Paint (including Body Rust) Questions

Capt. Mike

This topic was created to consolidate several related paint questions.

Which primer for Urethane Acrylic paint job?

mike k, Junior Member, 11-12-2000 04:20 PM

Hey folks,

I am currently planning on doing some body work and touch-up painting on my '78 Westy (Sage Green, color code L63H) and have read through almost all of the posts concerning painting. I plan to use Urethane Acrylic paint as suggested by capt. Mike, who also said that I need to use the right primer... I'm going to have a local body shop mix the paint, but which primer to use? Thanks for the help.

Also, I am doing this job with my dad and he suggests that we use the same type of paint that VW originally used. Would this be urethane acrylic and would said paint be agreeable with the original paint? Hopefully somebody knows about this stuff.

Capt. Mike, Moderator, 11-12-2000 07:44 PM

Your VW came, in that era, with a oil-based resin enamel. You DON'T want to repaint with it. Unable to do the original hi-temp bake, it will never be as durable and will chip badly. Although there are hardeners and other tricks to improve this, they fall well short of the modern technology paints.

When repainting, use the same system & manufacturer from start to finish. Paint is now so complex and inter-related, it is not wise to even change companies, never mind product types. For example, a too strong paint can disolve an underlying coat, break the bond, or if the wrong kind, actually form a chemical reaction between the paints that doesn't show for months or years.

An example of the latter would be the many incidents you've seen of certain factory clear-coated cars losing their clear coat several years down the road -- they had failed to have the still-wet chemical bond so the two different paints eventually separated.

If you are going over old paint, don't despair. Although not ideal, they have specific primers and ty-coats to make the modern paint compatible with the older underlying coat. They may still require heavy sanding, reduction (most notably in already repainted cars) to a specific mil thickness, or other treatment, but pick a major supplier and stick with their system top to bottom.

A last note on mil thickness -- paint cannot continue to be heaped on over itself. Paints, and urethane acrylic is no different, require certain mil thicknesses to properly cure, harden and give the look you want. Too thin or too thick of any single coat or layer can spell disaster. Excessive thickness may later crack underneath or cloud. Certain paints develop a surface hardness (dry to the touch) early but take weeks to finish their cure.

If you are nervous about your body shop's expertise (many do good work but don't understand the new chemistry), ask what brand they are using, then ask to speak to the district manufacturing rep. These guys usually know their product's wrinkles for a specific application and type of original surface.

Repainting Pop-Top / Removing Paint

schick1, Junior Member, 10-20-2000 09:10 PM

I'm thinking of removing the blue paint from the pop-top of my '89 Westy (I've seen some with the new white gell coat pop-tops).
Is this a good idea? What should I use?


Capt. Mike, Moderator, 10-21-2000 07:03 PM

The final color on Vanagons was "molded in". Not a correct term as there is a white fiberglass underbase, but the final coat was put on with the color bonded in so it cured together. It is also textured.

You can repaint in a manner similar to any other fiberglass and there are excellent fiberglass products available. Consult a body shop specializing in fiberglass. You wouldn't have to remove the old -- which would also break the surface seal -- though you will probably lose some texture effect as with any other repaint.

Obviously you could reglaze the entire roof with a new gel-coat surface, but that sounds like a $1000 answer to a $100 question.

Westy paint color matching & touch-ups

Norm Berman, Junior Member, 06-07-2000 10:45 AM

I have an 84 Wolfburg Edition Westy, in its original two-tone brown colors. I want to repaint the dark brown lower half, but cannot find the name of the color.
Anyone know what this color was called?
Any current sugestions on where to find this color, as I have live in a small town with little available locally.

Capt. Mike, Moderator, 06-07-2000 11:11 AM

I suggest you read the Message Board Guidelines, especially #7, because this is one of those cases where your dealer can be your friend. All color & interior combinations are listed on the parts fiche. With your serial number, he can quickly ID it for you, along with the original paint code number. '84's used Merian Brown and Aswan Brown; I'm not sure which was the dark brown.

Paint technology has changed considerable over the years and you can get correct colors from almost any auto paint supplier by just providing the color/code. It's all computer blended nowdays. There are specialty paint suppliers like Tower Paint for mail-order. Many paint dealers can do a spectrograph match just by sampling (non-damaging) your current paint, but that would match what you've got, not what you should have.

Most of the big auto parts stores (not discount chains) are paint dealers -- you just may have to ask. Of course you can still order it through your dealer, but most repaints are done in Urethane Acrylic for durability.

Transferred from another topic to consolidate similar subjects.

