How to Paint your Own Car

Car looking a bit rough? Had a scratch and want to bring your pride and joy back to it’s former glory?

Well now you can, here at beat the mechanic we are going to show you how it is possible to paint your own car.


Learn to paint your own car

So why paint your own car?

Well, we all know that over time things wear out. You get bumps, scratches, scuffs and all kinds of marks on your vehicle. Let’s face it most of us take our cars for granted and throw everything we can at them. The good thing is that the car manufacturers use a pretty strong paint/clear coat formula so the paint work tends to do well. That is if you don’t abuse your car.

But with age comes a large list of problems. A problem people can come across is paint work issues (rust patches scratches, marks or discoloration). This does not effect everyone’s car but if you are not a fan of waxing your vehicle then you may have noticed a few paint work related issues.

The good news is that we are all capable of painting our own car, no matter how daunting it may seem. It really isn’t rocket science especially if it is just minor changes your planning to do. I remember the first paint job i ever did on an old car of mine and that was to the alloy wheels. I didn’t like the stock silver color so decided they would look better in black. I did it on the cheap of course. It cost around $15 to carry out the work, that was for all 4 alloys in black and clear coated. I did however only spray the face of the wheel, cheap easy way to get stuff done. Just make sure you have your wheels balanced after any paint is added to them, especially if it’s a few thick coats.

So if your planning on doing a touch up here and there or perhaps a full paint job then why not follow our simple guide below, remember if in doubt please get in touch in the comments section before carrying out any serious work. It is worth while to note that getting a paint job done by a professional is very, very expensive. So if you can teach yourself how to do a great job then your on to a win.

Before we begin

The Right Stuff For The Job

Before you take on the job of painting your own vehicle, please bare in mind it is time consuming. If your going to paint the whole of the car you will want to set aside a couple of days and keep it away in a garage or shed to avoid the elements. However you can spray your vehicle outside but make sure that you work under cover in case of rain. Never spray paint in windy condition that is a very silly thing to do. You will end up with more paint on yourself than the car. If your only doing minor work your looking at 24 hours for a decent job. So if you plan on painting your own car make sure you have the day off or a backup car in case.

Depending on what your doing to your car the items you require are going to vary. Here is a break down of what you will need for the job at hand.

Full Paint Job

  • A large amount of 1200-2000 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper
  • Air powered or electric sander due to the size of work required
  • masking tape
  • newspaper for masking (it’s cheap but effective)
  • air compressor with spray gun
  • buffer
  • paint thinners
  • face mask
  • safety glasses
  • undercoat
  • topcoat -acrylic or enamel paint
  • clear coat
  • Dust extractor if working in a small sealed area

as for amount of paint required For a small- or medium-sized car, your are looking at around one gallon of base coat or primer to star with. Then you will need around three gallons of topcoat, and two to three gallons of clear coat. Of course bigger cars require more paint. You could ask a professional to advise you on how much paint you require for your vehicle. But normally the stated amount of above applies for majority of cars if you drive a much large car your looking at an extra gallon of each coating for the job.

Small Paint Job

For this example we are going to compare it to minor paint work each circumstance is different This is the main tools and equipment required the paint list comes next.

  • A few sheets of 1200-2000 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper
  • You can manually sand your car or use an electric or air powered sander
  • masking tape
  • newspaper for masking (it’s cheap but effective)
  • buffer if required not always necessary
  • paint thinners
  • face mask
  • safety glasses

Depending on the work needed you have two options either:

The Easy way with cans of spray paint:

  • Few cans undercoat
  • Few cans of topcoat
  • few cans of clear coat

The power mad way:

  • air compressor with spray gun
  • undercoat
  • topcoat -acrylic or enamel paint
  • clear coat
  • Dust extractor if working in a small sealed area

Of course doing a small amount of work on your vehicle you will require a lot less paint. Whenever you do minor work to your vehicle it is probably best that you get hold of spray cans and use a few of them instead of gallons worth of paint. But the choice is entirely up to you. It is worth while to note that you can get spray gun fixtures to add to spray cans, so you can still get the “feel” of using a spray gun.

