Theres more to choosing...
Theres more to choosing the right materials for your paint job than buying a few spray cans and some masking tape.
Here is an example of the...
Here is an example of the current primers available for todays paint systems. Most primers bought at auto parts and hardware stores are not compatible with the high-quality paints used by the pros.
These catalysts, thinners,...
These catalysts, thinners, and reducers are added to paints for different reasons. They can be used to increase adhesion, speed up or slow down drying times, and increase the durability of a finish.
Dont forget about fillers...
Dont forget about fillers and seam sealers if youre going to do your own paint and body work. Their costs can add up quickly.
Current law in most states...
Current law in most states requires professional paint shops to use high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) guns. The HVLP guns introduce less volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the atmosphere. HVLP guns range in price from $270 (center) to $450 and up for fullsize guns. Older siphon-style high-pressure guns usually cost around $60 and can still be used with most of todays paints.
Any good paint job is not...
Any good paint job is not complete until its been color-sanded and polished. The finishing compounds used in the polishing process can cost $50 or more. A variable-speed polisher, such as the DeWalt unit pictured, can cost $200.
This is one area where you...
This is one area where you can save some money by doing yourself. Mask off as much as you can before taking the car to the paint shop. Dont forget areas like door handles and trim.
If you want to sand the body...
If you want to sand the body yourself, be sure to wipe the area down first with a wax remover/degreaser. Otherwise, youll just be sanding the wax into the paints pores.
You can color-sand the paint...
You can color-sand the paint yourself, but remember to keep the sandpaper well lubricated with water and use very fine grits such as 1,000 and 1,500. Follow that with low-speed buffing using the appropriate compounds and a variable-speed polisher.
Heres something you...
Heres something you could never duplicate at home. Most custom paint shops will have the equipment and knowledge necessary to mix up any color paint on the planet. This is only half the selection of PPG paints that Santinis Paint & Body Werkes keeps on hand.
Lets get one thing out of the way first: The days of painting your car in your driveway or garage are not dead, but one foot is in the grave. You can still go to a local automotive paint supply store and pick up everything youll need to do a quality job, but itll cost you at least $500, and thats only if you use the inexpensive materials. Todays custom paint jobs with wild colors and base coat/clear coat systems can run as high as $4,000 in material costs alone. You can also forget about using lacquer, which has traditionally been the paint of choice for the do-it-yourselfer due to its easy workability, fast drying time, and high gloss when finished properly. Lacquer paints have been outlawed in most states and will probably be prohibited nationwide by the close of the millenium. In light of these changes, lets take a look at whats available in automotive paint and what itll take to get a quality, long-lasting paint job.
Proper Prep Is Still Half The Job
It used to be that you could straighten a few panels, fill in some dings with Bondo, sand and prime the car yourself, and then take it to your local paint shop to have a pro spray on a few coats of paint. Today, painting is a more involved process, requiring the painter to prep and apply the paint in steps, using materials which, if not combined properly, could lead to disastrous results. Basically, the best way to save a few bucks on your next paint job is to help your painter by first removing as much of the trim and exterior parts as you can. After youve arrived at the paint shop, offer to mask off the parts that cant be removed, like turn signals and window glass. These labor-intensive steps will be welcomed by most paint shops. The professional painters we spoke with dont recommend trying to sand or prime any parts yourself. Spray can primers are not compatible with the paints that the pros use and must be removed before painting. Also, most inexperienced sanders will sand too heavily, creating waves in the surface that the painter will have to build back up with primer.
Choosing The Right Materials
We visited Auto Color Specialists in Westminster, California, where Craig Koback gave us the lowdown on the materials and costs involved when purchasing your own paint supplies. One interesting point Craig mentioned is that any other color you choose will be cheaper than red. Todays most affordable paint materials are single-stage colors that dont require application of a clear coat. You just spray on a few coats of single-stage color, then color-sand, buff, and youre done. This is the most affordable paint job you can do at home, and likely what youd get from an inexpensive same-day paint shop.
Following the single-stage paints up the price ladder are two-stage base coat/clear coat materials. These are most commonly used by the OEMs on new vehicles today. In base coat/clear coat, the base coat also serves as the color coat with a flat finish, while the clear is used to protect the color and give it gloss. On the top of the paint ladder is the three-stage or tri-coat system, which uses a basecoat, midcoat, and clear topcoat. The base remains a flat-color coat with the second stage a tinted transparent designed to add depth or alter the appearance of the finished job. Additives such as pearl are sprayed on in the midcoat. The clear is applied again to form a gloss and finish coat.
