Sandblasting Steel: Frame Prep

sand blast a frame

Sandblasting a frame is a process that uses abrasive materials to strip paint, rust, and other debris from metal surfaces. It is often used as a preparatory step before painting or coating, as it creates a clean and rough surface for better adhesion. The cost of sandblasting a frame can vary depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the frame, the extent of rust or paint removal required, and the labour involved.

For a bare frame, prices can range from £120 to £500, while a full-size rolling chassis may cost between £600 and £2400 for sandblasting, epoxy priming, and painting services. Sandblasting an entire vehicle exterior can cost upwards of £1200, with individual components such as doors, fenders, and hoods ranging from £160 to £250.

It is important to note that sandblasting can cause warpage if not performed correctly, especially when using sand on sheet metal. Alternative media such as baking soda, glass beads, or walnut shells are recommended for blasting body panels to prevent damage.

Characteristics Values
Average price $120-$500
Time taken 1.5-2 hours
Mess Media will go everywhere
Potential damage Sand heats up and can cause panel warping
Alternative media Baking soda, glass beads, plastic, walnut shell, corn


Sandblasting a frame with heavy surface rust

Sandblasting is an effective way to remove heavy surface rust from a frame. However, it is important to note that sandblasting can damage the surface of the metal if it is weak or too thin. Therefore, it is crucial to assess the condition of the frame before proceeding. If the frame is in a severely deteriorated state, other methods such as chemical treatments or manual sanding may be more suitable.

To begin the sandblasting process, it is recommended to start by washing the area with a degreaser and giving it time to dry. This helps remove loose scaling rust, dirt, and oily residues. Additionally, using a ball peen hammer to lightly hit the surface can help break off any scale without causing damage to the underlying frame.

When using a sandblaster, it is important to select the appropriate type and size. For large panels, a portable sandblaster may be required to blast the pieces outside a cabinet. However, this method can be messy if not set up correctly, as the abrasive media and dust can scatter. Alternatively, a sandblasting cabinet can be used to contain the blasting process and minimize the mess.

During the sandblasting process, it is crucial to wear proper safety protection, including a mask to avoid inhaling the dust. The abrasive media used in the sandblaster should be chosen carefully, as it can affect the final appearance of the metal. Fine walnut shells, for example, can be used to remove rust while being gentle on the surface.

After sandblasting, it is important to remove any remaining rust and prepare the surface for painting. This can be done using a rust converter, which is applied directly to the rust and converted into a black primer finish that can be painted once dry.

To ensure a long-lasting finish, it is recommended to use a suitable paint for the environment and surface. For example, farm implement paint is ideal for harsh environments and can be applied with a brush or sprayed through a gun. Allow sufficient drying time between coats and consider the temperature and humidity during the painting process.

As a final step, applying a rust-resistant coating, such as an oil or wax spray, can provide additional protection against future rust. Ensure that the coating is applied generously, but not excessively, and take precautions to avoid getting it on brakes or exhaust components.


Sandblasting a frame with an assembled truck

Sandblasting a truck frame with the vehicle assembled is not recommended. The biggest issue with this method is that the media will go everywhere, finding its way into seals and bearings, which can cause damage to the vehicle. However, if you are set on sandblasting an assembled truck, there are some precautions you can take to minimise the risk of damage.

Firstly, it is important to cover or protect sensitive areas, such as brake lines and the wiring harness. You should also try to box in the area you are blasting to contain the media blast. Additionally, you should use a lower pressure setting on your blaster to reduce the risk of media infiltrating sensitive areas.

Even with these precautions, there is still a risk of media getting into areas it shouldn't. One suggestion is to remove the rear axle, driveshaft, and brake hose, and then undo the shackles and spring eyes to roll the axle and spring combo out from under the vehicle. This will give you more room to work and reduce the risk of damage to critical components.

Another option is to use an alternative media, such as walnut shells or plastic pellets, which are less likely to cause damage and will not leave as much abrasive residue behind.

It is also important to wear a respirator to protect yourself from the dust created during the sandblasting process.

Finally, sandblasting requires a powerful air compressor to run effectively. If your compressor is not powerful enough, you may experience frequent stoppages as the compressor struggles to keep up with the blaster's demands.

Overall, while it is possible to sandblast a truck frame with the vehicle assembled, it is a complex and risky process that requires careful planning and execution to avoid damaging your vehicle.


Sandblasting a frame with a full-body shell


Before starting the sandblasting process, it is crucial to ensure that you have the necessary equipment and safety gear. This includes a sandblaster, an air compressor, a full-body suit, a respirator, eye protection, and gloves. Additionally, it is recommended to work in a well-ventilated area or set up a blast cabinet to contain the mess.

Protect Sensitive Components:

Sandblasting can cause damage to sensitive components such as wiring harnesses, fuel tanks, brakes, and seals. Remove or carefully cover these components with duct tape or plastic sheets to protect them from the abrasive media. For example, you may need to remove the fuel tanks, dual exhaust, driveshafts, and wiring harnesses for better access and to prevent damage.