Catherine, Junior Member, 09-01-2000 03:03 PM

I have a 79 westy, a be-yooot-iful lime/chartreuse green. I called my local dealer to see if they had touch-up paint, and they said they no longer provide that for that year. Any recommendations about how to go about getting, having made some touch-up paint for this unique color? And, perhaps, suggestions as to best go about touching up dngs and scratches on my van?


09-26-2000 03:13 AM

As was recommended (but after I posted this question), I looked in the archives for answers on paint and one person said they got their local NAPA dealer to mix the paint for around $15 (for a small portion), and there was another source as well, on the internet, but naturally, I don't have it here. Apparently the color code can be found inside the van somewhere. Mine has been in the shop for 3 weeks (don't ask), so I have no idea where the code is.


Capt. Mike, Moderator, 09-26-2000 04:43 AM

Almost any automotive paint store will mix your paint -- they can do it with just your paint code (behind the driver's seat on the metal wall between it & the cabinet). Some can even do a spectrograph match -- using a spectrograph to determine your present color (may have faded) and then mix accordingly. However they will probably have a minimum amount and most do not have "touch up" quantities or spray cans.

You can also get the paint name & code from your dealer; it's listed in each model's parts fiche, even if that color is NLA from VW.

Tower Paint's address is:
P.O. Box 2345
Oshkosh, WI 54903-2345
(920) 235-6520

Rust under windscreen

Joe, Junior Member, 08-20-2000 03:13 PM


I'm considering a long drive to see an '81 Westy for sale that the seller say's has a 'little' rust under the front driver's corner of the windscreen. He said he'd have the window taken out and have the rust sanded out, then that area primed and re-painted. The Westy is otherwise suppossed to be in good condition at 140K/mi. for $3,000. I don't know much about repairing rust damage. Would anyone care to offer a comment or advice on this particular question of rust and repair?

Thank you,


Capt. Mike, Moderator, 08-30-2000 09:31 AM

There's no such thing as a "little" rust. What you have to consider is that most rust is very advanced before it finally shows through. And if the leak has caused rust above, what about down inside where it would never dry out?

The only way to know is to pull the windshield and exame the flanges inside. If they are OK, then a new seal (VW recommends you never re-use a windshield seal -- and at that age, it's too hard to resuse anyway.) and professional re-installation is not too expensive.

Rust Inhibitors

zach b, Junior Member, 07-11-2000 10:46 AM

I own a 91 vanagon and am looking for somthing to use on the rust spots that are on my van. I have started to remove the paint and surface rust, but I am finding that some of the steel surfaces are not easy to access, so I dout I will be able to remove all of the rust. I'm not asking how to do body work. Just if anyone knows of a good rust sealer that will work on exsisting rust. The problem I have run into is that all of the sealers I know of are black. My van is white! Does anyone know of any brands that work well and come in white?



PS: my spelling is terrible!

Capt. Mike, Moderator, 07-11-2000 04:05 PM

Short of doing proper body & paint work, there aren't too many good rust "preservates" that come in white. The latex based ones aren't worth much anyway. VW uses a lost-wax style of undercoating now days that's better than the old black tar based ones because it will flow & heal nicks & scratches. There's is yellowing, but I've seen some that are a little clearer. You'd still have to consider anything like that a very temporary fix.

POR-15, a company that specializes paint-over-rust coatings for the antique car trade may now have a white; I know they've added a couple of colors to their original black. You might be able to use their clear and then paint over it in white.

Get a Hemmings Motor News at any major newsstand. It's the antique car bible for services & products. If it's available, it's there!
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New member
The rust issue is something that I have to comment on, not because I have a question (I do, but a simple one), but simply to gloat.

My 82 Westy also has a 'little' rust under the front driver's corner of the windscreen.

I take to heart Capt. Mike's observation that "There's no such thing as a 'little' rust." What's interesting, though, is that after checking it out there is, literally, no other rusting anywhere else on the vehicle. Hence the question: Is the front driver's corner of the windscreen on a Volkswagen Vanagon somewhat vulnerable to rusting?

Now for the gloating: I used the WorldWideWeb to check out the history of this vehicle's 103,000 miles since she was first registered in 1982. (you may recall from the Archives that this is the cherry '82 Westy I bought last May from a guy who popped an oil line, kept on truckin' & seized up a brand new engine.) She was raised in sunny & dry Southern California, before moving to sunny & dry Southern Arizona.

(I pause my typing to allow those of you who understand the significance to "ooooh" and "ahhhh" appropriately.)

