As a car owner, a new auto body paint job is one of the most satisfying improvements you can make to your car. Here’s how to do it the right way.
If you decide to paint your own car, be aware that it requires patience, expertise, and the right equipment and conditions. That said, it’s well worth knowing something about the auto body paint process, so you know what to look for if you ever get the work done by professionals.
Work in the right conditions
If possible, you should do the work inside—in the garage, for example—to protect the car from weather conditions, blowing dust, and other factors that can ruin the coat. Even in a garage, some car painters will build temporary paint booths to provide even more protection.
Your workspace should be:
- Clean, so it is free of dirt, dust, and other crud that can stick to paint and cause uneven finishes.
- Dry, with low humidity, to prevent corrosion and problems to how the paint is applied.
- Properly ventilated, since car paint and related chemicals can be harmful to your health.
Wearing safety glasses and a face mask, sand down your car with an electric or air-powered sander with 1200- and 2000-grit sandpaper, using circular motions. You will probably have to sand crevices and corners by hand. If you can, sand the entire car back to bare metal, with a uniform, very smooth finish. Use a clean cloth and thinners to remove dust.
Body filler will probably be required to smooth surfaces and prepare them for painting.
Keep in mind you can’t just paint over rust, because the paint will bubble and rust will continue to spread. Cutting out rust and replacing panels is something you probably want to leave to the auto-body professionals. But chemical treatments of light rust, in the form of sprayable liquids or gels, can stop oxidization and keep the condition from worsening.
- To protect the areas you don’t want painted, mask them using masking tape and newspaper or plastic sheeting.
- Then mix the primer with thinners according to the ratios cited in the paint instructions. Primer helps paint stick to the body panels, and also protects them from the paint, which can oxidize if applied directly.
- Using a can-style paint gun or a high volume low pressure one (using less pressure and less paint than the can style), apply the primer in even coats—up to two or three, to cover the surface entirely.
- Lightly sand the surface to a smooth finish and clean it.
Time for the main job
Mix the paint with thinners, according to the recommended ratios, and spray the car in side-to-side sweeping motions, with the paint gun held about 15 centimetres (six inches) away from the car surface.
Apply three to four coats, waiting the drying time recommended by the paint brand. Before adding the final coat, remove any powder residue with sandpaper and by wiping with a clean cloth.
Then apply a clear-coast lacquer. Remove the masking while the clear coat is still wet. After it’s dry, check for any runs or imperfections and sand them down and re-spray the areas.
Finally, use a buffer to burnish your car until it gleams like new.