The Steps to Getting a Car Ready for Paint

by Ki West
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classic red car image by Xavier MARCHANT from

Getting a car ready to paint starts with a good amount of patience. The actual job is not that difficult, but it requires a lot of elbow grease and time. This is the most important part of the paint job, so if you approach it with the right attitude, the final result will show.

Remove Trim and Insignias

You can use a drill or a screwdriver to remove any trim or insignias you don't want to paint. Some of the trim might require more effort to remove. Remember any additional holes you create need to be filled. Consider taping over any non-removable trim or insignias. Set the trim and insignias you have removed to the side if you plan to put them back on the car. Straighten out any trim that is bent. Polish and clean the trim you plan to put back on the car.

Wash the Car.

It's a good idea to use a power washer to get excessive grime off the vehicle. Go over it several times because any dirt on the car will adversely affect the final paint job. Let the car dry for a few hours, then wash it again. Make sure to clean the underpart of the car where grease is likely build up.

Rough Up the Paint

Use a fine grade sandpaper or a Scotch pad to rough up the paint on the car. Using a sand block will make this labor-intensive job a bit easier. The goal is to rough up every square inch of the car's paint. As you work, the paint's surface will have a noticeable roughness. Rub your hand over the area to confirm that you've actually sanded the area. It will feel rough. Sand the smooth areas. One hand can sand, while the other can feel to make sure the surface has been sanded.

Wash the Car Again

Re-wash the car to remove the paint dust created during the sanding. Let the vehicle dry. Make sure you have allotted enough time to let all moisture completely dissipate. The car needs to be thoroughly dry before paint is applied.

Tape Off Additional Areas

Use a blue or green professional masking tape, available at most paint stores, to tape off any areas you don't want to paint. The tape goes on and peels off easily. Use a roll of brown paper for larger areas such as the windshield. To get the brown paper on, hold it up to the area to get an approximate size. Trim the paper to a manageable size with scissors or a box cutter. Then use the box cutter to trim the paper's edges an exact fit. Leave enough margin to apply the tape. Next, tape the paper onto the windows and any other areas you don't want to paint, such as lights, the antenna and locks.

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