There's a reason why an antique car collector will wet his pants when discovering a classic old heap languishing in an Arizona barn: Out here, we just don't DO the "rust thing". We don't get much rain, and we don't have to worry about salted roads in wintertime.

Well, alright, ok, so we DO have that little problem of baking off all the rubber & plastic & paint & fabric until it flakes off & blows away, leaving nothing behind but the metal, like the bleached bones of a coyote dead these 20 years, but hey, at least the metal ain't rusted!

Now all I need to do to make my gloating complete is fix that one windscreen rust spot and, uh, figure out how to motivate my otherwise excellent mechanic into finishing rebuilding & installing my engine before another summer vacation goes by. After all these months of looking at its beauty, I'm looking forward to actually DRIVING a Westy for the fist time, instead of treating it as a nifty Westfalia "trailer". Or an expensive doorstop.

[This message has been edited by erifah (edited 01-11-2001).]

Capt. Mike

A leaking windshield weatherstrip and excessive washing?

Mine's not in danger of the latter, though I do have to get the deer blood out of the cabin area now that hunting season has been over for a couple weeks!

No, Westies don't have an excesssive problem with the windshield weathestrip. They, and most other makes, do have a problem with people that won't read the manual and insist on reusing an old, shrunk & dry used one; don't clean the old sealant off, thus creating a water channel; or "gonna do it myself" to save the $50 a pro would charge . . . which, of course, is eaten up with a single trip to the paint store to get a can of touch-up to fix the "little rust spot."


New member
To paraphrase Boomhauer on "King Of The Hill, "YeahmanI'lltellyouwaht...." You'll never see ME doing a do-it-yourself job on a windshield repair. In fact, I think it's my duty to throw a little business to the local glass shop, seein' as how he has mouths to feed and all. Just a squirrel trying to get a nut.

I don't know if my Westy's windshield is original, (I think it is,) but when I adopted it (you don't "buy" a Westy, it's like an adopted child, really) it had a crack that is still growing & too late to salvage. Maybe when the time comes and her newly rebuilt engine is installed, I'll drive her over & get the glass replaced. That may be a good time to check a little deeper into that single rust spot and fix it.

[This message has been edited by erifah (edited 01-18-2001).]

Capt. Mike

After an Alaska trip, I had to have my windshield replaced. Not from Alaska H'way or back roads, mind you, but from the darn Interstate somewhere in Montana. Such is the luck of the draw.

The mobile glass dealer I've been using for years put in an aftermarket windshield made in Hungary. My first thought was, "Oh, no. What am I getting into." But he had done great work for me many times and said he had used this company for years. He's pretty fussy.

Long story short, it's done fantastic and I can't tell it from VW OE. We did, however, use a new VW OE weatherstrip, much to my insurance company's unhappiness, but I sent them a photocopy of the shop manual that says to cut the old one to remove the damaged glass.

So haven't had any leaks or signs of rust. The new sealers have to take a lot of the credit. They flow and never harden. Sure been some improvements over the years in paint & body technology.

Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate same subjects.

Getting Rid of Rust

Kombi, Junior Member, 04-11-2001 09:27 AM

I want to address the surface rust on my Westy. A restorer suggested that I sandblast the areas to bare metal. Can anyone recommend a good rust inhibitor to use on the bare metal? Anyone have experience with POR 15? Also, would a novice like myself be able to paint a couple of panels on his van using a cheap Webber spray gun?

Capt. Mike

Since you're describing it as "surface rust", I presume you are talking exterior body panels that have to be color coated after priming.

POR-15, though a good product, is not particularly well suited as a basic primer for sheet metal that will be painted over. It's meant to stand alone and best suited for chassis, engine compartment and suspension components. The chemistries of POR-15 are NOT compatible with most color systems. If you are sandblasting to clean white metal, use a primer that matches the technology of your color coat. In fact, stay with the same brand and system from prime through color & clear-coat if applicable. If blending into existing paint (touching up) stay with the brand and type of the existing paint. Additionally, you will probably be using at least a glazing compound to fill rough spots and that must be compatible with the paint.

If doing an entire panel so you will not be mixing paint technologies, a urethane acrylic is best for durability. Regardless of paint chosen, the gun isn't the biggest issue -- safety and the captive air supply is. You cannot paint most new paints with ordinary filter masks, particularly urethane acrylics.

I'm not familiar with the Webber by name, but I hope you're not talking one of the house guns "seen on TV." You must stay with an automotive style gun. Suction, pressure and LPHV are all good systems, but the plastic airless 'lawn furniture' stuff is not for automotive work.

[This message has been edited by Capt. Mike (edited 05-09-2001).]


