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Painting Your Vehicle

Spray Tips
Auto Painting

If another person will paint your vehicle, and you need to buy just the paints, ask them what you need and how much. This may include primer and clear coat, or the painter may want to supply these.


Popular Mechanics has a great rundown on vehicle painting, supplies, etc.

1. The best approach to painting your vehicle is to start from scratch, which means removing all the existing paint down to the metal. This will not only give you a solid foundation for your paint job, but expose all rust and other defects. You may also stop just at the original paint if it’s in good condition. Be sure to wear a filter mask for sanding, and a face mask for painting and any other chemical applications. If you are certain that the existing paint job isn’t hiding any defects underneath, you can elect to just clean the vehicle, wipe down with grease remover, and wetsand it using 320-400 grit sandpaper. Then you will paint over this without need for primer.

These guidelines are not detailed, and if you are painting your vehicle for the first time, you should consult a professional or obtain a good DIY book on the subject. Preparation is key. You will also want a suitable area for painting, such as a large garage with adequate ventilation. You should also use paint materials from the same manufacturer if possible, and not use different paint types (urethane paint over an epoxy primer is fine).

First begin by cleaning the car as you normally would. Then wipe it down with a wax and grease remover. If it makes sense, remove parts such as headlights, turn lights, etc. On many cars this isn’t practical, so you will just mask off these areas later.

2. There are three methods for removing paint from an automobile:
a) Mechanical stripping (grinders, dual-action sanders, wire wheels, Scotch Brite disc or pads). If you try to sand manually, it will take a long time and be labor intensive. A dual-action (DA) sander with an 8-inch wheel and 80-grit sandpaper is a usual method. You can also use a rotary grinder, but have to be careful that you don’t dig dings into your old paint job – these will have to be sanded down smooth or filled.
b) Chemical strippers. These can be sprayed or brushed on. Very messy and dangerous due to fumes, but it gets the job done with the least amount of effort.
c) Sand blasting. Normally done by a shop.

3. Once imperfections have been sanded down, and any rust is repaired, use body filler to make the auto surface as smooth as possible. Use a plastic spreader. Once the filler hardens, sand it smooth, 120-150 grit sandpaper. Now use acrylic glazing compound to fill flaws and pinholes in the filler.

4. Now you will want to mask off all areas to be protected. This includes window molding: To achieve best results, you can lift up the molding and run an 1/8-cord underneath. This will expose the body under the rubber just a bit, so your paint job will actually go under the molding. Be sure also to mask off everything you don’t want paint on … under the vehicle should be fine without masking, although building a skirt around the car is advisable.
5. If you have sanded down to bare metal, use an etching primer so that adhesion to the metal is ensured. The amount of primer need depends on surface area. In general, a motorcycle can use up to a quart; a mid-sized vehicle up to a gallon; large cars and trucks about 1.5 gallons. Your primer and other paint products will require a good spray gun (HVLP) and air compressor (3 HP or better). After dry, sand down wet (220 grit) or dry (150 grit) and wipe clean. Now spray with a regular primer (epoxy primer is best for bare metal). After dry, sand down (600 grit) and wipe clean.

6. Now you are ready for your base coat. At it’s most simple, you would paint your vehicle with the desired color paint, 2-4 coats, then top with clear coat, 3-5 coats.
If you want a candy paint job, there are the main ways to go:
a) Use a white base coat, then heavily tint your clear with candy concentrate. This will result in a true color of your candy color, and bright.
b) Use a silver base. This will give you a more metallic candy color.
c) Use a similar color base, such as red paint with candy red in the clear coat. This will offer a deeper candy paint effect.
If you want a chameleon paint job, you will use a black base paint. This may be later dusted with another color to affect the hue. There are two methods for a chameleon affect:
a) A Mystic paint, which is sprayed

b) A chameleon powder, which is mixed into either a color blender or clear coat. The color blender allows for more flexibility, while clear coat is best for a straight chameleon effect.

If you are planning for a chrome effect, a black base is also recommended. This will have to be clear coated with either Mirra Clear (1/2 to 1-day cure) of Speed Clear (7-10 day cure). Then the MirraChrome goes on. Then Mirra Clear, followed by Speed Clear or regular clear coat (polyurethane).