Choose the Right Abrasive Media:

Select an appropriate abrasive media for the job. Sand is a common choice, but it can cause warping if used on sheet metal. Alternative media such as baking soda, glass beads, plastic, walnut shells, or corn may be preferable to avoid damage to the bodywork. Ensure that you have sufficient amounts of your chosen media on hand.

Set Up the Work Area:

If possible, elevate the vehicle to a comfortable working height. This will provide better access to the frame and ensure that you can reach all areas effectively. Additionally, consider setting up a blast cabinet or using plastic sheets to contain the mess and direct the abrasive media away from sensitive components.

Start Sandblasting:

Begin sandblasting the frame, working systematically to ensure that all areas are thoroughly blasted. Take your time and be careful not to miss any spots. Use a consistent distance and angle to achieve an even finish. Pay close attention to the areas where the full-body shell meets the frame, as these areas may be more challenging to access.

Clean Up:

Once you have finished sandblasting, clean up the area thoroughly. Use an air hose to blow away any remaining media and dust, paying particular attention to the areas where you protected sensitive components. Ensure that all seals and bearings are free of abrasive media to prevent future issues.

Apply a Protective Coating:

After sandblasting, it is essential to apply a protective coating to the frame to prevent rust and corrosion. You can use a product like POR-15, Rust Bullet, or a similar chassis coating. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper application and curing times.

Remember that sandblasting a frame with a full-body shell is a challenging task that requires careful planning and execution. Always prioritize your safety and the protection of sensitive components. Take your time and work systematically to achieve the best results.

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Sandblasting a frame with a rolling chassis

Sandblasting a rolling chassis is a great way to clean and prepare the surface for further treatment. It is a process that uses abrasive media to remove paint, rust, and other contaminants from the metal surface. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to sandblast a rolling chassis:


Before starting the sandblasting process, it is crucial to ensure that you have the right equipment and safety gear. This includes a sandblaster, an air compressor, a respirator, safety goggles, ear protection, and gloves. It is also important to work in a well-ventilated area or use a respirator with an air supply to avoid inhaling dust and debris.

Masking and Protection:

Cover or remove any parts of the rolling chassis that you do not want to be blasted. This includes windows, lights, and any sensitive components. Use masking tape and paper to protect these areas. It is also recommended to remove the body from the frame if possible, as it will provide better access and ensure that the blasting media does not get into unwanted areas.

Sandblasting Process:

Connect the sandblaster to the air compressor and ensure that the pressure settings are correct for the media you are using. Choose the appropriate abrasive media for the job, such as sand, grit, or other specialised media. Start blasting the chassis, working in sections to ensure thorough coverage. Pay close attention to areas with heavy rust or paint buildup, as they may require more time and effort.

Surface Preparation:

Once the sandblasting is complete, inspect the surface for any remaining contaminants or imperfections. Use a wire brush or grinding wheel to remove any stubborn rust or paint. This step is crucial in ensuring that the surface is properly prepared for the next stage.

Priming and Painting:

After sandblasting, it is essential to apply a primer to the chassis as soon as possible to prevent rust formation. Epoxy primers are commonly used and can be applied by brushing or spraying. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once the primer is dry, you can proceed with painting the chassis using a suitable automotive paint.

Cost Considerations:

Sandblasting and refinishing a rolling chassis can vary in cost depending on the size and complexity of the job. For a full-size rolling chassis, sandblasting typically ranges from $600 to $800. Additional processes, such as epoxy priming and painting with 2K polyurethane, can add to the overall cost, ranging from $1800 to $2400 or more.


Sandblasting a frame with a coat of undercoating

Prepare the Surface

Before starting the sandblasting process, it is important to prepare the surface. This includes removing any detachable parts that could hinder access, such as fuel tanks, exhausts, bumpers, and driveshafts. It is also crucial to protect any wiring harnesses and other sensitive components by covering them with duct tape or removing them entirely if possible.

Choose the Right Sandblasting Media

Select a fine media suitable for automotive blast cleaning. This will ensure that the sandblasting process effectively removes paint and rust without damaging the delicate automotive sheet metal.

Start Sandblasting

Using a professional-grade sandblaster with a tow-behind air compressor, begin sandblasting the frame and other underside panels. Be cautious and try to control the direction of the blast stream to avoid damaging other parts of the vehicle.

Apply a Chassis Coating

Once sandblasting is complete, apply a chassis coating or a rust inhibitor like POR-15 or Rust Bullet to prevent ongoing rust and protect the surface. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper application.

Consider Priming and Painting

If desired, you can take the vehicle to a specialist for priming and painting. They will use a quality epoxy sealer and a thick coating of high-quality epoxy primer and gloss polyurethane paint to fully protect your vehicle from rust, salt, fuel, and stone chips.

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Frequently asked questions

The price varies depending on the type of vehicle, the extent of the job, and the location. For example, the price for sandblasting a bare car frame ranges from $225 to $500.

If possible, it is recommended to remove as many parts as you can from the frame before sandblasting, including the engine, transmission, cab, wiring, and brakelines. This will ensure a more effective job and help to avoid damage to these components.

After sandblasting, you should apply a coat of paint or sealant to the frame to preserve the vehicle. Some companies offer epoxy priming and gloss polyurethane painting services in addition to sandblasting.

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