New member
My '87 Westy is a Wolfram Grey Metalic color but I don't know what the paint number is since the sticker is missing. Do you know what this number is or would the color name be sufficient for any paint shop? By the way, I called the POR 15 people and they assured me that if primed with their special primer, it would be compatible with any color system.

Capt. Mike

I keep saying it -- Message Board Guideline #7. The dealer can be your best friend. The parts fiche lists every color and paint code for every model year. If your paint supplier can't figure it out, just go to the dealer and ask him to look it up.

I can't comment on the POR guys claim -- after all, he's trying to sell you paint. But the experts that did the tech sessions for our antique car club recommends not switching paint brands and chemistry. He teaches it at the tech schools, not a salesman. I'm not knocking POR-15 (use it some myself); it's good in its DESIGNED application (which isn't as base primer for a color coat system.)

Is it possible? Yes; we had to do it in the marine industry all the time, but then we typically used a special ty-coat to transit from one paint chemistry to another.

Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate like subjects.]/i]

Rust at right poptop hinge

Ken Fox Junior Member # 356 posted 06-04-2001 10:08 PM

I have an '81 Westfalia that had a rust hole in the roof just outside of the right poptop hinge. I ground out the rust, applied Extend and filled the hole with bondo and repainted. I also replaced the poptop seal with one I bought from a place in Los Angeles called EuroProducts or something like that. I sealed all of the through bolts with 3M Marine sealant. 3 years later, the rust has reappeared. The rust is appearing in an area that is well protected above by the poptop. I live in San Diego, where we get less than 10" of rain a year on average. My hunch is that rain may be entering while driving through the front poptop seal and working its way back along the outside of the canvas. However, it is only happening on the right side. Any ideas for me?


Howdy all!

I have discovered, to my horror, that I have rust. The Car Cancer.

It all started when I was removing the water fill fixtures. The previous owner had lost or never had the water fill key. It was the white yale lock on the water fill, not the small black plastic key style. I removed the fixtures and low and behold, on the other side is big flaky rust. Apparently the gasket leeked and moisture built up behind the panel. I just bought some rustoleam primer, sandpaper, and a wire brush to deal with it. I hope I do not have to have a body shop do the work ($$$). I would remind all westy owners to remove and replace your water fixture gaskets. GoWesty has them for about two bucks apeice.

Question: There is not enough room to really check out the damage just by removing the water and power fixtures. Does anybody have any recomendations on removing the cabinets and sink to get at the metal behind them? I will be looking through the factory manual in the meantime.

Thank you for your time.



An addendum to my rust problem. I former roomate who does bodywork for a living (for about 15+ years now) recomends a product called "self etching primer" from Sherwin Williams. Other paint stores may have it. It apparently roomoves the rust and forms the base coat at the same time. It comes in convenient spray cans and spreads thinly and evenly even in those hard to reach areas.


Capt. Mike

Transferred from another topic to consolidate similar topics.

Paint cleaning

frito Member # 276 posted 07-23-2001 09:41 PM

I want to mention a product (method) of removing surface contamination I happend on.
My every day car's paint was really getting a rough texture to it. I am not sure the cause, sap mist, acid rain who knows. I tried everything. Paint cleaners like "paint prep" and mild abrasives from 3M. With a lot of elbow grease I put a dent into it but it was clearly not perfect.

I came across this little clay (hard silly putty like) deal. Mine came from Maguires but I think other companies sell them. Anyway, it "picks up" surface crud like crazy. My paint is now as smooth as glass and it was no harder than gently rubbing this non abrasive clay on the surface with a lubricant like water. Perhaps these have been around but it is my first experience. Anyway rub your hand along the side of your westy. If it is not smooth buy this clay and make your camper feel and shine like new.


New member
You are refering to a clay bar from meguires.
This is the softest you can buy. A company called clay magic makes different grade clay bars to take off more contamination... They work very well.
Oh yeah a product called naval jelly works great at removing surface rust also.

[ 07-31-2001: Message edited by: vdubstylz ]


New member
Considering repainting/insulating - is it wise that I consider doing the required disassembly and re-assembly myself? I have space (2 spaces garage) and tools for everything, but I’m really wondering – how much prep-work for repainting *should* I do myself? What should be removed, and what should be left?

So, what needs to be done for re-painting, considering the bus has minimal rust? IÂ’m confident I can do some sanding to get down to bare metal, but is that correct? I think I can do much of the simple stuff, and would then send it to a *professional* for any major body/prep work and then the painting.

When I get the bus back, I figure I can do all the insulation (Q-Pads and KoolSeal, NASA)/custom interior work I want to while I’m re-assembling.

