How to Paint a Car With a Foam Roller

by Barry IndexUpdated August 02, 2023
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rear brake light detail on British sports car with image by Bo Widerberg from

Prep the car by taping or removing any trim to remain unpainted. Wipe down the car with lacquer thinner using a lint-free cloth, then sand the surface starting with 80-grit sandpaper and a sanding block. After using the 80-grit, sand again with 100-grit, 200-grit and finally 400-grit. Thorough prep work at the beginning will greatly enhance the final outcome of the project. Don't skimp on sanding.

Pour 1/8-gallon of paint into the plastic bucket and thin with mineral spirits until the mixture has the consistency of milk. This may require between 20 to 50 percent mineral spirits, depending on the temperature and humidity in your area. The mixture is ready to apply when bubbles left behind by the roller disappear in a few seconds. The paint should also be self-leveling.

Apply paint to the car using the 4-inch roller. Soak up just a small amount of paint and then force the paint out of the roller. This should produce a thin coat of paint. Use the foam wedge brushes for hard to reach spots. Let the first coat dry for 8 to 24 hours, depending on humidity, before applying a second coat.

Wet sand the second coat of paint after it has dried for 8 to 24 hours. Wrap 600-grit sandpaper around a sanding sponge and dip in water, keeping the sandpaper wet while sanding. Apply two more coats of paint and wet sand with 800-grit sandpaper, and then apply two final coats of paint and wet sand with 1000-grit sandpaper. Let the paint cure for two weeks.

Buff the paint with a high-speed power buffer and a buffing compound. Instead of waxing the new paint, apply a sealant and reseal it every two months. The latest polymer sealants are better for paint then traditional wax, and it lasts longer, too.

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