How Long Does It Take to Paint a Car?

by Charlie Gaston


As with any restoration process, the first stage of painting a car is preparation. To prepare and treat the vehicle, apply 2 to 3 qt. of primer like gloss Rustoleum to the vehicle. Use a dark primer for darker colors and a lighter primer for lighter colors. Next, remove trim from the vehicle. This includes hood, trunk, gas tank lid (if removable), rubber gasket, lights, reflectors and license plates. As a precaution, cover door handles, windshields, side windows, rear windows, mirrors, tail pipe, engine bay and tires with tape if any of these cannot be removed (and in some cases should not be). Follow the selected primer with the application of high grade soap and grease remover to the car before sanding with 300- or 400-grit paper. Use Bondo to fill any large dents, and be careful to smooth any bubbles that may appear.


Use a 4-inch wide foam paint roller to paint the vehicle. To begin, combine acetone and Rustoleum in a mixing can; bring to a liquid consistency similar to that of water. On average, this means using at least 1 qt. of acetone to complete the application. Be sure to stir rather than shake the solution. For optimum results, sand the vehicle between every few coatings of paint. This may require several sanding processes, as you may be required to apply up to 10 coatings, depending on the vehicle.

The Timeline

Once the primer has been applied (10 to 15 minutes between each application), allow the paint to dry for about 30 to 90 minutes before applying the next coat. The process will certain take one day, as some paints require 24 hours to dry.

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