Before we discuss the equipment used to apply paint, we must discuss the equipment necessary for proper preparation. The car must be taped off; for that you'll need masking tape and paper. We've used newspaper for this before, but newspaper is porous and can let paints, especially clearcoats, bleed through onto the glass and trim underneath, which will require a lengthy clean-up. Plastic can be used to bag the engine bay and other areas that won't be painted, and wheel covers or trash bags can be used to cover the wheels and tires. Once taped, the car is prepared by wiping it down with a cleaner (Naphtha is usually the main ingredient) to eliminate any oils or foreign materials from the surface that could cause fish-eyes or other blemishes. Finally, the car is wiped down with a tack-cloth to remove any dust or debris that could affect the paint job.

Now we are finally ready to mix and apply our paint. For mixing we'll need a graduated mixing cup, strainers, and stir sticks; for applying we'll need a paint gun. Paint guns are classified as can-style (paint held in a can under the gun) and HVLP (high volume low pressure) style that stores the paint in a cup above the gun. The main advantage of HVLP guns is they use less air pressure, thereby creating less overspray and wasting less product than the older, can-style paint guns. Regardless of the style paint gun used, a pressure regulator and water and oil separator are mandatory when painting a car. Air pressures and flash times (time between coats) are dictated by the paint manufacturer and can be found on the paint's MSDS (material safety data sheet).

No matter the manufacture, be sure to use the proper protective gear-gloves, safety glasses, and especially a respirator when applying paint.

The actual process of painting is where experience pays off. An experienced painter knows how thick to apply the paint, and where areas prone to runs and fish eyes are and adjusts his technique appropriately. By following the instructions on the MSDS, an inexperienced painter can apply a good paint job, but experience is the key to consistent success. While we have seen some great paint jobs come from garages or even outdoors, the controlled environment of a quality paint booth is always the desired place to paint. Paint booths not only control dust, but also are usually well lit, and, in extreme cases, climate controlled to ensure exact environmental conditions each time paint is applied. Once the car is painted, be sure to observe appropriate cure times before waxing or washing the newly painted surface with soap. For an extremely slick finish, most shops will wet-sand the paint with 2000-grit paper, then buff the paint with polishing compound.

So there you have it, you can see that painting a car is not just as easy as picking up a few cans of spray paint and covering the car with it; many specialty tools are required to do the job properly. While painting a car is a job that can be handled in a small shop or home garage, we recommend letting a professional handle, or at least assist, in the process. Always remember a good-looking paint job is a function of proper techniques and preparation, so take the time to do it right. If each step is performed properly, your paint job should protect your car and look great for many years.

Auto Paint and Supply
J.D.'s Paint and Body
Blair Equipment Company
Swartz Creek
Lincoln Electric