Hydrodipping, or water transfer printing to give its proper name, is a neat way of brightening up various parts of car. If a part can be painted, it can be dipped. That means plastics, metals, glass, or even wood, can benefit from hydrodipping. The process allows you to print cool designs and patterns onto special films, and then transfer this pattern to the part you are dipping. In terms of modified cars, the most common parts to be dipped are usually interior plastics, engine bay covers, and smaller ancillary parts, but is possible to dip pretty much anything that can be painted – the only limitation is the size of the dipping tank.

It’s a cool process, and one that many enthusiasts have said they would love to try out at home, which is why Aquagraphix have recently launched a full DIY-based kit. The kit includes everything you need to complete the process, as well as detailed instructions on what to do, and what to avoid.

As a DIY job we wouldn’t recommend you start dipping huge engine covers or complicated shapes like wheels and spoilers, but instead start with some smaller easier-to-manage pieces to get to grips with the process. That’s what we did, starting with a couple of pieces of interior trim from Jamie’s Mondeo ST220, here’s how we got on…

 

The first job is to remove the parts to be dipped from the car, and give them a thorough clean and degrease (not so difficult with interior pieces, but a sizeable task with engine bay components!).

 

Then you can start to prep the surface for paint. Start by giving the surface a good key by scuffing the surface with the supplied scotch pad.

 

When you are happy the surface has been given a good key for the primer you can wipe over with the tack-cloth to ensure everything is clean.

 

Now you can prime the pieces. Apply 2-3 light coats, waiting 10-15mins in between coats to build up an even covering.

 

Allow for the primer to fully dry. For best results it’s worth flatting the primer off before applying the top coat – in this case gloss black. Allow the paint to fully cure before moving on to the next step.

 

Before you can start dipping you need to ‘backtape’ the parts. This prevents the water rushing through gaps and making contact with the surface before the film.

 

Use a suitable tank full of warm water (28-30deg), and gently place the film, sticky side down, so that it floats on the water. Be careful, any water on top of the film will render it useless.

 

Now spray the film with the activator. The film will expand when activator is applied to make sure it has space to do so – but some films can expand too far and ruin the pattern, so dams are required to prevent this.

 

The part you’ve been waiting for – dipping! Gently lower the part through the film and into the water beneath.

 

Shake the part while under water to remove any excess film, and then rinse off the PVA carrier with warm water. You will feel the slimy PVA all over the surface, rinse until all is removed.

 

The parts now have the pattern applied but it will soon wear off without protection, so lacquer is applied to seal the surface and provide a gloss finish.

 

When the lacquer has fully dried the parts can be refitted to the car. Job done, you’ve successfully hydrodipped your first parts…

 

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