How to Sand a Car

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How to Sand a Car

Painting a car involves a lot of prep work, and one of the most important tasks is sanding. Unless you want your vehicle to have an uneven and rough paint, this is a vital, but challenging process you have to accomplish. An automobile repair shop can do this, but if you want, you can do this on your own.

What You’ll Need:

  • Sanding Pad
  • Sandpaper (#120, #320, #200, and #600 Grit)
  • Air compressor
  • Powder sander
  • Wood block
  • Dry cloth
  • Dust mask


  1. You need to sand all areas of body where paint and primer will be applied, so they will come out smoothly. Prepare your car by removing all the foam and plastic parts from the body. This prevents them from being damaged, and will allow you to use the sandpaper and power sander more easily. Headlights and tail lights should be removed too, as well as running lights. If your car has trimming, remove it. If not, just tape over it, as well as over other emblems and decorations.
  2. Get your power sander and use it to remove rust, heavy scratches and other materials from car surface. To get the best results, move your sander in a back and forth motion in a straight line. You might need to switch sander pads, depending on the degree of damage or amount of rust. This will give you a smoother finish.
  3. Once you’re done with all the surfaces, get the air compressor and use it to remove the dust and dirt left by the power sander. This will work great, because dust trapped in small spaces can be removed by the compressor.
  4. Get a wooden block and wrap a #120 grit sandpaper around it. Move in a straight direction, and sand the hard-to-reach areas found around the trunk, doors and the hood. To take away fine scratches, switch to a #200 grit sandpaper. Switch to a #320 grit, then to a #600, to get a smooth finish.
  5. Turn on the air compressor again to remove the dust again. Use a dry cloth to wipe the whole surface. Afterward, examine the car body, to check spots or scratches you’ve missed. Keep sanding and removing dust with the air compressor, until you’re finished.

Some Tips

  • Sand your car in a well-ventilated area.
  • Sometimes, you’ll need to only remove the car’s clear coat, instead of sanding everything down to the metal. This depends on the paint color you want and the car’s condition.
  • Wear a dust mask while you sand, to prevent injury.
  • Make sure you sand straight to prevent scratches.

Sanding a car thoroughly can take a few days, but you’ll realize it’s all worth it when you see your car body smooth and ready to be painted again. Take time doing this prep work, and you’ll get the best results.



  1. Kevin said,

    on May 14th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I’m curious as to why i want to sand in one direction. Wont the primer/pain cover up any flaw and swirls from a power sander or palm sander? Sorry I’m trying to learn as much as I can before I work on my own car.