Prepping a Car Before Painting

There are several ways of restoring your vehicle’s exterior look but painting does the ultimate job of giving it a fresh look. However, if you need to paint your car, you should take note that what brings out the best paintwork is in the preparation. Whether you are re-painting the whole car or just repairing a chip, there are some prep works you need to do diligently to achieve the best results. These include; cutting, sanding and priming before spraying your car with your desired paint.

What you need

  • 1200 and 2000-grit wet and dry sandpaper
  • Air powered/electric sander
  • Old newspapers
  • Masking tape
  • Spray gun
  • Air compressor
  • A buffer
  • Paint thinners
  • Safety glasses
  • Face masks
  • Undercoat
  • Acrylic/enamel paint
  • Clear coat lacquer


In automotive terms, cutting is the use of an abrasive compound to remove thin layers of paint from your car’s bodywork. It is a process which is done before applying paint or after applying paint to blend the new and old paint. If you are going to do this by yourself, you should understand that there variety of cutting compounds each with its own cutting power. You should therefore choose the right compound depending on what tasks you want accomplished.

How to use a cutting compound on your car

The first step you should do before applying a cutting compound on your car is to tape off all the surrounding areas. This is a ‘dirty’ job, therefore wear old clothes, safety glasses, hand gloves and cover any exposed clothing.

If you are applying the cutting compound on a small patch, you can use a clean cloth and apply the compound by hand in circular motions. For larger areas, you may need to use a machine; usually an orbital polisher and appropriate pads to do the job perfectly. When using a machine, ensure the pressure is consistent and pause often to inspect the areas you have treated. You may also want to spray water on the surface which not only helps cool the paint down but also move the compound over the surface.


Sanding is the use of abrasive materials to remove the top layer of your car’s paint. It is one of the most important steps in prepping a car before painting and therefore requires attention and time investment if you need to achieve professional results. Sanding can either be done by hand using a sand paper or using an electrical orbital sander depending on the magnitude of the task. Also, you may need to use different grades of sand paper for different tasks.

Sanding your car’s bodywork

You can use 1,200-grit paper or sanding pads to remove clear coat and paint from your car’s bodywork quickly. You may have to remove the primer as well and expose bare metal if you want to avoid the hassle of matching the paint you want to apply with your car’s original paint. Moreover, the paint on most old cars may not be compatible with modern paints and it is therefore advisable to scrap it all off if you want to achieve professional results.

When sanding, ensure that you don’t leave any glossy spots on your car’s bodywork as the primer and paint will not stick on such spots. Sanding is therefore a time consuming process but totally worth it if you want impressive results.

If you are doing a quick touch which doesn’t require completely repainting the surface, you can use 2,000 – 2,500-grit wet and dry paper to smooth the surface.


Priming is a very essential step that must be carried out before applying any top coat on metal surfaces. It helps seal the surface as well as creates a protective barrier and makes an ideal surface for the color coat paint to stick on. High quality primers contain solids which smoothen out any imperfection that can be on the bare metal.

Priming your car

Go for top quality automotive primer designed for use on metal surfaces. Before you begin applying primer on your car’s bodywork, ensure that the area you are planning to paint is thoroughly cleaned. Then apply two or more coats of primer and make sure that all bare metal is completely covered. For plastic parts that may need to be painted, you will need to use a primer designed specifically for plastic.

Furthermore, you should ensure that all the areas that are not being painted are covered up. Use a masking tape to tape down edges before you begin painting your car.

Once you have primed your car, you are now ready to start spraying it. However, to get the best results, weather conditions must be right as well. The peak priming conditions are when the weather is dry and mild. Caution must be taken if doing the process indoors including wearing eye protection, covering exposed skin and a dust mask.


Start by mixing the paint with thinners using the recommended ratios which can always be found on the paint can’s instructions. Apply three to four coats of topcoat taking into consideration the drying time in order to achieve the best results. Remove any powdery residues using 2000-grit wet and dry sandpaper before applying the last coat. Finish by applying two coats of clear-coat lacquer.

Ensure you remove the masking tape while the cleat coat is wet carefully to avoid getting the tape stuck on the wet paint. Now let the cleat coat cure for some time according to the instructions before you move or drive your car.

Whether you are giving you’re a car a completely new paint makeover with new color or plan to match the existing paint, ensure that you choose the correct shade. At CarWash Cleveland, we can help you pinpoint the perfect paint for your car. Our professionals can also guide you during the prepping process if you need to achieve the most professional bodywork paint results. This is because we have several years of experience and have worked with all manner of bodywork. Do not hesitate to contact us if your car needs some new paintwork and our professionals will guide you through the process.