if you have poor pressure from your garden hose. The point being – a great paint job, even on a Kubota tractor starts with a clean substrate, so don’t skimp here – really make a good effort to clean your tractor.

A Kubota B6200 with sheet metal removed before a much needed wash and engine degrease

A Kubota B6200 with sheet metal removed before a much needed wash and engine degrease

Start by using an engine cleaner, like Gunk’s Engine Brite, spraying it on the engine, transmission, differentials, wheels and tires. In the absence of an engine shampoo, a good all purpose non-butyl type of degreaser may also be employed. Apply the degreaser liberally to all parts of the tractor and allow the product to dwell for several minutes before hosing or pressuring off. Rinse the tractor well to remove trace soap and cleaner that could be a problem later.

Once the wash job is done it is not a bad idea to fire up the air compressor and using a blow gun tip blow out the nooks and crannies. Try to push as much water out as possible. In the absence of an air compressor you may want to let the tractor stand for a few hours and let evaporation do the job.

Painting in the Shop or Field?
It is possible to paint your Kubota tractor outside providing you have the correct ambient temperature necessary for painting. Too cold, and the paint will run and pool, never properly curing. Too hot, and the paint will flash dry making it very difficult to carry forward a wet edge necessary in achieving a uniform gloss. You’ll also need to consider wind and insects if you decide to paint outside. Bugs and small black things with wings are attracted to fresh Kubota orange paint. Painting in a shop is the best choice because you can better control the environment.

In order to get the best possible paint result some disassembly of your Kubota is required. Thankfully, this can be done in about a 30-45 minutes for most B and L series so it is not a big deal. Start by:

  1. jacking up the tractor with a floor jack, blocking it up as you go
  2. remove the wheels – make sure to put the washers and nuts back onto the studs so they get painted
  3. remove the rear fenders
  4. remove the seat
  5. remove the hood
  6. remove the battery
  7. (optional) remove the exhaust if it is in the way by undoing four 12mm nuts

At this point you need to decide whether or not the instrument cluster/dash assembly on your Kubota actually needs repainting. We’ve had good success on several other Kubota’s by machine polishing and then waxing this part rather than dismantling it off the tractor. Once polished and waxed it looks pretty good, very acceptable – the choice is yours really. If you do decide to disassemble the dash, you will need to pull the steering wheel, unhook the wiring and remove gauges. For the Kubota we are demonstrating on here, we took the route of removing the dash assembly as well.

Masking Tape – Use It
With all the orange parts removed from your Kubota you are ready to start masking a couple of things up before laying down the Kubota blue chassis and engine paint. Absolutely nothing says amateur paint job better than an upper radiator hose that is covered in paint, a black radiator that is over-sprayed blue or a starter motor the wrong color! Use some masking tape and paper or use a cardboard scrap to shield those areas while spraying. Do not forgot to mask off the serial number and model identification plate, and cover the air box.

How to Use a Spray Can Properly
It occurred to me that now might be a good time to talk a little about how to properly use a spray can. First, if the instruction on the can says to “shake well for 2 minutes” it means 2 minutes, not 10 seconds. A Kubota spray paint can takes about a minute of shaking before you will hear the ball bearing in the can break free. Once the bearing is moving inside the can, the paint will mix quicker. Shake for 2 minutes!

When applying the paint, expect your index finger to get real sore, real fast. That is because when using a spray can, you depress the nozzle at the beginning of each pass, and at the end of that same pass. Do not simply push the nozzle down and then move your arm around all over the place. Painting with a spray gun or spray can is methodical and controlled. The paint must be applied in such a manner as to allow the applicator to see the wet edge of the paint being applied and then overlap the subsequent pass, again pushing a wet edge of paint.

You need to make sure that as you come to the end of your pass your arm is kept at the same distance from the surface as when you started your pass. What can happen is your arm moves in an arc getting gradually further away from your work as you move the spray can from say left to right. Train yourself to reposition your body to compensate for this natural arc.

A spray can adapter can save your trigger finger and makes a can easier to use

A spray can adapter can save your trigger finger and makes a can easier to use

Take a look at your favorite auto parts store for a spray can or gun adapter. It’s a handy, low cost device that snaps onto the top of a spray can and allows you to have a trigger pull on the spray can. Turns your can into mini spray gun!

Personal Protection
Do not forget a couple of personal protection items you’ll need to have to pull this paint job off. You’ll need:

  • a few pairs of disposable rubber or latex gloves
  • good quality paint or strain grade respirator (not a flimsy white paper one)
  • shop coat or apron
  • safety glasses

At this point we have the right paint in the right quantity, a cleaned, disassembled tractor, we know how to spray and we have our gloves and respirator on. In Part 2, we discuss the details of painting the chassis, engine, transmission and wheels.

Related Articles
Kubota Paint – Part Numbers, Where to Apply and How Much
Rattle Can Paint Job: Part 2 – Frame, Engine, Transmission & Wheels
Rattle Can Paint Job: Part 3 – Fenders, Hood and Dash

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