Laws for Painting Your Car at Home

by Jennifer Leighton
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The reconstructed ancient car painted in two colors. image by Yuri Bizgaimer from

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates painting cars in home environments as well as in professional auto repair facilities. Car painting laws regulate the type of ingredients that can be included in the car paint and the method in which the paint will be applied. Since laws regarding auto painting at home are subject to change, it is best to check the EPA's website at regarding volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are included in many types of auto body paint.

EPA Regulation 40CFR63

EPA Regulation 40 in the Federal Code of Regulations, Part 63, Subpart HHHHHH, (also known as regulation 6H) lists the laws for the permissible methods of car paint application and the persons who may apply car paint. Since most auto paints contain VOCs or hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), this regulation was written primarily with those substances in mind. VOCs and HAPs include any substance which has a significant amount of vapor pressure, and which is capable in impacting human health and/or the environment at large.

Included VOCs and HAPs

The EPA regulates spray application of paint or other coatings to any motor vehicles, including "Spray application of coatings to a plastic and/or metal substrate where the coatings contain compounds of chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), or cadmium (Cd)," according to the EPA's Summary of Regulations Controlling Air Emissions from Coating Operations. If auto paint containing the listed VOPs or HAPs is to be used, the painter must perform the paint job within a certified auto repair facility with EPA-approved equipment, must meet certain qualifications, including obtaining certification on spray gun techniques, spray gun maintenance and environmental compliance before the paint may be applied to the car. Therefore, none of the auto paints containing VOCs or HAPs may be used by people doing their own auto painting at home, regardless of method.

Qualifications For Painters

Home painters may not use VOP-containing paints at all, but are limited to paints which are not harmful to the environment, such as water-based latex or plastic-bound paints. Any home painter may use these paints as long as they are applied with a high volume, low pressure (HVLP) spray gun, electrostatic application, an airless spray gun or air-assisted spray gun.

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