You may be surprised at the amount of paint we have listed, but you need to take into account this may be your first paint job. It is always better to have too much paint than too little. Especially if you make a few mistakes here and there. Just remember if you think your running out paint then paint your car in sections where it is not noticeable. I.e the doors etc. But it is always best practice to paint the entire vehicle in one sitting than in sections.

Now for getting the original color of your car you can get this checked professional where they will match it or see if you can find the color code in your cars compliance plate. Auto paint shops will be able to match this code and get the correct paint you require.

A Great Paint Job Comes From Great Prep Work


Paint your own vehicle


In a large amount of circumstances you really can get a good job done in a chaotic environment. But when it comes to painting your vehicle your really wanting to only work in a clean, dust free area, so if your using an old garage make sure it’s gutted out and dust free. This may be an issue if your panting outside but to solve this problem just hose down the area your working in. It would be in your best interest to invest in some kind of cover that you can work under. This well help with direct sunlight and debris from ruining your paint work.

Once your happy your work space is clean and tidy then it’s time to wash your car! Yup that’s right might as well wash the whole thing while your at it. Make sure if your lazy or don’t have the time that you clean the parts your going to paint properly. You need to remove all dirt and grime. Don’t wax it just give it a good old scrub.

Now mask the areas your not wanting to get paint on. If it’s a small job just mask off the panel your working on and anything that might be in the “Spray zone”. Large cars will require a lot more masking, you will want to make sure the windows, mirrors and any plastic features that you don’t want to change are masked. Also vinyls badges etc. I’m sure you get the picture and can work out what needs to be masked and what doesn’t.

Now it’s time to get your dust mask, protective eye wear and suitable clothing on and get on with the job. If you have a dust extractor now is your time to turn it on and get on with stripping!

Now for the Fun Bit Stripping (hint of sarcasm)

OK when it comes to paint to ensure a good job i done you must strip away any old paint including any rust spots. If the rust is awful then it might be best to get a professional in to do some “filling” and other things to improve the chassis of your vehicle. Ive seen meter long holes fixed so don’t worry. It just might be pricey if you get someone else to do it.

This is a much quicker process if you are using a sanding tool. But normally we don’t do whole cars and just scuffs and easy to access parts of the car. The best way to get paint off the car is to use circular motion. This ensures a more equal level to paint on. The best practice is to strip the paint back to the base metal to ensure a real good bound with the car.

If your doing the whole vehicle it can take up to 2 hours to do each panel, especially the larger ones. So like we stated previously make sure you set aside a bit of time in order to do a real good job. The key when sanding your vehicle weather your using a professional sander or just normal sand paper is to make sure you get a smooth even surface. It’s common practice to finish with some fine grade wet and dry sandpaper. The less imperfections the better the paint job.

Once you have completed sanding your car you will want to clean the surface of any dust or dirt that may have been left behind. Wash the car down and dry it you can even use paint thinners to ensure a cleaner finish. This is a vital step in making sure you do a great job when painting your own car. If there is any residue left on the vehicle it may flake off when your painting the car this will ruin your paint job.

Your In your Prime – Prime Like a King

If sanding is the most important job when it comes to painting your own car then adding a primer is it’s sister. That’s right it’s just as important. A primer is the base coat that your paint will bond with. It is important that you use the correct primer when painting any vehicle. This is because primers can come in a range of colors and it’s best to decided weather you want a dark or light base coat to paint in. This is why we ask you to test your paint first so you know what color it’s going to look like. Im sure the staff at any auto paint store can help you with this.

Before we begin you will need to mask off any areas you are not going to want to get paint on. You can use newspaper as long as it’s thick enough ( 2 – 3 layers depending on your style of painting) or some plastic sheeting. Make sure you use decent masking tape don’t grab the cheap stuff it soaks right through. You might want to try

FrogTape 1358463 Multi-Surface Painting Tape, Green, 0.94-Inch x 60-Yard Roll

You are really going to want to take your time here there is no rush. Avoid any over spray.

