How to Paint a Car

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How to Paint a Car

One of the best ways to change the appearance of your car is by painting it. While professional painters usually charge from about $300 to several thousand dollars- depending on the paint job and quality of it, you can usually paint your car for less. It should be noted that if you are going to paint your car make sure you are 100% committed. You must finish the job, if you don’t your car will look ridiculous. While painting your car is challenging and requires precision, for those that have never painted a car before it is very much doable. Here are some tips.

Items that You Need

    • Masking Tape

painting car

    • Tarp, paper or other covering
    • Car washing detergent and brush
    • Wax/ Grease remover
    • Sandpaper (fine and thick grit)
    • Primer (amount depending on the vehicle size and the area size that will be painted)
    • Paint Urethane-based (amount depending on the vehicle size and the area size that will be painted)
    • Paint Sprayer (if you choose, you can just use regular spray paint)
    • Dust mask, goggles, and clothing to cover your exposed skin
    • Putty¬†and knife
      • Mr. Clean Car Wash
      • Car Wash Mitt
      • Car Wash Sponge
      • Car Wash Soap

Step One. Wash your Car Thoroughly

It is extremely important to wash your car thoroughly before you begin painting it. Every car no matter how clean it is has lots of dust, debris and grime that must be removed in order for the paint to adhere properly. After you wash your car with normal soap and water, use a wax/grease remover to clean the dirt that is still on the vehicle that is not water soluble.

Step Two. Sand Down Your Car

Once your car is nice and clean you will need to sand down any area that is rough, with sandpaper. Use loose grit sandpaper for tough jobs and fine grit for small areas that just require some smoothing. It should be noted that if your car has small dips or holes, you should fix it before you paint it. You can use putty to smooth out any holes or dips. Once these imperfections are complete, sand it down and make sure the area you are about to paint is smooth and level. (Tips on how to sand a car)

Step Three. Prep the Car for Painting

The first thing you need to do before painting the car is to make sure it is totally dry. Wait at least a couple of hours after washing it. To keep dust from being attracted back to the car after it is washed, ground a wire from the chassis frame to any object that is grounded near the car. Once the car is grounded, you can start covering any part of the vehicle that you do not want to get paint on; this includes any chrome, windows, mirrors, etc. Use masking tape to attach a tarp or cloth to the vehicle.

Step Four. Apply Primer

Once your car is fully prepped, it is time to start painting it. Before you apply any colored paint, you should first apply an even amount of primer to the entire area to be painted. Primer will make the paint adhere extremely well to your vehicle so this step is very important. It is important to note that if you are priming or painting your vehicle indoors, make sure there is adequate ventilation. In addition, it is wise to wear eye and lung protection and to cover up any skin that is exposed to the primer or paint.

Once the primer dries, you will need to sand it down to once again smooth it down. Sometimes spraying primer causes dips and mounds of paint in one area which must be smoothed out for best results.

Step Five. Paint Your Vehicle

Now it is finally time to paint your vehicle, using your urethane based paint and preferably a spray gun (although you can use spray paint made for vehicles) spray the base coat of pain over the entire surface smoothly. After the base coat is sprayed in its entirety let it dry for about 10 to 15 minutes. Now apply the second coat of paint. Most paint jobs can consist from one coat up to 20 coats (show cars), however two coats of color is usually enough. If this is your final coat let the paint dry for 90 minutes.

Step Six. Apply the Clear Coat

Once your paint has completely dried, it is now time to apply a clear coat of paint to it. Apply the clear coat just as you have the paint. After each coat applied let the area dry for about 15 minutes. Generally speaking three coats of clear coat should do the trick. Once you have completed applying all three coats let the vehicle dry for about 90 minutes. Your paint job should be complete.

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* A striking paint job makes the car look good on the outside, but how about its engine? Are you sure it’s working dandy? Maybe you should learn the tricks on how to tune a car, just in case. You also need to know how to maintain your car, so it’ll work great for a long time. If you fail to maintain your vehicle adequately, you might find yourself stranded in the middle of the road. Not to worry. Here’s how to jumpstart a car safely.

Car Painting Videos

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Car Painting Images



  1. ken said,

    on December 7th, 2011 at 3:08 am

    Get someone else to paint the car

  2. limitbeats said,

    on August 19th, 2011 at 1:17 am

    I couldnt imagine trying to paint a car

  3. beatspro said,

    on August 16th, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    i just got my car painted and they did a horrible job.. should have just did it myself

  4. redsolos said,

    on August 6th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    imagine trying to paint your own car

  5. Jimmo said,

    on July 21st, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Great instructions, this was how I wrote mine:

    I enjoy reading how others do it too, they don’t seem to differ much.

  6. Mark Satterfield said,

    on March 14th, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Great instruction guide! And great video, it gives an idea of how fast to move the gun.

    To Tom, you will need to consult the gun manufacturer. Pressure is dependent on the gun. For a normal gun, pressure will likely be somewhere between 50 and 80 PSI. For an HVLP gun, pressure will likely be between 10 and 30 PSI.


  7. juan said,

    on February 16th, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Do I have to wet sand. And how do I mix the paint?

  8. shawn said,

    on February 12th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I want to paint my Mazda mx-6 but It has bad faded paint the roof, and the front end. Do I sand the entire car so that all the red paint is gone? or just the bad bumpy part and than primer over the original paint. Thanks

  9. Tom said,

    on February 10th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    At what presure do you set spray gun.