It’s the first thing you see and often the subconscious driving force in choosing an automobile – manufacturers learned long ago that we buy with our eyes. They say don’t judge a book by its cover but the quality and colour of a car’s finish go a long way in determining a vehicle’s appeal. Painting a car combines mechanical procedures with artistic talent and can be one of the most time-consuming and expensive automobile projects. Three quarters of the cost of building a car plant is put into the painting system. A paint job is really a multi-step process leading up to the final polish and takes a lot of patience and perfectionism.
Automotive painting can be done at home but with the time and expense involved, most will turn to a professional. Automotive refinishing technicians are specially trained for all types of paint jobs, whether it’s a custom design, restoration work or due to a collision. Today’s paint systems are better than ever – no longer containing volatile pollutants or lacquer. Refinishing requires calculating how much paint is needed, mixing paint to match existing colours exactly, and blending paint to the correct thickness. A meticulous eye is needed for colour matching and fine-finishing details.
Automotive painting requires a workspace with excellent ventilation and lighting, minimal dust, electrical access and sufficient space to move around the vehicle. If you’re thinking of doing it in your garage, better put down a sheet of plastic and make sure there aren’t furnaces or water heaters that could cause ignition of paint fumes. The first step is removing rust and repairing dents so there is a solid foundation, which may mean replacing entire panels. After body filler is applied, sand down to the bare metal if possible and clean all surfaces thoroughly to ensure no oils are left on the car. Snap-off removable chrome or plastic moldings and cover with masking tape and paper the surfaces not to be painted.
The automotive painting itself starts by priming the surface with a corrosion resistant primer until it is smooth and giving enough time for the primer to cure. Sand delicately and clean the primed surface before spraying the finish paint, thinned correctly and applied by cleaned high volume, low pressure (HVLP) spray guns. Prep and safety are vital to the final process – complete paint suits, goggles and respirators are highly recommended. The paint may take up to a week to fully cure before the final sanding process can begin. Finally, a rubbing compound is used to polish the paint and bring out a glossy finish. Be cautious with buffing machines and consider spending the extra time to polish by hand.