Published on June 20th, 2012 | by Gearhead Diva1
How to Paint Your Car on a Budget
Makeup maketh the woman. Why do you think Revlon’s a multi-billion dollar empire? They understand the art of transformation, all too well. The exact same reason you’d want to repaint your car: A fresh coat of paint can often elevate the old love affair to soaring heights!
But it can be really costly if you take it to a professional shop; especially if your old banger is only worth $1500! So we’re going to do the unthinkable – give the old girl a fresh makeover ourselves.
To save time I’m not going into all the equipment, and different types of paint: You can get all the info on this online. Instead I’ll go over the preparation and paint application, to make things a bit easier.
1. Prepping the Surface
Probably the most important part of any paint job is the preparation. If you’re going to radically change the color, it’ll be best to strip the car to the shell: there’s nothing worse than opening a shiny black hood, only to see a wrinkled yellow engine bay! If you’re keeping the same color, you need to mask (spend a few bucks on quality masking tape) EVERYTHING you don’t want to paint. Do this very carefully. For large areas, such as the windshield you can use brown paper (the type that dry cleaners use). You can use newspaper, but if it becomes saturated, the paint will reach the protected surface.
First step now is to prepare the surface. I find an orbital sander with 180 grit paper to be a life-saver. Lightly sand the whole car. When you stand back you’ll see shiny paint areas that the sander didn’t reach; some of these will be dents that need to be filled.
Go over the whole car and repair the small chips and scratches with “spot putty”. For the larger dents you’ll need “body putty”. Take your time to fill and sand all the imperfections.
2. Priming and More Sanding
Now you’re ready for your first coat of primer. But before we start painting we need to degrease the surface; either by using a solvent wipe, or diluted dishwashing liquid. If you use the dishwashing liquid make sure you rinse it with lots of clean water and let the car dry thoroughly before giving it a good wipe-down with a lint-free cloth. Don’t touch the surface with your bare hands once you’ve degreased it – finger prints will stay with you forever.
It’s best to set the pressure to 50 Psi, and make sure you have an inline water trap. Depending on the type of primer you’re using you’ll mix it approximately 50/50 with thinners. On a piece of cardboard, try a test pattern from about 6-8″, and adjust the spray pattern to give you about a 6-8″ cover.
You need to be consistent with your spray patterns, so start at the front of the car, and using even, smooth strokes, paint the upper surfaces first, then move down until the whole car is covered. Each spray “stroke” should overlap the previous by approximately 50%. Do not apply thick layers, or else the paint will run and take longer to dry.
Once the paint is thoroughly dry, sand the whole vehicle down using 600-grit wet paper and lots of water. You’ll probably end up going down to the original paint – don’t worry that’s how it’s meant to be. Once again rinse and dry the car, before applying the next coat. Remember not to touch the surface with your bare hands.
You’ll probably repeat this process for 3 coats before the paint will have a smooth satin finish: Which means you’re ready for the big crayons!
3. Applying the Basecoat/Clearcoat and Even More Sanding
Once again, depending on the paint you’re using, you’ll thin it to a 50/50 color to thinners mix. Using the same techniques as with the primer, continue to apply the first coat of paint. You want to apply adjacent “strokes” pretty quickly, so that you minimize the chance of “overspray”. Which, in this context, refers to the dry edges of the spray pattern.
If you’re using a single stage painting system, wet sand the car like you did before with progressively higher grits and follow the above procedure until the surface is well covered and glossy. I usually thin the last coat with 70% thinners; this gives an even, high-gloss finish. But beware – the paint runs and sags very easily!
If, despite your best efforts, you have runs or imperfections (such as dirt under the paint), you can usually fix them: Wait a few days to a week before lightly sanding out the run. After you sand it, use a buff until the gloss returns.
If you’re using a two-stage paint system, be sure your basecoat is free of imperfections before applying the final clearcoat. Two to three coats should do and after it has dried, wet sand with 1200-grit or higher for that glossy showroom look.
By now your ride should be looking good as new. And with your wallet bulging with the money you saved you can treat yourself to those new wheels you’ve been drooling over!