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DIY Car Body Work and Repainting

Updated on June 9, 2019
Charles Emerenwa profile image

Brian is an aspiring writer that seeks to inform and educate the public through informative and educational pieces from various categories.



You may have heard of plenty ‘Do-it-yourself’ (DIY) tips and tricks for a wide range of things. These tips and tricks are meant as a way for you to save some bucks and try to salvage the damage on your belongings or to come up with an alternative contraption from your used items.

This ‘Do-it-yourself’ project is on how to repaint and perform touch-up on your car. Whether it is touching upon the scratches, removing rust and performing a paint job, there are a few important steps to take before starting on the project.

It is best to put the outcome in mind before you begin, as the result will be a reflection of the thoroughness and effort of each respective stage throughout the job.

This DIY series of step-by-step tasks, when followed to the dot, will produce impressive quality bodywork and paint job that looks fantastic. Even if you do not perform these works on your own, at the very least you will be aware of what to expect if you were to send your car to the workshop for this purpose.

Before you start, make sure you have the necessary following tool available.

• Variable Speed Random Orbit Sander

Orbit sender will make the sanding much easier and saves you tons of time with basic sanding and body filler shaping.

• Air Compressor

This device is perfect for painting cars and also will power all of your air tools with ease. It is a workhorse that should be one of the tools you should think of making available when you are considering painting your car.

• Stud Welder / Slide Hammer

These tools are must-have tools for planning or repairing some form of dents and pulling out panels.The slide hammers are used to pull out dents, it uses screws or hook adapters to pull out dents.

• Sanding Blocks

A sanding block is a must have on the toolbox when doing auto body repair, they are used to color sanding, buffing and for shaping body filler.

• Putty knives or Bondo spreaders

These are used to mix body filler. You can get them in metal or plastic form.

If you desire smooth and flawless results with lasting durability, here are steps to note.

1. Pull Out and Sand the Damaged Areas

You will require a dent repair kit if the car you are working on is heavily dented. The first thing you will need to do is to smooth the dents as much as possible.

Next, you will need to remove all traces of rust completely while straightening the sheet. Any trace of rust will ruin the repainting job as the rust will return to attack the particular area and spoil the paint job.

You may utilize an 80 grill sanding disc to smooth the surface you wish to work on. In order to save time, an orbital sander would do the trick. One highly recommended tool that works well would be the DEWALT Orbit Sander. It is ergonomic design and short stature facilitate user to easily work on the specific car parts for sanding.

2. Degrease

This process requires a sticky cotton rag with wax and grease remover to wipe down and clean the panels. The surface that will be painted need to be cleaned thoroughly to remove any traces of wax, silicone, grease or oil.

Another alternative that is also possible are glass cleaners like Windex but I strongly recommend washing the entire car first followed by applying wax and grease remover.

3. Apply Body Filler, Followed by Sanding

Once the surface of the vehicle has been sanded, you may proceed to apply body fillers to the spot. However, do take precaution to only fill within the bare sanded metal area. Smooth mixing and application will help to eliminate any pinholes.

Modern body fillers adhere well to just about any surface. You may use a plastic or metal scraper to apply the fillers and let it dry. Once the fillers dry, you may start to sand the surface to smoothen it.

Make sure to sand until there is no visible gloss or seams remaining. The purpose of sanding is to level the filler surface and improve surface finish. Degrease the surface by wiping it down using a rag to remove any traces of dirt and debris from the sanding.

4. Apply Primer

The next part would be applying the primer. Before you start to do that, cover the areas adjacent to the painting surface with newspaper or plastic sheeting and use strips of low-adhesive masking tape to secure the edges before spraying on the primer.

The purpose of this would be to avoid messing up other areas. Take note that strategic taping will keep you from having over-spraying issues. For example, if you are working on the back panels of your car, you would want to make sure the rear wheel, trunk, and windows are all sealed off.

You may want to move your vehicle outside or park it on top of a drop cloth to prevent making a mess in your work area.

5. Sand and Apply Finishing Putty followed by Second Primer

Once the primer is applied, allow it to dry. Next, sand the filler primer with a 320 degrees grit sanding disk and apply finishing putty. Let the putty set and sand it smooth before applying the second primer. The second primer is applied before you proceed on with the paint job.

6. Clean the Car

Make sure to clean the car before you spray paint it. Prepare a mix of alcohol and vinegar to wash the entire body of the car before you start to paint it. Make sure there is no debris or dust from the sanding left on the vehicle body.

The reason being you would want to ensure that the paint will be coated thoroughly and smoothly. To gauge whether you have done a good job, run your fingers through on the bodywork and make sure there is no roughness present.

7. Mix the Paint and Start Spray Painting

Select your paint and take note that to have the best outcome, you will need a double coat of paint. You will not use the paint directly but instead, dilute it first with thinner. Then, make sure that the adjacent part is covered properly before you start spray painting.

In order to yield a good paint job, it is highly recommended to use a high-quality spray gun. Once you apply the first layer of paint, allow it to dry before applying the next layer. Usually, the base coat dries quickly and the drying time between two coats is about 10 minutes. Once this is complete, it is time to follow-up with a clear coat.

Clean the spray valve thoroughly before you start on the clear coat spraying. Apply three layers of clear coat, allowing 15 to 20 minutes between layers to dry so that the solvents evaporate. Do not apply too thick layers to avoid sagging.

8. Wet Sanding Followed by Polishing

For the final stage, finish off with wet sanding and polishing. Clear coat sanding can be done with a 600w orbital buffer. Wet the disk and the surface before sanding. Make sure that you only use a medium rotation speed for this purpose. Excessive speed will increase the risk of piercing the clear coat.

Rinse off with water then continue to wet sand with a 1500 grit abrasive disc, followed by the use of a 2500 grit abrasive disc. Continue until you achieve a perfectly uniform surface. In order to return the glossy shine to the clear coat, you have to polish and then wax the area.

The perfect choice for this purpose would be to use a compound polish with strong abrasive properties. Be sure to use a hard buffer to apply the polish. Finally, use an all-purpose waffle foam to give a finishing polish to limit the effect of swirl marks. You may also use a paint renovator - Meguiar’s ultimate compound to polish the car to give it a more brilliant shine.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 weeks ago from UK

      Amazing finish and a very detailed step by step guide. I touched up my daughter's car a few years ago after a few minor bumps. They are hardly noticeable now, probably in part due to the fact that she never cleans her car. But the finish I achieved was nothing like as good as the one you show.


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