Chrysler's Lousy Paint:

Repainting A '93 Dodge Dakota
With Paint Peeling Problems



In This Article:

A 1993 Dodge Dakota pickup is partially dismantled and the old paint is removed with chemical paint stripper and sanding. Rust spots are repaired and the body is spray finished with primer, color coat and clear coat.

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 3 (Intermediate) Time Taken: About Two Weeks

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor


My 1993 Dodge Dakota began losing paint in the late 1990's. By 2005 the paint looked absolutely terrible. I felt embarrassed driving this truck. So I decided to try my hand at repainting the worst sections... namely, the entire cab.

Not everybody takes a vehicle apart to repaint it, but I just felt like it. It's more work than leaving the truck intact, but I knew I could do a better quality job if I dismantled the front end.

I started taking apart the Dakota, then I decided to take some pictures.


The paint on the roof was the worst area on the truck.


I had several reasons to disassemble the front end of the truck:

  • I could clean out the debris that had fallen down the cowl vents.
  • It would be easier to weld a patch over the rusted section of the fenders.
  • I could paint the area around the door jambs.


The doors had large patches where the paint had peeled off.


It was easier to work on the doors after they were removed.




Note how the bottom of the doors had rusted quite badly.

This rust is caused by water that gets inside the door and cannot drain out. Sand and dirt also get inside the door and help keep everything wet longer.


I tried several different brands of paint stripper, with and without methylene chloride. This thick "no drip" paint stripper worked the best on my truck.


This picture was taken just minutes after I brushed on the paint stripper. In some places the paint began to bubble immediately.


Just poking around, I tested the paint with a scraper to check the adhesion. In some areas the paint would peel away easily, yet in other spots the paint wouldn't budge.


Using an old paint brush, I applied more stripper to the areas where the paint had not crinkled.


After about 15 to 20 minutes the paint looked like this.

One problem I encountered was the tendency of the stripper to dry out in the warm breeze. Sometimes I will spray some additional solvent over the project, to keep the mixture working.


I used a 6-inch putty knife to scrape off the paint. At this point the paint practically fell off.

Then I laid the parts on the ground and power-washed them, using a small 1200 PSI electric power washer.


After washing, I sanded the body with a random orbital sander. I bought several packs of sanding discs: 40, 60, 80 and 120 grit.




There was a long narrow rust hole at the top of the fender well.

Since I have a small MIG welder, I decided to try making a patch for this hole and welding it to the fender.


Near the front of the fender well there was another nasty hole. Only the outer layer of steel was perforated... the inner layer was mostly intact.

I applied a product called Rust Mort to all rust spots. This chemical contains strong acids and will alter the iron oxide to form a black substance will is supposed to not rust.


I spilled some Rust Mort on the concrete paving stones, and it bleached the color out. Strong stuff.


Making A Custom Curved Angle Bracket:

I used a cheap ($20) sheet metal bending brake to form a one-inch flange on a piece of 20 gauge steel. Then I cut off the bent part with a reciprocating saw to make a 1x1 angle, about 18 inches long.

But... I needed this piece of angle-iron to have a slight curvature to match the curvature of the fender.

So I rigged up this crazy apparatus.

I clamped the sheet metal angle between two long pieces of red oak 1x6.

I held the boards together with C-clamps.

I made the boards span across two stacks of wood scraps, placed about 4 feet apart.


I placed a 12-ton bottle jack on the oak boards, and attempted to lift the rear end of a Ford F150. Of course, the truck didn't move much, but the boards tried to bend.


I tapped on the steel angle with a hammer, to prevent the angle from kinking, and to allow the boards to slip past each other as the force was applied.


This was my result. I was able to get a slight curvature from my cheapo metal bending setup.


I welded the curved angle onto the fender at the top of the wheel well.

To prevent distortion of the fender, I needed to do a "stitch-weld", which is a series of short welds.


I used Bondo on this curved area in front of the wheel well.


After half of the truck roof had been sanded. You can still see the rust above the windshield (just above the steering wheel).


I set the hood on a pair of sawhorses and sanded down all traces of rust.


I used a wire wheel on a drill to sand the paint off the vent area on the cowl.


After the fenders, doors and hood had been treated with Rust-Mort, I set them on sawhorses in the backyard.



Basic HVLP paint sprayer from Porter-Cable.


I sprayed all of the body components with Dupont etching primer, which has a green color.



To start, I laid the body panels face down and painted around the edges. This allowed me to paint the edge and back surfaces.

I didn't really care if the back or edges get a little marked up after I turn over the parts.


After I turned over the hood, there was already some blue paint around the perimeter.



Same approach:
start painting the edges...


... then flip the part over and paint the face.


Painting the doors was kinda tricky because the window frame can get in the way.


But I had problems.

You can see the striping pattern in the middle of the hood. I wasn't getting enough overlap between sprayer passes.


Between each pair of opposing arrows you can see a dull streak. This is the "stripe" problem I experienced with the color coat.


Another Problem:

The red arrows point to some sanding marks that I noticed after painting.

I realized that I should have filled these with putty, no matter how small they appear.


My solution:

Throw some money at the problem.

I bought this low-end professional-grade HVLP sprayer at my local auto paint supplier


I masked the truck with a big tarp, and I applied paper to the windshield.

I also used a painter's drop cloth to cover the seat and interior.


I did most of the painting in the shade where possible. This prevented the paint from drying too fast, and it reduced the number of flies that landed on the freshly painted surfaces.



This little utility trailer was really handy for moving the bigger parts around, such as the hood.


The truck after painting.


I sanded down the front edge of the hood and filled the small pock marks with body filler. Then I re-primed and re-painted the edge.


I painted the doors and fenders near the entrance to the garage, being careful that the wind direction wasn't blowing overspray into the garage.

When a part was done, I moved it outdoors onto another pair of sawhorses to dry.


I parked the truck partway in the garage to keep it in the shade.

I applied the clear-coat with no previous experience. It was... educational.


After the clear-coat had dried I removed the tarps and masking. The roof looks wet, but that's just the shine of the clear-coat.


I re-assembled the truck, starting with the doors, then the fenders.


A day after painting, I assembled the doors, fenders, hood and everything.

The paint looks nice in pictures, but up close it you can see a slight orange peel effect. Good enough for me, but I;m not about to challenge any body shop professionals.


After installing the hood and cowl, I installed the grill and headlight trim.


The front bumper was the last part to be installed.


Side view... I still hadn't put the front bumper back on. (I kept the bumper off so I could treat the back surface with Rust-Mort.)


What an improvement.


Finished paint job.

Well, almost. I still hadn't repainted the truck box and topper. I needed to get the truck back on the road because my other truck puked out.



Tools Used

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Basic Mechanic's Tools
  • Basic Painting Tools
  • Air Compressor
  • Random Orbital Sander
  • MIG Welder
  • Grinder
  • HVLP Paint Sprayer

Materials Used:

  • Paint Stripper
  • Sandpaper
  • Sheet Metal, 20 Gauge
  • Body Filler
  • Masking Tape, Paper, Tarps
  • Etching Primer
  • Automotive Paint
  • Clear Coat





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Written February 15, 2006