Painting a car isn’t the easiest DIY project you’ll take on this year, but isn’t exactly rocket science either. All you need are the right auto repair supplies, a place to do the work, and the patience to do it well.
Follow the steps below and you’ll have your car looking like new in no time.
Scope Out a Clean, Safe, and Dry Location
At a minimum, you’re going to spend a couple of days on this project. The last thing you want is for the elements to ruin your progress.
- Look for an indoor spot with plenty of ventilation and space to work.
- Electricity and ample lighting are a must.
- Watch out for your residential garage. If there’s a gas water heater or furnace around, then look elsewhere. The fumes from your painting will build up and create a potential fire hazard.
Choose the Right Equipment
You’re going to need the right gear in order to do this job well. If you’ve got a favorite place to pick up wholesale auto body supplies, then now’s the time to pay them a visit. Better yet, head on down to an auto painting supplier and let them help you.
Here’s a list of most of what you’ll need:
- Personal Protective Gear (Mask, Goggles, Suit, Gloves)
- Masking Tape
- Mixing Sticks and Buckets
- Scuff Pads
- Body Filler
- Finish Paint
- Clear Coat
- Sand Paper (Get a variety from rough to fine)
- Lint-Free Shop or Paper Towels
- Sanding Blocks
- Rubbing Compound
- Air Compressor
- Spray Paint Gun
More than anything, the end result of your paint job is going to depend on the amount of time and sweat you put into preparing the car.
- Start by removing any rust you find on the car. If necessary, use a spray like Rust Kutter to help neutralize all of it. If you leave any rust behind, it’ll spread like cancer and ruin your nice new paint job.
- Use body filler to repair any dents you don’t want to look at after the job is done.
- Remove lights, mirrors, and trim from the vehicle. If it’s not getting painted and it can come off, then take it off.
- Sand like crazy. For the best results, take your car down to bare metal.
- Use mineral spirits and denatured alcohol to clean the surface thoroughly. You don’t want any dust from sanding or natural oils from your hands remaining on the car.
- Use masking tape to cover everything you don’t want to be painted. Take your time to make sure you don’t end up with overspray and cleanup issues.
Don’t skip this step! Priming not only smooths out some of the surface imperfections on your car, but it gives your paint a solid foundation on which to adhere. It may mean an extra step in the process, but priming is too important to pass by.
- Apply a corrosion resistant, self-etching primer to the vehicle.
- Check the can to see what kind of timeframe you’ll be dealing with and allow the primer to cure fully.
- Use a medium grit sandpaper to smooth out the primer application. Use a light touch; you don’t want to sand the primer off and expose the metal.
- Clean the vehicle thoroughly after sanding to make sure you’ve not left any dirt or dust behind.
Now that you’ve done all of the hard work in preparation, it’s time to actually paint the car. Curing times and mixture ratios will vary by manufacturer, so be sure to follow all of the instructions supplied with your paint.
- Using your mixing sticks and buckets, harden or thin the paint as necessary.
- Load up and prepare your spray gun equipment.
- If you haven’t already, mask off your workspace (unless you want to paint your garage).
- Take your time and in spraying the paint on the car. Keeping a steady rhythm, hold the nozzle 10-12 inches from the car and spray with slow, even strokes.
- Allowing the appropriate amount of time between coats (check the instructions on the can), apply additional coats to make sure the car is adequately covered.
- After you’re done applying the paint, allow it to fully cure. During this time, no one should touch the car and it should be kept as dust-free as possible.
You’ve done all of the hard work of prepping, priming, and painting; now comes the fun part! Finishing takes some patience, but you’ll be spurred on by the results taking shape right before your eyes.
- Using a very fine grit sandpaper (wet), sand the surface of the car until it’s smooth.
- Rinse all of the residue off and allow the car to dry.
- If using clear coat, now’s the time to apply it.
- Use an even finer grit sandpaper to smooth down clear coat.
- Use a rubbing compound to polish the vehicle and bring out that new care shine you’ve been waiting for. You can use a machine for this, but the safest bet is to do it by hand.
That’s it! Now that you know what it takes to paint a car, get out there and give it a shot. The money you save over having it done by a professional will be more than worth the effort.