October 16, 2023

How to Respray a Car in 5 Steps

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to attempt a respray on your car. Over time, we all get little dings and scratches that impact on the paintwork. A car respray is the easiest way to get a panel or even your whole vehicle back to looking in pristine condition.

You might be looking to add a little extra design to the bodywork to make it stand out from the crowd.

Or perhaps you just want to change the colour of your car or bring an old, vintage model back to life.

Maybe you’re planning to sell your car and want to give it a makeover.

What you should understand from the outset is that this is not a simple case of slapping on the colour and hoping for the best. Painting a car is not the same as painting a wall in your house. You are going to need the right equipment and preparation is vital if you want to create the right finish.

Getting it wrong can make your car look absolutely hideous.

  • In addition, you are NOT going to get the same professional finish that you would with a spray can that you would with the proper equipment such as a high quality spray gun and a filtered booth.
  • Car spray paint is considered harmful and carcinogenic and you should be wearing the right protective gear, even if you are just using a can.
  • You should also note that there might well be local regulations for using spray cans or professional gear (if you can get your hands on it) which you will need to adhere to.

That aside, if you’re still intent on respraying your own car, it pays to get your preparation right. Any car spray is about two thirds prep with the rest taken up by painting and then finishing off or polishing. The more attention you pay to the prep stage and the less you try to rush it, the better the finish you should expect.

The first thing you might want to get a handle on is what type of paint you are going to use.



A Quick Guide To Car Respray Paints

Not only are there different shades available but different finishes when it comes to car paints. If you are looking to match the colour of your existing car, there are plenty of different sites online that you can use to find the appropriate product – all you need to do is enter the model, year and colour and their online system comes up with a list of matches.

  • Solid Paint: This is what you find on most cars and the most common options are white, blue, black and red. It’s usually added as single coat with a lacquer layer for protection over the top before your car comes off the assembly line.
  • Metallic Paint: This is basically the same as solid paint but with a small amount of metallic powder added. It doesn’t cost that much more than solid paint though you can often get charged more at the garage because it needs multiple layers applying.
  • Pearlescent Paint: Instead of adding a little metallic powder, manufacturers put in ceramic crystals or mica which gives the finish a sparkle or refracted appearance that shimmers as you drive along.
  • Matte Finishes: Less common than other finishes, matte is often used for high end cars and can certainly add to the cost. It does have issues with maintenance, however, especially if you get a chip further down the line.
  • Special Paints: There are a growing number of specialist paints coming onto the market and there are effects which can be achieved by processes such as layering. If you’re doing a DIY paint job for your car, unless you’re an artist or highly skilled professional, it would be best to steer clear of these kinds of paints and techniques.

The 5 Steps to Respraying Your Car

Assuming you’ve decided not to take your car to the nearest respray garage, there are generally five clear steps to the work that you need to follow. The preparation phase is key. Get this wrong and what looked like a simple job can quickly become a big mess, no matter how good your spraying technique is.

The Big Safety Tip

Before you even think about spraying your car, there are some safety issues you need to focus on. Spray paint and professional spray equipment involve you releasing toxic substances into the air. Make sure that you have the right protective gear including mask and goggles and that the area you are painting in has good ventilation.

  1. Preparing Your Car

About 65% of the work you are going to do for a respray is preparation and you need to get this right.

The first step is to make sure any defects, bumps, dents and chips have been dealt with first before you start prepping the surface for painting. The amount of work is obviously going to depend on what damage there is. Even the smallest defect can be shown up once you start putting on a layer of paint.

The key is to take your time and review the area of the car you are painting. If you are spraying the whole vehicle then split it down into sections but the point is that you need to be very thorough.

If you are not stripping down the paint completely, then washing the area with a good car cleaning solution that does not contain wax is important for getting the surface clean. Washing up liquid actually works quite well but you need to ensure that you have cleaned the surface thoroughly and allowed it to dry properly. Any dust, wax or other surface material will effect how the paint adheres to the surface and the final finish.

There are several different methods that can be used for prepping the surface of car for painting, including:

  • Cutting: This relies on an abrasive substance to remove thin layers of paint. It’s not a job for the faint hearted, either and requires a decent amount of trial and error before you get it right. The cutting compound can be applied using a circular motion but be keep moving it around and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Sanding: The quickest way to remove the top layer of paint on your car, this is generally best done by using a good sander rather than doing it by hand. Take your time over this as a good finish is always important.

If you are sanding a whole car down to the metal and respraying from scratch, don’t underestimate the length of time this is going to take. Each panel is going to eat up at least a couple of hours of your time so make sure you pace yourself properly.

  1. Masking

Something that you need to take special car over is masking those parts of your car that you don’t want the paint to go over. This is well worth taking the extra effort with, even small mistakes can make the job look unprofessional. If you are just respraying a small area, then you simply need to cover everything that is likely to be touched by paint. A whole car respray will require the windows, door handles and headlights etc covering properly.

  1. Priming

If you are removing paint down to the metal, you are going to need to add a primer before you start doing the full respray. This essentially seals the surface and creates a protective barrier and you will probably need to add at least a couple of coats to ensure the area is covered properly.

  1. Spraying

This can often be the most daunting part of the job – get it wrong and you’ll have to start all over again. For small areas, it’s worth practicing your technique first before you get into your work. You shouldn’t be looking to cover the metal in one fell swoop but lay down a thin layer each time you make a pass. If you are painting the entire car, try to see it as a whole rather than a selection of panels. You should leave at least an hour for drying between each coat of paint.

  1. Applying Lacquer

For a lot of paints you need to apply a final lacquer coat and this should be done with a couple of thin layers. You need to leave this at least a couple of days before you do a final quality wax.

There is a lot of work that goes into a car respray, even for small areas you simply want to touch up. Getting the right match of paint is one thing but ensuring you use the appropriate technique is something entirely different. If you get it wrong it can be an expensive mistake, so you should always weigh up the pros and cons of a DIY job compared to getting the work done by a professional.

At White’s Bodyworks we have over 20 years’ experience delivering high quality car resprays. Whether you have a vintage vehicle, a new model or a car that has seen better days, we can bring it back to pristine condition with our dedicated paint respray facility.

Contact us today to find out more.


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