How to Remove Auto Paint for Repainting

by Leigh Kelley

Removing auto paint before repainting a vehicle ensures that none of the old paint will affect the final color of the new paint. In some cases, removing the old paint is necessary even if the new paint will be the same color, such as when the old paint is chipping or peeling. There are four ways to remove old auto paint: sandblasting, plastic blasting, chemical removal or sanding. Sandblasting and plastic blasting must be done by a professional. Sandblasting can damage the metal, and plastic blasting is very expensive. However, chemical removal and sanding are both do-it-yourself ways to remove auto paint.

Chemical Removal

Remove or cover all parts of the vehicle that don't have paint that must be removed, as the paint stripper will damage these parts. This includes chrome, plastic or rubber. If you are covering them, use plastic sheets with automotive masking tape.

Brush chemical stripper onto one sheet-metal section of the vehicle. Make sure that the stripper doesn't settle into seams. If it does, you may find that the stripper seeps out of the seam onto the new paint job and ruins it.

Allow the paint stripper to set for the time recommended by the manufacturer. This varies according to the strength of the stripper. However, you can expect to wait anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours.

Scrape the paint stripper off using a plastic scraper.

Apply neutralizer to the area when all of the stripper is removed.

Repeat the process on the next section of the car, continuing to work around the car until the entire vehicle is completed.


Use 80-grit sandpaper and a dual-action sander to remove the paint from the top of the vehicle. The dual-action sander should be placed on "Strip" mode. When doing this, keep the vehicle wet. Don't apply a lot of force to the sander, as this may cause ridges or grooves to form in the metal.

Work your way around the vehicle, moving in circles from the top of the vehicle to the bottom. Make sure you don't touch any plastic accessories or parts with the sander. It will irreparably scratch them.

Set the dual-action sander on "Oscillate" mode and sand the vehicle from top to bottom using 180-grit sandpaper. This removes any swirl marks or minor scratches from the 80-grit sandpaper.

Dust the vehicle with a large paintbrush to remove any residue.


  • close Warning: Wear gloves, goggles and a respirator when removing old auto paint from your vehicle.

Items you will need

About the Author

Leigh Kelley is a freelance writer who provides SEO Web copy to industry leading companies. Her work has appeared in publications such as "Bullys Magazine" and "Jonesboro Sun." Kelley earned a bachelor's degree in English from Arkansas State University.

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