How “Not” To Hydro Dip A Hood

Our 1966 Mustang Fastback

When the hood of our shop’s 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback was accidentally damaged during the assembly process, we were devastated. The car is covered in green candy paint, which is virtually impossible to touch up because, as you may or may not know, candy paint goes on in many layers to achieve the rich color. Each layer applied actually changes the color, so it is necessary to paint the entire car at once.

Due to the damage and the near impossibility of repainting the hood to match the rest of the car, we decided to try to find an effect that would look cool—and that’s when we decided that a carbon fiber look might do the job.

Rather than purchasing a carbon fiber hood, we wanted to see what we could do to create the effect with paint. Might as well practice on a shop car while we have the change rather than a customer car. There are several very time consuming methods for creating a painted carbon fiber look, but we found a guy that does hydro dipping. Hydro dipping is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional objects.

According to Wikipedia: In the process, the substrate piece to be printed is pre-treated and a base coat material is applied. A polyvinyl alcohol film is gravure-printed with the graphic image to be transferred, and is then floated on the surface of a vat of water. An activator chemical is sprayed on the film to dissolve it into a liquid and activate a bonding agent. The piece is then lowered into the vat, through the floating ink layer, which wraps around and adheres to it. After removing the piece from the water, a top coat is applied to protect the design. With multiple dippings, hydrographics printing can achieve full 360° coverage of the part surface, including small crevices.

Hydro Dipping Vat

In our case, the challenge is that a hood is rather large making it a really challenging piece to get right. We have located two dippers that have tanks large enough for our project, but one is in Alabama and the other is in Canada, which is pretty far for us in Buford, GA. We thought we’d start with a local guy who doesn’t have a tank large enough, but knows the process. We figured we could conduct a little experiment to see if we could create a large enough tank to dip the hood.

Hydro Dip Frame

We filmed the process for your viewing pleasure:

The process for hydro dipping the hood is as follows:

  1. Filled Blake’s truck with water – what fun!
  2. The local dipper came in and put in dams to hold the film in place. The dam is basically an aluminum frame hanging at water level in the tank. *Side note: The water has to be 88 to 90 degrees.
  3. Next we “float the film.” A sheet of film is lowered into the tank and floats on the surface. The “up” facing side can’t get wet or it will tear.
  4. Next an activator solution is sprayed on the top of the film. This activator liquefies the paint giving you 90 seconds to finish dipping before the paint spreads out and begins to harden.
  5. We dipped at an angle to try and keep out any air bubbles. It took four people to hold and lower it into the tank. We think the challenge is dipping at a constant angle and speed. Which, in hind sight, is probably impossible with four people, a small tank, and such a complex part (the hood scoop makes it a bit more complicated).

Unfortunately, we had a few tears and too much movement with the film as it stretched in a few different directions.

Hydro Dipped Hood Results :(

We didn’t achieve the results we were looking for, but the upside is that it was a fun learning experience. The downside is…back to the drawing board! Stay tuned because we will definitely show you the finished result once we get it all sorted out.

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