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Guide for how to paint a car

Updated on February 14, 2012

The following guide explains the fundamentals of how to paint a car. The basics involved in automotive repair are not unlike that of furniture restoration. Sure, you do not have to go through this process for minor dents and scrapes to a car. This guide is more for the guy who wants to strip all the paint of the car and produce a perfect job on completion whether it is to repair previous accident damage or a complete body off restoration project.

For complete vehicle restoration, it is important and necessary to remove all old patina and paint, rust and corrosion, as well as oily substances and residue form the surfaces of the fenders and body, as well as the chassis and other sheet metal that will be sprayed. You will need a few industrial supplies for this job.

Industrial abrasives play a major part in this process whether you decide to use industrial paint strippers, decide to acid dip the car or even decide to use media balsting methods to remove all evidence of paint and dirt.

Once the vehicle is returned to the bare metal phase it will be easy enough to notice and major rust issues or corrossion of the emtal surfaces and chassis work. Before any rust can be treated by means of rust proofing, it is essential to carry out any metal and rust repair using cutting tools and the desired welding tools and techniques.

A 130 amp MIG welder and some welding supplies should be more than suitable tfor most chassis repair, sheet metal replacement and rust repair areas on the body work. All welded surfaces should be ground flush once completed with repairs by using an angle grinder or sanding disc to create a great surface for the finishing work with the bonding agent (bondo).

The next step is to build up pitted areas in the body work and low spots you may find to a level whereby simple dry and wet sanding with moderate abrasives will bring the surface close to a point of smootheness and being bump free.

This part may take you a few hours, but be hesitant to take any shortcuts as it will show in the finished product. Going for quality takes time.

Once a desired surface is obtained and is deemed ready to spray, a final cleaning preparation is then needed to remove all excess dirt, grit, grease and bondo that may be present even it is not visible. Most folk forget that our fingers have a natural oil which can wreak havoc with paint when applied.

Don't be caught out. There are cloths for this process called tack cloths which have a static quality as well as removing greases.

How to paint a car

Now you are ready to apply a layer of base coat or paint primer to the bodywork.Once the base coat has been applied and given the relevant curing/drying time, you will be able to notice more clearly the high spots in the bodywork that you may have missed. Repeat the process above if needed.

Wet sand areas where you feel the alignment is not to your satisfaction. keep repeating the process until you are absolutely certain and satisfied that there are no pockmarks, holes, bumps or blemishes that may affect the paint finish.

Now that you are 100% ready to apply the paint, clean the surface once more to remove any dirt or grease as before. Wetting the floor around your painting area will ensure no dust rises up into the wet paint.Use a specifically formulated cloth and automotive cleaning agent for the above process to ensure the best application of the paint. Paint is not cheap remember.

Apply two coats of the paint in accordance with the specific drying times between coats as instructed from the manufacturer as all paints are different.

Remember to select a paint that dries at room temperature if you do not have a spray booth or baking facility and are doing this at home in your barn or garage.

How to paint a car

Once these two coats of new paint are dry, you will begin the wet sanding process to ensure that the paint is even and free of any over-spray which is sometimes called " the orange peel effect".

It is suggested to start with a grit of 1500 to 1800 for wet-sanding and increase this to 2000 and then 2500 for the utmost of smooth finishes.

Do not rub too hard as you will remove the paint layers in the process. The water will be the color of the paint, but it is thick enough paint that the coats should remain with wet sanding.

A block of wood is often used to maintain an even surface for sanding. Once you have completed the wet sanding process and are happy that the paint is applied to your satisfaction and all surfaces are even, you will begin the cleaning process ready for the clear coats.

Use water and an automotive detergent to rid the surfaces of dirty water from the wet sanding process. Now use the lint free tack cloth again to remove all dust etc. from the paint.

You are now ready for the clear coat process, assuming that the paint you have chosen does not have a clear coat agent in it and requires a clear coat.See paint instruction for details.

Apply 2 -3 coats of clear to the painted areas ensuring that all paint is covered so that a high gloss of the paint is achieved. Do not worry if the paint looks dull ionce sprayed as some buffing and elbow grease will take care of that.

Once the clear coats have cured and are completely dry, you can begin with the finishing or polishing process.

Remember always that electric polishing tools administer a large amount of friction which in turn generates heat. Ensure an even polishing motion if you use a power tool to prevent burning a hole right through the paint, otherwise you will need to begin the processes all over again. This will include removing all the paint to get a bare surface again.

This is the most important  and critical part of painting a car and care and patience will ensure a finish that will make you proud.

So, whether you are painting your daily driver or painting a show car, always take the time to clean thoroughly between each process.

I hope this guide on how to paint a car is useful to you and feel free to bookmark it for future use in your browser.


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    • jackpoint profile image


      7 years ago from California

      If I ever have to do it, now I know how.

    • scubadoggy profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a great hub for a do it yourselfer and is going to very useful for anyone wanting to save quite a bit of money! Thanks for the hub!

    • Dale Nelson profile imageAUTHOR

      Dale Nelson 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks Madurai.

      With last years recession it made sense for everyone to tighten their belt on finances and thought it would be good for those practically minded folk who take pride in their cars.

    • Madurai profile image


      7 years ago from Online

      this is a great tips, never thought of.. because generally car painting will be done at service centre itself..


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