Touch-up Paint

Airplanes are like land. We really don’t own them, we buy the rights to use them for a bit. Flying and ownership are one of the highest privileges and expressions of freedom there is, so why not take care of your airplane? They are made to last practically forever– with the right kinds of maintenance and care. As such, rarely does the human outlast the airplane!

As sad a state of affairs as it is, many people buy airplanes because of its “lipstick” or paint job. A good looking plane is great, but like good looking women, it really boils down to what’s inside of that beautiful package. Often, the outer package is not an indication of the quality within that cover.


Airplanes are continually exposed to harsh environments, and the real purpose of the paint is to protect the plane’s skin. So, touch up your paint for two reasons. The first reason being to keep corrosion from eating our birds alive, and secondly, to simply make our birds as attractive and up to date as possible.

Most owners do not have touch up paint for their birds, and think that because the paint is getting older, there is no way to match the paint. Not so. We’ve touched up 30 year old paint jobs and the plane looks so much better afterward. Let’s face reality; a good looking clean plane just seems to fly better. At least it seems so!!

Where to get touch up paint

If you have a Pep Boys auto parts store near you, you can remove the inspection covers from your plane that contain all of the colors needed and take them down to Pep Boys to match it. They even come with in a bottle with its own application brush. If Pep Boys hasn’t made it to your neighborhood yet, I’m certain that there are other auto parts stores that carry the same selection.

Under a good and true light, compare these bottles of paint with your color. It might surprise you at how often you might find a good match.

There are also small cans of car color spray paint that may match as well. You can spray some in the cap and then use a brush to touch up.

Older Mooney’s have their windows screwed in, and those screws if factory installed, tend to rust making the rest of the plane not look its best. A suggestion is to touch them up!!

Additional causes such as Mechanic’s screw drivers tending to slip and slide the paint away as well. Additionally, stone chips from the prop are also paint removing culprits.

These touch up paints will go a long way toward improving your plane’s looks and will certainly benefit it aesthetically.

If you simply cannot find a color match, then locate an automotive paint supplier near you. For a small fee, they will computer match your color(s), then mix some up for you. However, this as inexpensive as finding your color directly at Pep Boys, but effective nonetheless.

Coast to Coast Aircraft Sales see planes all the time that have really good paint, yet because of IFR erosion and other causes, the leading edges have paint wear spots.

This type of touch up is more difficult, but there are options. Masking and spraying the wing color leaves an unattractive and obvious paint line, so that is usually out. I have seen some owners cover up the erosion by masking about 4” from the leading edge top and bottom, then painting the leading edge with one of the contrasting stripe colors–this looks pretty good. Others paint the area needing attention satin black to look like de-ice boots, while others buy strong and long lasting vinyl tape. Vinyl tape can come out good if you follow the directions precisely. Remember that million dollar motor homes use these vinyl tape graphics and it lasts for years and years with little care. An additional advantage with vinyl tape is that early every color under the sun is available.

To find what needs to be touched up, look all around your plane, especially underneath where corrosion likes to attack. Don’t forget to touch up that area as well. Pay particular attention to your gear obtain good results. It is imperative that you remove all grease and oil from the gear legs first, then sand and prep them in order for paint to adhere. Acetone usually removes anything, even the old paint if you rub hard enough. Use rubber gloves, that’s strong stuff…

Common Mooney rust spots to touch up include the pilot tube shroud, elevator control actuator rods near the tail end, gear legs, and tie down rings, not to mention screws. If you have installed stainless steel screws, you don’t have to worry so much about corrosion taking over.

How about your seats and panel? If you have a black instrument panel, a large black Marks-A -Lot type felt pen will do wonders on that. An additional suggestion to use Marks-A-Lot is on your yokes if black. Radios can even benefit from occasional touch up. If the vinyl or leather on your seats is showing age, but the inserts are fine, you can remove the seats and paint them with vinyl/leather spray paint.

Why not make our airplanes look as good as they can be while preserving the metal?

In upcoming articles on maintaining our prided birds, we will address inexpensive ways of re-doing the interior on the cheap. Keep checking back here to learn more tips on how to care for your prized airplane.

Sand & Paint vs. Strip & Paint:

As I have stated prior, many people buy a Mooney because of sharp new paint. Sharp paint is definitely attractive, but should not be the reason you purchase a plane. Mechanical condition should rate ions above fresh paint.

There are two ways to repaint your Mooney. Sand or strip. What are the differences?


Sanding and painting usually runs considerably less than stripping it. That’s attractive for certain, as painting any aircraft can be expensive.

Stripping the old paint is harsh on the environment, and can be harsh on your airframe.

Keep in mind that when we repaint our cars, rarely do we completely strip the old paint off.

Which way to GO?:

First off, you must use a company that is intimately involved with both processes. Try not to let those who do not do sand and paint talk you out of sanding as a possibility. It is obvious that stripping starts completely afresh, but those caustic chemicals can get in to places that the water blasting away of the stripper cannot reach. The problem that this can at times create is the stripper continuing to eat away at the aircraft aluminum. Additionally, it is not uncommon for a new strip and paint to blister after a few years because of the conditions of weather, humidity, poor preparation, etc. Your bare aluminum is exposed to all of these factors, and extreme care must be exercised in order to minimize the blistering possibility.

Not only are paint blisters unattractive, but corrosion can be growing beneath those blisters, so attention would have to be paid to avoid aircraft’s “Big C”; corrosion.

There are many shops nation wide that care and know how to minimize subsequent blistering when stripped, but the possibility remains as does corrosion growth if all the stripper is not water blasted completely.

Keep in mind that if your old paint is missing in too many areas, and is not adhering well to begin with or is checked badly, this will not make a good candidate for sand and paint.

Benefits to complete stripping:

You can use any paint scheme you wish.

You will eliminate additional weight (normally just a few pounds if sanding is done deeply and properly.

Problems common to using stripper include under paint blistering and as important, corroded areas due to stripper when not completely removed and then you still have to worry about areas stripper gets in and later begins corrosion.

Benefits to sand and paint:


Expect to pay from $1200-2000 more to totally strip the plane.

Paint seems to adhere better to the old paint than starting from bare aluminum, so blisters are less likely.

You can change colors to any you wish, but you should try to keep the original scheme. No matter how deeply you sand, and how smooth the finish is, at some point in the future, the old lines can swell and bleed through showing paint lines under the new paint. Only you would notice this probably, but you are the owner. We recommend staying as closely as possible to the old paint scheme. Adding stripes where they did not exist prior will be okay however.

A shop that is used to sanding as well as stripping, will remove all control surfaces and strip them no matter what. This will keep it easy to rebalance them once painted. Unbalanced control surfaces can be dangerous, so be certain your paint shop rebalances them and signs your log book off accordingly.

If sanding is chosen, a good shop will sand way down in the depths of your old paint. Once that is done, a good shop will completely primer your plane, and from that forward, all else will be the same as a strip and paint.

Over the years, I have had or recommended dozens of Mooney’s sand and painted. You cannot tell the difference visually, and I have yet to hear a complaint about the process.

The paint shop we use ourselves here in South/Central Texas is a great example of a good job while holding prices to a lower level than in most cities. Many people fly their planes here to save up to many thousands of dollars, and still get a good job.

If you contact us for help, we can make suggestions to you on which way to go, and help guide your Mooney through the paint process.

One thing we want you to remember about us. What other company has taken the time, effort, and money spent, getting you so much useful information to apply to Mooney ownership?

At Mooneyland, we think we care more than any others care and prove it every day with so much useful and informative information. We truly love Mooney aircraft, and do what we can to make the used fleet the best that it can be.