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15 comments

DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

Posted October 01, 2010 9:00 AM by CarDomain

I'm approaching a crossroads on my bodywork project. Once I'm done with all the straightening and sanding and priming, it's going to be time for paint. But here's the question: spray cans, or spray gun?

I realize that using a proper HVLP gun is the way to go for best results, but that's assuming you know how to use one - and I'm a first-timer. From what I've been told, automotive paint blown out of a spray gun is a lot thinner and more difficult to control than stuff from a can, and runs happen pretty easily when you're not used to this format. Also, there's the issue of pot life: once you mix the paint, you only have so long before it congeals, so it would pretty much mean spraying everything the same day.

So that brings us to rattlecans. The stakes are a lot lower. Touch-up of mistakes is easier, and you don't have to do everything all in one go. It goes on nice and thick. It definitely won't look as good – probably a little blotchy, especially on the big panels – but the probability of completely messing it up is a lot lower. Still, here's the thing: since most spraycan paint isn't specifically formulated for automotive applications, there's a decent chance that your car will be a flaking, peeling mess within a year.

So, anyone else found themselves at this decision point? Did you rattlecan it, or spray it with a spray gun? How did the paint turn out, how well did it hold up, and is there anything you'd do differently next time around?

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#1

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/01/2010 1:11 PM

Spray gun is the best way to paint a car. Mix the paint according to the directions and adjust gun on a piece of cardboard or something. It should have an up and down line of even spray coming out and not be spitting little blobs out. Spray one quick lite coat over entire vehicle and allow to dry until it's just a little tacky, around 20-30 minutes. When tacky spray on the second coat. This one should put just enough paint on the vehicle to evenly coat every inch. The last coat you want to spray evenly until there is a nice shine and stop otherwise you could get a run. One thing to remember is paint from top to bottom and overlap every pass about half way. Allow to dry for a least one day before unmasking the vehicle. Let dry for around 6-8 weeks before you wash it a car wash, their detergents can harm the fresh paint. Last thing is to drive around and show it off.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/01/2010 2:13 PM

That sounds like a lot of dinkin' around.

I painted my 1988 Ford E150 'Chick Magnet' van with a roller. (As you might imagine, it also looks like someone painted it with a roller...)

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#2

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/01/2010 1:45 PM

Your attempting job as in the picture a can will be fine. An air brush would be better if you truly an artist. More detail.

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#4

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/01/2010 7:22 PM

The best way to do this, if you insist on DIY, is to rent a spray booth and paint the car using professional equipment. Ask around who rents booths and equipment.

You also need to learn about the paint process and what to do and not do. If you think that you can get even remotely good results from a spray can you are totally clueless (and have no idea of how your finger will look the next day).

There are plenty of books and internet sites to get you started. Better, yet, take an automotive body work class at your local tech school or community college. You might be able to use their facilities and get top-notch instruction. They probably have night courses available.

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#5

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/01/2010 7:48 PM

Do all of the prep yourself, then take it to Maaco for the $250 special.

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#6
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/02/2010 12:55 PM

I second the Maaco vote! A quart of quality paint for a spray gun is over $100, and you will need more than one. Then you need the equipment to spray it on. Then you need a spray booth because paint in the air dust etc will settle on the car and it will look like crap, even if you have the right equipment and quality paint, so the spray booth is vented to prevent that. Then having little to no experience spraying you will definately have runs in the paint, so then what do you do? You might as well spray it with spray cans if you choose not to use Maaco or spend the money on a paint booth, real paint, and the necessary equipment. Last think of the resale value, if you want to sell the car in 2 years, Maaco will add that value to the sale price and then some, compared to the spray can look. If its going to the junkyard in 2 years just use the spray cans.

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#7
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/02/2010 1:05 PM

Just to play advocate here, I helped a friend spray paint a concourse lacquer job on a Sunbeam and he did it in his garage!

First, he had experience, but second, he took a lot of precautions to get things prepared. Also, lacquer is easier to sand out flaws and repaint sections that get damaged.

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#8
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/02/2010 4:09 PM

That's not really playing advocate if the guy has the experience, the equipment, and the garage, which I'm assuming this person doesn't have, which all factors should be considered against the $250 Maaco special. Plus, do not forget the cost of the paint. :)

The trick with overspray, if you do have a garage, is to have a clean space to minimize dust, and a fan to suck out the overspray (which will disturb any dust you do have).

