How To Paint a Classic Car


It can be intimidating to take on an automobile paint job, but with a plan of action in place, you can get the look you want and spend a lot less than what you would pay for someone else to do it.

Get Rid of the Old: In order to restore your classic car and paint with any success, you will first need to create a smooth surface. It is not suggested that you paint over the existing paint, unless you are just touching up a small area. Even then, that area will need to be prepared to accept the new paint. For this step and all that follow, you will want to ensure that all glass is covered, tires are protected, and all chrome components have been removed from the vehicle. In order to prepare the car to receive an all-over paint job, you will need an etching primer. Keep in mind that the most effective varieties will include an acid component, which means that they should be handled with great care to ensure your safety.

Prime The Surface : Now that the surface of the vehicle is ready to receive paint, the next step is to prime it. This will give the paint a much truer, bolder color in the end and will also reduce the amount of paint needed to get the surface that you desire. Choose a primer that is a two-part urethane high-build variety and cover the surface to be painted four or five times, allowing drying time between each coat.

Time For Hard Labor : The next step will require some “elbow grease.” That is to say that you will have to put forth some manual effort to block sand the surface once it has been properly coated in primer. It is recommended, by most professionals, that you start with rougher sandpaper (220 grit) and work to a finer sandpaper (320 grit) to achieve a smooth surface. This will create a smoother finished surface as well.

Hose and Bucket : When the sanding is complete, the residual dust will need to be removed. That means a sponge and soapy water. You may want to use a high pressure blow gun to dispel some of the dust before you begin, then clean the surface well.

Prepare Better Cover : There are a lot of places that you don’t want paint to be. Those areas need to be covered with a reliable plastic to ensure that no paint is allowed to enter and no dirt that may be covering those surfaces can mingle with the wet paint. While you have likely covered this step earlier in the process, this is a good time to check that it has been done well and you might also want to cover the walls and floor around the vehicle. This, again, will prevent paint coverage and flying dust.

Double-Check the Clean : You’ve removed the residual dust of sanding, but a clean surface is absolutely essential to a good paint job. Use a solvent-based cleaner to go over the surface once more.

Time to Paint : Finally the surface has been fully prepared to receive the paint. You will want to be prepared ahead of time and have all of your auto paint supplies ready to go. When the sprayer has been loaded, set the paint gun between 25 and 30 psi, or consult the manufacturer guidelines regarding the recommended pressure for your gun. It doesn’t matter where you begin painting; however, it is highly recommended that you pick a point that is easily remembered. Once a surface is covered, you will want to return to the starting point to work in the other direction. The goal is to spray wet paint beside wet paint, so it blends well. If you allow an area to dry and paint beside it, you are likely to find the appearance of a “seam” when all is completed.

Accents : If you are adding pin striping or some other detail, wait until the base coat is dry before painting the accents. Be sure to protect the rest of the vehicle from overspray by laying out the lines, taping, and then covering all other surfaces. Remove this tape and covering approximately 20 minutes after completing the painting.

Clear Coating : When the painted surface is dry, you are free to apply a clear coat. Be sure to use a tack rag to remove any dust that may have fallen on the surface, load the gun, and set the psi to a higher psi. Check the recommendations of the manufacturer to be sure you are at the proper pressure. Spray the surface with three coats, waiting 15 minutes between each.

The Final Product : Two days after the clear coat is applied, it is time to enjoy your accomplishments. That means quick wet sand and buffing to reveal the true beauty of the brand new surface. Choose a very fine sand paper (1000 grit down to 2000 grit) and be sure to keep it wet. Work this over small areas at a time until the haziness has evaporated.

When all is said and done, you will feel even more pride riding around in the restored vehicle because you will know that it is your hard work that the world is witnessing.

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