How to Paint a Rooftop Cargo Carrier

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Make your carrier look great for your next road trip.
Make your carrier look great for your next road trip. (Image: highway traffic standstill image by palms from Fotolia.com)

Your rooftop cargo carrier is the spot where you store things on a long road trip. It protects your family's possessions from the elements and allows you to take along everything but the kitchen sink when you head out cross-country. Rooftop carriers get beaten on by the sun and rain. As a result they tend to show wear fairly quickly. You can easily spruce yours up with some paint and have a rooftop carrier that looks brand new without having to make the costly investment.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Garden hose
  • Mild soap
  • Sponge
  • Sandpaper
  • Towels
  • Painter's tape
  • Primer

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Clean the rooftop carrier thoroughly. Fill a bucket with water and a tablespoon of mild soap. Dish-washing soap will work fine. Dip a sponge into the bucket and scrub the carrier. Make sure to remove all of the dirt and grime from the surface of the carrier. Rinse the carrier with clean water and dry completely.

Sand the outside of the rooftop carrier. Use a medium-grit sandpaper and work methodically. Start at one corner and move clockwise around the carrier to make sure you have sanded every section. Sanding will create some texture on the surface of the carrier and will allow the primer to bond with the carrier, creating a more durable finish. Wipe away the sanding dust with a damp towel.

Tape any areas that you do not wish to paint with low-tack painter's tape. Remove any belts or buckles that can be detached from the carrier.

Prime the surface of the carrier. Choose a spray primer that says "bonding primer" on the label. Bonding primers are a good choice for metal and plastic surfaces because they will be the most resistant to scratches and chips. Move the sprayer slowly in a back and forth motion, completely coating the carrier with primer. Allow the primer to dry. If you can still see the original surface of the carrier through the primer, apply an additional coat.

Paint the carrier with a spray paint formulated for plastic. Krylon and Rustoleum both make products that work well for these types of surfaces. Apply the spray paint in the same way that you applied the primer. Apply two to three thin coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying another.

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