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#9
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/02/2010 4:21 PM

Yeah, the Maaco special is a pretty good deal. But, they are going to little, if any prep. I would have everything sanded and clean when I get it there. I'd also bring it right before scheduled spray time and give it a final alcohol wipe down just before spray.

The problem with spray cans is that it will be impossible to maintain a wet edge, so he will have flat spots all over it.

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#10
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/02/2010 6:07 PM

If memory serves, he lined the garage with plastic and used a fan with an offset motor. Given the equipment, (not HVLP) he did an outstanding job. However, what's between the ears is most of the battle.

If you have some skill, renting a booth is the best way. If you have none and do not want to learn it, MAACO or some other shop is a great way to go, particularly if you do your own prep.

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#11
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/04/2010 8:42 AM

Your MAACO paint job will probably only last 1-4 years. A quality paint job cost $1500-$4000.00. Maaco uses an inepensive single stage paint on its economy paint jobs. It is not modern 2 stage clearcoat paint and thus will not resist ultra violet light and may fade. It will begin to peel a the edges unless you remove all handles and moldings and scuff the paint to the edge for proper adhesion.

I would suggest that you go to a body shop that does quality work and talk to the painter there for advice. Don't rely on amature's advice unles you don't care how it looks or how long it lasts. At least buy a book on the subject.

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#12
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Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/04/2010 9:42 AM

I painted a 30' sailboat with close to astondishing result using Dupont Awlgrip and HVLP (fuji). Used only about 2 quarts of the 2 gallons I had procured for the job ! (was expecting to use about 5 quarts). However, a couple of notes should you choose this route :

1. Preparation is almost everything.

2. Should you choose that paint, don't forget to properly "reduce" your primer as well as the paint : The paint is incredibly thin and will show every details of the surface you will get from the primer. If you fail to properly "reduce" the primer, a light sanding will only remove the peaks but the microscopic valleys from an unsufficiently reduced primer will be rendered in full details by the finishing coat. HVLP does require more reducer than indicated for regular spray equipment (you could start with 30% more).

3. Gloss improved as paint polymerized.

4. I painted outside with just a slight breeze and minimal masking - could count the bugs I got with only one hand. By the way, leave the bugs alone : They will leave a very minimal trace with your removal of anything that sticks out once the paint has fully hardened (preliminary hardening happens very fast, hence the minimal bug count - won't happen with a thick coating from a spray can which will catch everything for hours...)

5. In order to conduct a trial without having to clean out the whole pot, you may use a small plastic container inside the spraygun cup. This way, the actual cup remains clean and you can trow out the the small container with a minimal loss of paint.

6. Of course, when painting outside, you always work your project in the "upwind first downwind last" direction.

The HVLP can be used again for other projects, you will save a lot on paint (quantity wise) and with the minimal fumes and mist, your protection equipment will have a much better chance of protecting your life.

Have fun and be proud !

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#13

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/04/2010 10:03 AM

Nobody is paying attention to the original post. He is doing it himself and wanted to know if he should use a spray can or a paint gun.

Like in my first post, these are the steps to take if you want a good paint job, or some what good paint job with your inexperience. If you want a amateur crappy paint job that wont last six months use the spray can method. Now if your detailing or pin stripping than you might want to use an air brush.

I spent several years as an auto body tech. and have lots of experience with professional paint jobs and in my opinion spray gun is the only way to go.

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#14

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

10/04/2010 6:05 PM

If all you want is a ten foot paint job, spray cans work just fine. You can even clear coat too. Otherwise you will need a clean, relatively dust free area and a decent spray gun.

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#15

Re: DIY Painting and Automotive Body Work

05/10/2014 12:41 AM

So.... I have an old honda accord and just finished a flat smoke black finish with Rustoleum spray paint cans.... it turned out pretty good... but it does run and you can sortve see blotches in the sun... still looks better than it did....

Above: rustoleum sandable car primer spray paint (first step then sanded down with fine grit 800 sandpaper lightly)

followed by 9 cans of the flat black rustoleum spray paint....

I plan on doing some artwork on it and then sealing it with a clear gloss but will probably use spray paint then as well. for now... I am happy with it... and the supplies were simple and cost less than $100 total!

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