Automobile Body and Paint Restoration Outline

Below is a helpful guide to many of the steps needed to do an automobile restoration. We hope you find this information useful and if you see anything we missed be sure to drop us an eMail with your suggestions.

Of course this outline is a general overview of the points needed to do the work and your particular job may differ in some ways.  Most importantly you should focus on doing these procedures safely while using the proper protective gear for yourself as well as looking out for the welfare of others who could come in contact with your effort.

You may want to copy and paste the outline into a word processing program so that you can make notes on it and print it out if necessary.

I. Inspection and Evaluation
   A.  Wash the vehicle to allow for a clear look of all surfaces.
     B.  Make a list of parts needed that can be seen at this time.
          1.  Break out lists of new vs. use parts and suppliers.
     C.  Make a list of labor that that can be seen at this time.
     D.  Make list of tools and materials needed.
          1. Start with general shop tools and prices linked below.
               a.  Compressor (size does matter)
               b.  Air Regulator
               c.  Air Hose and Hardware
               d.  Hand Tools
               e.  Other Metal Working Tools as needed
               f.  Protection
                    1.  Fresh air breathing system
                    2. Gloves & Coveralls
               f. Sander and Grinder
                    1.  Rotary for Stripping and Polishing Paint
                    2.  Orbital and/or Straight Line for Filler
                    3.  Random Orbital for Sanding On Paint
                    4.  Angle Die Grinder for Cutting and Grinding
          2.  Materials
               a.  Sandpaper
               b.  Fillers

II. Disassembly
   A.  Expand on part list as you disassemble vehicle
     B.  Organize lose parts.
          1.  Organize parts into groups in containers like zip lock bags and boxes.
          2.  Place a label on each group or each large part
               a.  Tell which side of the car and which part (IE. L/F Fender hardware)
          3.  Attach hardware to large parts where possible and label.
     C.  Take detailed photos/video of complicated areas before disassembly.
     D.  Find safe storage for delicate parts
     E.  DO NOT dispose of ANY parts unnecessarily until the vehicle is finished.

III.  Clean, Strip and Protect Metal Parts
A. Before stripping be sure to have tools and materials in place for coating.
               1.   A good RUST CONVERTER for rust that will not be removed
               2.  A good primer will help protect the metal while body work is being done.
          B.  Power Sand, Sand Blast, Plastic Media Blast or chemically strip.
               1. Rotary sander should be variable speed used below 1000 RPM.
                    a.  80 grit sandpaper is used for stripping but 40 or 36 can also be used.

IV.  Do the Metal Repairs and Filler Work
    A.  Get decent tools like a die grinder, stud welder, MIG welder and Hand Tools.
     B.  If the job is large concentrate on one or two areas at a time.
     C.  This is the time for Filler Tools and Materials 
          1. Use decent filler and sandpaper, it isn't worth purchasing cheap products here.
          2.  A Dry Guide Coat is recommended for leveling the fillers.
               a.  While block sanding primer be sure to sand the surface level without
                    chasing the low areas.  This will make the entire area too low, apply more
                    filler as needed.
               b.  Use a block or board larger than the area being leveled or, if the surface
                    is large use at least a 17" sanding board.
               c.  If possible it's usually best to move the sanding board from the good metal
                    over the filler so that the good metal acts as a guide during this part of the 

V.  Finish the body work and start priming
     A.  Polyester Putty is usually the final filler.
          1.  Putty is usually leveled with 80 grit then smoothed with 180
               a. Dry Guide Coat helps a lot when leveling the putty.
     B.  Direct to metal primer then 2K (filler) primer is applied.
          1.  If epoxy primer is used you can apply the 2K on top within the time window.
               a.  The most popular primers for direct to metal are epoxy and etch primers.
          2.  After the application of 2K a guide coat is highly recommended for sanding.
          3.  Multiple applications of 2K are sometimes needed to tweak the surface.
               a. The coarsest scratch left on the surface prior to painting is usually 400/600
     C. Undercoating is usually done prior to doing the finish painting.
          1.  Good "direct-to-metal" paints can protect the underside from deterioration.
VI.  The Painting Process
     A.  Prep the Room
          1.  Sweep floor and blow off walls.
          2.  Cover surfaces (that can generate dust) with plastic, like tool boxes etc.
          3.  Dampen floor right before you start painting.
               a.  Don't create puddles that can splash on the painted surface.
               b.  It's best not to spray the floor with a hose after the painting starts.
          4.  Jack the vehicle up off the ground and get it well lit on both sides.
     B. Cleaning the vehicle
          1. Wash vehicle with water then with grease and wax remover (solvent cleaner).
               a.  Apply the solvent cleaner with a Pump Sprayer,  remove with paper towels.
          2.  Blow out cracks and crevasses with blow gun.
     C.  Masking
          1.  A decent Masking Machine makes this a better, faster and easier job.
          2.  Use good Masking Tape, cheap tape may not hold and may not release.
          3.  Seal all folds in paper by taping them closed.
     D.  Protect surroundings from overspray.
          1.  Remove cars and other valuables that are down wind.
          2.  Make allowances to protect children and other innocent bystanders.
     E.  More car prep...
          1. After masking blow out dust traps on car one more time.
          2.  Wipe the dust from the surface with a damp sponge and clean water.
               a.  Repeatedly rinse in clean water, wring out and wipe in one direction
               b.  Dry the surface with a clean towel.
          3.  One more cleaning with solvent cleaner dried with clean paper towels.
          4.  Just before you pick up the spray gun use a good Tack Rag over the surface.
     F.  Prep Yourself
          1. Don't try to do too much in one day.
               a.  Usually (most of) the car prep then spraying are done on separate days.
               b.  Have clean outerwear for spraying.
                    1. Overalls,  Gloves and Breathing Apparatus make good sense.
     G.  Ready for Spraying?
          1.  Lay out hoses.
          2.  Organize materials
          3.  Have mistake fixers at the ready
               a.  Tweezers for bugs and dust
               b.  Nib Files and Run Blockers for runs and nibs.
          4.  Use the proper chemicals for the temperature or adjust temperature
          5.  Is your ventilation adequate?
          6.  Mix more than enough for the first coat.  We mix 2 quarts for an overall.
     H.  The Spraying
          1.  When everything is ready tack the car off one more time.
          2.  Begin spraying so that you chase your "dry edge" around the car.
               a.  We usually start on the driver's side roof, across the roof then onto the
                    passenger side quarter, doors, fender across the hood and back
                    driver's side to where we started.  When spraying the roof we spray about
                    3/4 of the way down each post and the bottom is sprayed 3/4 of the way up
                    each post so that the paint is overlapped.   Good lighting is essential to a
                    good job.
VII.  Compounding
     A.  After waiting for the paint to harden somewhat you can sand with ultra fine
          sandpaper (usually between 600 and 2500 grit) to  remove orange peel, dust nibs,
          runs and other surface imperfections.   If paint is fully cured compounding and
          polishing takes longer but is less likely to be damaged.
          1.  Nibs and runs are usually removed using a Nib File and Run Blockers.
               a.  Run Repair Tips Here (we all get them from time to time)
          2.  The best type of machine for compounding is the same type as for stripping,
                this is a good variable speed sander/buffer

Disclaimer: The ideas and methods described in this web site were developed under unique situations. Since these situations cannot be duplicated, you may get different results. Use and application of any of the site's content is at the user's own risk.

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