Tuesday 25 June 2013

Won't you make my black Ninja blue?

Project: restore the original blue paint job of a 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 650r.

Plan: remove the flat black-out paint job and restore the original metallic blue


This '07 650r Ninja is my first bike, I got it a couple of months ago.  I was considering buying a new bike, but wanted something I could get mechanically familiar with.  I got this Ninja with low miles (still only 8k on the clock when I got it).  There was evidence it had been dropped, but the bike was in excellent mechanical condition and with the low mileage, it seemed like a good candidate for a restoration that would let me familiarize myself with motorcycle maintenance (I've owned many interesting cars, so I know my way around an engine bay).  
Making a black Ninja blue again

So far so good, the bike is letting me figure out the mechanics and maintenance, and works flawlessly otherwise.  The biggest effort has been trying to figure out how to strip the blacked out paint job and restore the body to the stock colour.  Here is the process to date:

How to Strip Paint Off a Motorcycle:

My first attempt was heavy handed,
but lessons learned on the front
fender paid off elsewhere
Stone chips were showing the blue paint underneath around the front fender, headlight and leading edges of the fairings.  With it looking so shabby anyway (it's not like it's a nice black paint job), I began with the front fender, trying to find ways to remove the black.

I tried wet sanding the black but this didn't prove very effective.  The compound curves on the body work ('07 Ninjas are very sinuous) make sanding smoothly difficult.  The sanding block would either burn through into the
Goof Off Graffiti remover got
the worst of the black off,
then a wipe with a soft, lint
free painters cloth with some
thinner took away the haze
blue below or damage the clear coat; it was too blunt an instrument.  I eventually tried some graffiti remover  and it did the job while preserving the factory paint.  

Once I got the technique down, the
black came off leaving the blue in
good shape underneath
I initially tried wiping off the sprayed on remover with painter's rags, but they are too smooth to work well with paint this thick.  I eventually tried tea towels with a rougher texture and they worked well with the Goof Off.  

Eventually I found that spraying a thick coat of remover on a spot on the tea towel and then wiping in small circles would remove the black paint leaving the blue underneath untouched.  This is best shown around the seat at the back of the bike.  Even the clearcoat was left intact by working in small circles, removing the black paint in small areas at a time.  The paint there is not even waxed and looks great, this part of the bike was quickly restored with no damage to the underlying paint.

Graffiti remover (I can't speak for all of them but if they are all formulated similarly then you should get similar results) does a fine job of stripping a bad paint job off bike body work.  Work in small areas, spraying on to the rag and then applying to the paint.  The top layer of the black comes off on the first application, the blue shows through after the second.
Hidden bruises

This closeup shows just how
the black is coming off to
reveal the Ninja blue below
Of course, when someone blacks out a bike they might be doing it for aesthetic reasons, but I don't think I'll be assuming that any more.  It turns out the bike had been dropped pretty hard on its left side.  As I was removing the flat black it looked like I could see her hidden bruises for the first time.  The scuffs had all been sanded smooth for the black paint job, but as the extent of the injuries become clear I'll have a better idea of what happened.  It looks like the bike went down and slid without hitting anything.  It still has its original front end and various switch gear, so this was an asphalt slide that damaged the body work.

Looking at the bottom of the main fairing, I found that one side appears to be unpainted other than the flat black while the other is blue, so this is probably a replacement fairing.

The fairing on the right
has no blue under the black
I'm about half way through stripping the black off.  I'm to the big front fairings now, and they have a lot of real estate on them.  Working in small circles, this is going to take a while.

Once I've got it stripped down, I'll remove the panels, repaint them metallic blue and then paint the frame (burnt orange) while I'm in there.  The end result should be a colourful Ninja that proudly wears its stock metallic blue paint, albeit with some touch ups that make the bike even more visually interesting.


I picked up the Goof Off at Canadian Tire.  They had other brands there, I haven't tried them, but if I do I'll follow up with comments.

The factory paint job on an '07 Kawasaki Ninja 650r: