Paint Your Automobile, The DIY’er

How to Repaint Your Car


Prepping. Stripping. Priming. Lacquering.

Any automotive professional will tell you that repainting a car is far from painting your bedroom. Each job requires a different process, set of tools, paint saturation, luminance, hue, and sparkle. And this is what makes professional auto repaint jobs pricey.


However, if you are looking to do it all by yourself, and perhaps save a few coins, this post is for you. We have prepared a step by step guide, with some professional insider tips, to help you give your bucket of bolts a new and fresh look. So let’s dive right in.


1.Look for space

The first step before you begin your DIY repaint job is to look for a safe environment to carry out the project in. A dry, temperature-controlled environment, with plenty of space and excellent ventilation, is ideal.


It’s important to avoid residential garages when looking for a repainting location. Residential garages often have furnaces or heaters, which can pose a fire hazard if they come into contact with paint fumes. It’s best to find a space free of hazards, like a paint booth or an empty warehouse.


2. Gather Supplies


The second step to painting your car is to gather all the necessary supplies.

Essential tools include sandpaper, an electric sander, an air compressor or spray gun, masking paper and tape, face masks, safety glasses, paint thinners and paint.


You’ll also want to buy enough paint to apply multiple coats. For small or medium-sized sedans, you may need only one gallon of base coat primer, three gallons of topcoat and about two to three gallons of clear coat. Larger cars like vans and trucks may require more.


3. Prepare Your Car

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, you will now have to prepare your car. 

Check for rusty spots, and sand out lightly rusted areas. Heavier rust will require treatment and rust converter sealant. 

Additionally, determine whether you’ll take the car apart to paint. Will you take off doors and the hood or leave everything intact and tape off windows and seals? If you decide to leave everything in place, remove small parts like antennae, handles, and wipers. Then, cover windows and other sections you don’t want to paint with tape and masking paper.


4. Stripping 

Now, you’re ready to get to work. 


Start stripping the car off its paint by using an electric sander. Move in circular motions to remove most of the paint, then use sandpaper with the proper grit intensity to remove paint from corners and crevices by hand. It’s best to sand the car down to bare metal so that you have a smooth, even surface to paint. 

Then, apply paint thinners to remove dust, and wait until the residue evaporates to continue.

5. Priming 

Next, mix the primer with the thinners. Doing so will help produce a smooth finish. Practice your spraying technique on a piece of scrap metal, holding the gun about 6 inches away from the surface. Hold down the trigger while moving the gun in a side-to-side motion.


Caution: Don’t forget to put on your safety gear! 


Once you’ve mastered the spraying technique, move on to priming your car, starting from the roof and working your way down. Aim at applying a thin coat, sweeping side to side spraying motion. This should take about 10 to 20 minutes to completely coat your car.


Let the primer applied cure by following the time indicated on the primer can. The typical waiting time for most primers is about 20 to 60 minutes. After the primer has cured, repeat the process one to two more times adding more primer coats to evenly cover the surface.


Once you are done, sand the powdery primer finish and apply another coat of thinner.  Take care not to sand the primer coating too much to avoid exposing the bare metal surface beneath the primer coating.


6. Apply the paint coating

Now, you’re ready to paint. Start by practicing your spraying techniques on a scrap surface first before you do the actual spraying on your car. Then spray your paint, from top to bottom, using side-to-side motion- just like you did with your primer. 


If your paint requires thinning, apply your thinner with the same technique you used to prime, allowing the paint to dry between each coat. However, ensure that you don’t over-thin your paint since this can cause a decrease in the gloss of your finished surface. 


Make sure to apply three to four coats, with the right curing times in between, to ensure the paint job is even. Before applying the last coat, sand once again and wipe the car down with a rag to remove any powder that may have built up from the sandpaper.


7. Lacquering


The final step is to apply a clear-coat lacquer and make your vehicle shiny again. Repeat the same steps you used to prime and paint your car with the lacquer, covering it with one to two coats. While the final clear coat is still wet, remove masking paper and tape. Take care not to brush up against your new paint job. 


Once the lacquer is dry, sand down and respray any rough spots and buff the entire surface. Avoid lingering on one spot for too long to achieve an even look.


8. Be patient and keep calm

Don’t rush the repainting, or you will have to redo the job.


Repainting your car can take several days- from gathering materials, prepping your car to applying multiple primer coats and lacquering. So it’s important to schedule enough time to complete each step in due time.

#Bonus tip:  If you are looking into achieving a sleeker look, don’t forget to have your windows tinted. Tinting helps in improving a car’s look, safety, and protects the upholstery through prolonged sunlight exposure. 

Bottom line

Transforming your shabby car into a sleek beauty doesn’t have to be a drawn-out, stressful process. With the right tools, quality paints, and the guide above, you can achieve a professional-level repaint all by yourself.