How to Prep a Car for Painting Properly

By changing the paint of your car, you can easily give it a new look. If you are not afraid of being dirty by paint and love Diy work, then you can paint the car by yourself.

If you paint your car with professionals, you need to spend a lot of money. On the other hand, painting by yourself provides fun and comfort.

For painting perfectly, you need the right things and information. Before painting the car, you need to prepare it properly. Here I try to discuss the full steps below, which might help you to complete the job.

Ways to Prep a Car for Painting

how to prep a car for painting

Cleaning the Workplace

At first, it is necessary to gather all the required things and select the workplace. Then we need to clean this area. If the workplace is not clean or there is any obstacle, then the job will be more difficult.

We need to hose down the area if we decide to work outside. By doing this process, it would help to settle dust. Also, we need to keep in mind that we do not paint under the tree. Because if anything drops from the tree, then the finishing will be ruined.

We need to know about mechanical knowledge for painting in the engine area because we do not fix the engine without mechanical knowledge.


For a quality painting, we need to remove everything from the car body. If the handle of the door, antenna, etc., are not part of the painting, then the better way is to remove that part from the body.


car washing

Washing is an essential part of a painting. By washing, we can remove dirt and dust from the surface.

If we paint over the dust, we get a layer of debris between the car’s surface and the layer of paint. It will not be beneficial for us.

If we paint with dust or dirt, then it will damage the surface of the car slowly. That’s why before starting to paint, we should wash the car thoroughly and let the car dry completely.

The Wiping

After washing the car and before applying the primer, we need to wipe the car body properly. For wiping we can use any remover or grease. But we need to keep in mind that the remover must be wax, oil, or silicon free.

The Quality of Surface

Before painting, we need to check the surface properly. If there are any scratches, dents, or rock chips, we need to repair that to smooth the surface.

If we paint over the dents, scratches, etc., it will look worse than before. For removing scratches and chips, we need to follow the feathering process so that we do not feel them after moving our hand over them.

To make the car surface smooth and flat, we need to repair the dent. To repair a dent, we can use a dent repair kit available in any auto supply store.


We can repair a dent with any household items, including hairdryers, warm water, plungers.


Stripping is the first step of the feathering process. To complete this process, we need sandpaper. We need to apply it in circular motions. By doing this, we can remove the top and base coat.

We need to continue this process up to the bare metal surface. It isn’t easy to apply this process in every corner of the body with the sander. So, the best way is to use sandpaper with your hands.

If we use enough time in this process, then we will get the best result after painting.

Removing Rust

Rust is a dangerous enemy for any metal element. Before painting, we need to notice any patch of rust on the car surface. If we paint over the rust, then it will damage the paint and surface entirely.

To remove the rust, we can apply sander or sand with a hand on the affected area. After using the sander, we should apply the spray-on rust killer if the rust will not be removed. It takes 48 hours to remove the rust.

Wipe The Surface Again

After repairing the surface from the rust, dents, etc., we need to wipe the surface again. In this process, we can remove excess dirt and debris.

We can use a rag, paint thinner, or both to remove any dust. Also, we need to wait until the thinner will evaporate.


Prime is an essential step before applying paint on the car surface. After taking care of rust, dents, there is still some imperfectness on the car’s body. That’s why primer is used to smooth the surface.

Before applying prime we need to mix prime and thinner very well. To know the proportion, we need to follow the manual. Before applying the primer, we need to wash our hands properly. If we use a sprayer, we need to maintain a minimum of 6 inches from the surface and spray from side to side.

We can apply two coats of primer. On the first coat, try to use a thin coat to make a smoother surface. After drying the first coat, we need to apply a second coat. But try to keep in mind that we must maintain the minimum time of 20 minutes to the 1-hour gap between the two coats.

After finishing the primer, the surface will be powdery. So, we need to apply sandpaper to smooth it.


how to prep a car for painting

After following the full steps discussed above, we can apply the paint. The painting process is the same as the primer. We need to mix the color as required and thinner it very well.

We must apply two coats and maintain the minimum time as 20 minutes to 1 hour between two coats. 


The most common question: is painting over old paint of the car a good idea or not? If the car’s surface is scratchy, dents, or not smooth, the look becomes worse.

If the old paint is not scratchy, then we can apply the paint over the old paint. But before applying the paint, we need to rub the surface with sandpaper.

Final Words

In this article, I try to give you the full procedure of preparing the car for proper painting. You can easily do the job at home by following this guideline. As a result, you can save money.

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About Gavin Ford

Hi, I am Gavin Ford. I am a full-time power tools salesperson and a part-time mechanic. I help my friends and neighbors with their tools. Which one to buy, how to buy it, how to use it, methods to fix broken tools, and so on. In I will do the same for the rest of the world. You will get everything you need to know about tools for regular and professional use.

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