Dirt bike riders and their trusty steeds form deep bonds. With manufacturers putting out new models every year, there’s nothing wrong with your older bike – and most times a change of decals, plastic bits, and cosmetics are all that’s updated for some models. You may want to personalize your dirt bike with custom decals, or you may want to transform your dirt weapon into a far more visually appealing dirt bike for yourself. Apart from buying expensive decals, wraps, totally new sets of expensive plastics or trying to paint the plastic bits, you can actually shake up the look of your dirt bike by yourself and at home – for just a few dollars.
The various methods of changing colors of motorcycle plastics
To wrap your dirt bike may be a brilliant solution to your need for customizing your bike, and wraps on vehicles look amazing. That is until your first fall and the shiny wrap is in tatters to make your bike look ruined. You may think that painting your plastic parts will bring better results. However, painting plastic bits will have the same results as wrapping: your first fall will scratch the pain off.
The paint doesn’t get absorbed into the plastic; the paint simply coats it. Stickers and decals are great, but they can only do so much to the look of your bike. They can’t change the actual color of your plastic parts, but only cover certain areas. As with wrapping, painting and plasti-dipping (we’ll get to the now), these won’t be useful or long-term solutions to your need to customize your dirt bike. You’ll be sad to read that dirt bike plastics can’t be plasti-dipped, either. Why is that? A gas tank actually allows the gasoline to sweat through the plastic, and if the tank is painted, wrapped or plasti-dipped, it will simply bubble.
You can indeed change the color of motorcycle plastics. Those plastic parts and pieces are very sensitive to color – and the type of plastics used for motorcycle plastics don’t all absorb water so you’ll struggle to get the plastics to change color all the methods we’ve mentioned. However, you’re on this topic because you want to change the look of your dirt bike’s plastics and we’re here to tell you how you can achieve that and provide you with a step-by-step guide.
Dyeing motorcycle plastics is the only solution
The best method to successfully change the color of motorcycle and dirt bike plastics is dye. Fabric dye, as in those used for tie-dye t-shirts and fabrics, work on plastics too. If you grew up with a skateboard, you probably tried to dye your wheels all sorts of fun and funky colors. Also, the RC car guys have been successfully dyeing their cars’ tires and plastic bits for more than 30 years using fabric dye.
How to dye motorcycle plastics
What you need to do before you start
- You need to remove the plastic parts from your motorcycle that you wish to dye.
- Thoroughly scrub them with soapy water to remove all dirt and grease.
- You need to find a cooking pot or bucket large enough to submerge your plastic parts you wish to dye.
- You’ll need to boil water and to be able to keep the water as hot as possible for as long as possible.
- You’ll need a packet or three of Rit Dye (from your local supermarket’s laundry aisle) in your desired color. Rit Dye is formulated for dyeing fabrics, but it is renowned for dyeing plastics too.
- Rit Dye is available in liquid dye and all-purpose formulas. You’ll need those for your plastics. We’ve had brilliant success with all three types of Rit Dye: DyeMore is great for larger plastic pieces such as fenders; Rit Dye is ideal for smaller plastic parts; Rit Back to Black Dye is perfect for gas tanks.
Step-By-Step Guide on how to dye motorcycle plastics
If you’re brave enough to use one of your wife’s cooking pots for this, we accept no liability for the ear-bashing you’ll get once she finds her pots have been stained. Depending on the parts you’re looking to dye, from hand guards, tank and radiator shrouds, radiator louvers, side panels, air box covers, fenders, fork guards, fork protectors to gas tanks, you’ll need to find a container large enough to submerge the parts in the water and dye. If you’ve got nothing large enough to use, buy a large plastic bucket to dunk your plastic bits in. You can use a large pot to boil the water to pour into the bucket.
Once the water is boiling, open your packet of Rit dye and add as much dye as you require for the volume of water you’re using. However, for the best results, use double as much of the dye formula as indicated. Stir the solution with a spoon (a metal one – not a wooden spoon unless you want it to change color too) for about 3 or 4 minutes.
Drop your plastic pieces into the pot (brave fella you are) or a bucket and keep stirring the solution until the parts are submerged. Allow them to soak in your solution for 15 minutes – while gently stirring the solution. (If you’re using a bucket with hot water, allow them to soak in the formula for 20 minutes.)
Using your spoon, fish out your parts and to see the concentration of the color. If the color isn’t as dark as you’d like, place them back in the solution for another 5 minutes. Re-check them every 5 minutes. When the parts are ready to be removed from the dye solution, place them on an old towel or rag to cool off. They’ll be piping hot, so we’d suggest not handling them for 20 minutes or so. If the parts won’t totally take to the dye’s color after an hour, it likely won’t take it any further than it is. However, we’ve had success in leaving the stubborn plastic parts in the dye solution overnight and the plastic parts absorbed the color. For that, don’t leave the stove on.
Your plastic parts are now a different color and we’re sure you’re smiling with your handiwork. Allow the parts to dry and cool completely. After 12 hours, you can give your plastic parts another wash with soapy water.
The rule of thumb with dyeing motorcycle plastics is that you’ll experience best results when you change your bike’s plastics from a lighter color to a darker one. There are so many colors you can try. Just remember to soak the parts in the dye solution for longer periods of time for richer colors. Now that you’ve changed the color of your motorcycle’s plastics, assemble your dirt bike for another ride.