Your advice is very welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Mark Tomlinson
Bothell, WA
“Stanley the Manly” 1976 Westfalia
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Capt. Mike

Prep for a major repaint should be dictated by your ability and the intended shop's attention to detail.

Most of the mechanical disassembly is fine, but bear in mind that the body shop is likely to be dusty and subject to oversprays and chemicals. I would suggest leaving the glass in until they are ready to do the final priming -- you can then bring it home to reinstall yourself. Glass in place keeps that dust out of the interior.

Average shops tend to mask around mechanical items and weatherstrips. Understand your shop's practices and determine what degree of masking you will accept.

Paint prep is best left to the professionals. I say this not because the average person can't do some, but because the shop is geared to a particular practice. The amount of prep & type (sandblasting, chemical stripper, etc.) will be dictated by their paint system. Today, paint products have become so critical that you do not want to mix chemistry. Certain practices, seemingly benign, can have underlying consequences. For example, many quality shops will not sandblast sheet metal; they find it creates subsequent paint problems due to metal stresses. Obviously a stripper of one type may not be compatible with the processes that follow, for example, those that leave a phosphate coating.

To properly disassemble for paint is a daunting enough task; unless your are experienced in body & paint work, I'd ask yourself: "Can it be done?" (Yes.) "Should I for the best quality? Not likely.

A final consideration is that most quality shops have a written national warranty. Your paint and metal prep sides of pre-paint work are grounds for voiding that warranty.

I disassembled my Porsche in preparation for a major repaint, leaving just enough suspension on to trailer it to the paint shop and the glass in. After the body and prep work, he popped the glass (which I then brought home) and did the paint work, giving me NO cut lines or masking edges. Removeable painted parts were painted off the vehicle for later reassembly after the paint had cured. But that was for a show quality job; if I was just repainting the daily driver/camping Westy, I'd probably allow considerably more masking. With paint work, you get what you pay for but the incremental improvements are exponential more expensive.


New member
Sorry for the mistake with my previous post. I have read the other posts on rust but they do not appear to address my specific question. I have rust concentrated at the welds between body panels. When I removed the loose scale I found that the rust goes deep into the weld. The local body shop says it should be sandblasted but how do I know it won't come right back from deep in the weld. Some of these areas are inaccessible from the interior even with the interior trim and cabinets removed. I had it painted 4 years ago and obviously that body shop did not do it correctly. I would like to do the job right this time in hopes putting another 250K on this van. So what is the best approach to beating the rust? Can someone recommend a good reference on this level of body restoration. I don't plan on doing it myself (good carpenter, new to bodywork) but feel like I need to know more about it to get a good job. This may be one of those situations where if you want it done right you have to do it yourself.

Capt. Mike

Rust that goes deep into a weld is probably unreachable, even with sandblasting. Thus will eventually come back.

There are derusting processes that submerge dip the part and would penetrate into the weld but that is not practical on a routine, on-chassis repaint.

What you will face are choices between grinding out and rewelding, or derusting by sandblasting and rust removal chemicals. A combination of the latter might get better results. Both are processes best left to professionals. Improper sandblasting can actually damage and distort the metal and the modern chemicals are far beyond old Naval Jelly. The get pretty exotic and require special handling, training and safety equipment.

Rust requires oxygen to return. In the practical world of repainting a driver, the sandblast/chemical route, plus using effective sealers will get you a serviceable life. Body sealing can be done with seam sealers (similar to Bondo), chemical rust treatments (like Duro's Extend), or specialty paints like POR-15. Again, professional advice is required because whatever method is chosen must be compatible with the primer/paint combinations to follow.

You didn't give model & year (Guideline #2!) so I can't comment on what form of undercoating came on your vehicle. However, inside surfaces and channels can be treated or retreated. Later VW's used a lost wax process that had some self-healing abilities. Earlier models used a basic tar undercoating like 3M's rubberized. Again, professional body shops have the proper equipment and skills to recoat. There are franchises like Ziebart, but their performance & quality are spotty at best.

PP Shearman

New member
Paint and polish question.
Whats the correct process for finishing hand painted work? would you recommend fine sanding (400 grade plus) of the final coat prior to rubbing compound and polish? using paper makes it smoother but seems to dull the shine. What do you reckon?

Capt. Mike

That depends on the type of paint you used and method of application. Many of the newer paints & system do NOT use any final rub-down or sanding. Others use only the appropriate final polish, sealer & glaze. Those that do use wet sanding typically call for 1000 or 1500 grit -- not 400.