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How to Prep a Car Before Painting: cut, sand, prime, and paint

How to Prep a Car Before Painting: Prepping the paintwork is just as important as applying the paint, and plays an important role in the quality of the finished project. Preparations for painting a car include cutting, sanding, and priming. A smooth finish can be achieved by choosing the right paint colour and applying it evenly to the surface.

With tips on cutting, sanding, priming and picking the right paint for your car’s new look, we’ll help you prep like a pro. 

Cutting

Cutting removes thin layers of paint using an abrasive compound. You can cut before applying paint or after to blend the new paint in.

Cutting compounds vary in cutting power. Don’t buy the wrong one – ask in store if you’re unsure. 

The Best Way to Apply Cutting Compound

When applying cutting compound, tape off the surrounding area, especially if you are using a machine. Put on old clothes, safety glasses, gloves, and cover anything you don’t want to clean up later. Use a clean cloth to apply the compound.  For larger areas, get an orbital polisher with the appropriate pads. Always monitor your pressure and inspect the treated area periodically.

Sanding

With sanding, you remove the top layer of your car’s paint. It’s worth investing time in paint preparation for professional results. You can use either sandpaper or an electric orbital sander for sanding, and different grades of paper will need to be used depending on the job.

The Best Way to Sand Your Car

To remove paint from the car’s bodywork, use 1,200-grit paper or sanding pads. It will be easier to match the paint you want to apply if you remove the primer and expose the bare metal. Older cars may not be compatible with modern water-based paints. Don’t take chances – do it right the first time.

The primer and paint won’t stick if there are glossy spots on the bodywork. The process might be long, but it’s worth it. 

Priming

Painting metal surfaces requires priming before applying any topcoat or colour; priming seals the surface and creates a protective barrier to ensure the colour coat paint sticks. Primer with high solids smooths out imperfections on bare metal.

Prime your car before painting

Ensure that the area you plan to paint is thoroughly cleaned before you start painting with a high-quality automotive primer. To ensure the bare metal is completely covered, apply two or more coats of primer. You’ll need a plastic primer if you’re painting plastic. 

Cover any areas you won’t be painting and tape down any edges with masking tape. Protect your eyes and skin if you’re working indoors. Wear a dust mask and eye protection. Wait for the primer to dry evenly on the areas that need painting.

Paint

Whatever colour you plan to paint your car, you need the correct shade. Can’t decide what colour to paint your car? You can match your car’s paint based on its manufacturer, colour, and registration year using our clever paint match tool. 

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