You can buy premade primers or primers you need to make yourself. Just read the paint can instructions as these can vary quite a bit from company to company.

If this is your first ever time painting a car or for that matter spraying anything then we recommend you purchase a used car panel from a salvage yard, well that would be our first choice. You can pick them up next to nothing so you can get the feel of how to paint a car without having to many worries damaging your own vehicle. You can use any piece of scrap metal but it would be best to use something your going to be working on so you can get to grips on sanding and painting.

Now that your all ready and primed up, gun or spray can is ready. Your going to want to practice your spraying technique. Hold the spray gun or can about 6 inches away from the panel and spray in a side to side sweeping motion. Do not do bursts as this can cause splatter. Your basically trying to do a light “mist”. Only apply the trigger / cap when your moving the can. If you hold it continuously as you spray the paint will end up thicker in the places where you changed direction. This will cause the paint to run in certain places.

Once you have nailed your technique and feel your comfertable in bggining. You will want to now head over to your car and start applying your primer to the vehicle. Weather this is a small spot or the whole car. The rule is to work roof down so start at the top and work down. Apply the primer in thin but even coats. Your looking at around 2 – 3 coats in some cases even 4 coats. This should ensure complete cover of your desired areas. Just take note of the drying times specified on the paint tin. This is very important because if you apply another coat when the paint is wet it can end in a horrible finish. It will take around 10 minuted per layer but the curing time can be between 20 – 60 minutes. So pay attention to that drying time.

One you have finished the primer process you will need to clean your spray gun / spray can to ensure it doesn’t seize up with paint. This needs to be done whenever your going to be leaving your tools for a while. Ideally whipe them down after ever layer. No one likes these things blocking there a paint to clean at times.

Now here is one a lot of people forget. It’s not with all paint but primers can sometimes have  a strange finish. It’s sort of powder like. You will need to use wet and dry sand paper to remove this to a smooth even finish. This is what we are aiming for if you don’t do this you may have a “bumpy” or “bitty” finish, which of course no one likes. Once you have finished this process you will want to wipe down the surface with a slightly wet rag, some use thinners but be very careful as too much will strip the primer back so all that hard work will be wasted.

Here comes the Painting


learn to paint your vehicle


Same as the primer mix what you need to mix as the paint instructions recommend. We prefer going to the auto paint tore to get this pre mixed. You will now want to apply the top coat to the primer. The coats will take around 10 minutes to apply just like the primer and around 20 – 60 minutes to cure. Just like the primer make sure you get the timing correct.

You will want to add around 3 – 4 coats to the car. But there is one important step to take here is that before the last top coat make sure any residue or “bits” is removed. Use the wet and dry sandpaper to remove this as well as wipe it down with a clean rag. Once you have done this you can apply the last coat then you can apply the clear coat.

You will want to remove the masking tape whilst your last layer of clear coat is wet. You need to be careful not to get any tape or paper stuck on the wet paint. You would not want to ruin your new paint work now would you. Let the clear coat cure and then inspect for any imperfections. Remove with thin wet and dry sandpaper and respray if needed. Always clear coat where you have sanded.

Now for the buffing. Fairly simple enough this can be done with a tool or by hand. Just be careful to not burn the paint by holding the buffer in one place for a long period of time. Now stand back and admire your vehicle in all it’s glory!

That’s it!

We are aware this is a long tutorial but we had to cover all bases when it comes to painting your own car. With practice and more importantly a lot of time on your hands as well as a handful of determination perhaps some stubbornness too. You will be able to paint your vehicle on your own without the high over heads it would cost you to get it done at the shop. So grab yourself a beer sit back and admire the hard work you have done.

If you are really uncomfortable painting your own car and it is only a small mark that needs to be painted there are specialists that can come around to your house to do this for you at a fraction of the price a auto paint store would charge. It is worth looking around first. We were inspired to do this article by reading the post over at this site here. It was proof that there are plenty of you learning to paint your own vehicle so we thought we would help the community with our latest post.