A good example of a tri-coat system would be any pearl white paint job. The white is the basecoat, the clear with pearl additives is applied next, then a final clear is sprayed on to seal and protect the surface and give it a gloss. Candy colors are usually applied as a tri-coat system as well. The candy additives are sprayed in the midcoat after being mixed with a color transparency that matches the base coat. The most dramatic application of this multi-coat technology is new paints that change hues with your viewing angle. These are generically referred to as Kameleon Kolors, which is the House of Kolor trade name for its product. These Kameleon Kolors are applied as a semi-transparent midcoat after a dark basecoat has been sprayed and before a clear topcoat. Kameleon Kolors are some of the most expensive paints, costing roughly $450 a quart, and requiring approximately three quarts to cover one car.
If youre lucky enough to have a car with only the factory paint job, youd be wise to merely sand and prep the body for application of a new finish. Most factory paints provide a great surface for new paint adhesion. The primer will adhere to the factory paint better than it will to bare metal. Some exceptions to this would be older cars that were factory-painted with lacquer, like some early Corvettes.
Lacquer paint never actually dries, and its solvents continuously evaporate. Thats why lacquer needs to be color-sanded and buffed every couple of years to maintain its shine. You should not apply any of todays synthetic paints over a lacquer finish. If you have a lacquer paint job thats in need of new finish, its best to completely strip the old lacquer paint. Another reason to strip is if you have a car that has had several coats of non-factory paint applied. A mil-thickness gauge from a company like Zorelco (800/321-4243) can be helpful in measuring how much paint is on the body. Most factory paint jobs will be around six mils thick. One mil is roughly equal to 0.001 inch. If your paint measures more than 12 mils, you should consider stripping or sanding it down to bare metal before painting.
So theres the first additional expense: paint stripper and sandpaper. Strippers can get expensive, and most are hazardous to humans and the environment and require that certain precautions be taken when using them. You need to apply them in a well ventilated areaoutdoors is bestand keep the residue from washing down the drain when youre done. Other musts include wearing gloves, a respirator, protective clothing, and eye protection.
Sanding is something everyone thinks they can do themself, but thats not always the case. If youre going to sand the body yourself, be sure to use a quality grease/wax remover on the surface first. Otherwise, youll be sanding any wax or grease remaining on the surface right into the paints pores, and that wont come out even if you use chemical removers. Also, thoroughly wash the car before you begin to sand. Most enthusiasts believe that sanding removes everything, but, if you dont wash the car first, you can sand minute dirt particles right into the paint. Scratching or pitting will occur, but you wont even see it until you apply the new paint.
Another thing worth mentioning is that professional painters hate silicon tire and trim dressings because masking tape wont stick to anything treated with it, and the silicon produces ugly fisheye blemishes in the paint. Clean your interior door panels and tires with an oil-free non-abrasive solvent before painting, then reapply all the dressing you like after the paint is applied.
Hard Equipment Needed
Its now illegal in some states, including California, for high-volume paint shops to apply automotive paints using the older, high-pressure siphon-style spray guns. The law now requires high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) guns. These guns use gravity to feed the paint into the nozzle, and theyre low pressure, which places more paint on the surface and less in the air.
Most of todays paints require some sort of catalyst or reducer to be added that allows them to be sprayed and stick to the surface. The government regulates the application of these catalysts due to the high amount of VOCs present in them. Its these VOCs that pose immediate health risks. The HVLP guns introduce much lower amounts into the atmosphere, making the air we breathe a little safer.
Unfortunately, HVLP guns are not cheap. The small guns designed for interior and trim work start at around $270, and the fullsize guns start about $450. These guns will require a clean, dry air source from a high-quality compressor. Tack on the cost of an air filter/water separator, hose, paint strainer, and mixing cups, and you could spend over $1,000 if you dont already have a compressor. You can apply todays paints using the old-fashion siphon guns and get satisfactory results, but be sure to safeguard yourself and anybody else who may be nearby.
A quality paint job is not complete until its been color-sanded and buffed several times. Color-sanding is relatively inexpensive, but certainly time consuming and tedious. Sand too much and youll need to repaint. The final buffing should be done using the proper chemicals and equipment designed to do the job. A high-speed grinder equipped with a buffing pad should not be used to buff the paint. Instead, a variable-speed heavy-duty polisher combined with different style pads for different stages of buffing should be used. Use a very slow speed to keep the polish on the pad and not burn through the paint. The polishing compounds and buffing pads needed will cost you $50 to $100. A variable-speed polisher will run about $200. Its usually cheaper to pay a professional to color-sand your vehicle if you dont already have the equipment.
A final coat of protective wax can be applied after the paint has been color-sanded, buffed, and cured for several days. Follow the recommendations given on the materials you buy regarding time intervals between coats and finish work. You may want to use what youve learned here to communicate better with the paint shop and get the best job for your money from a pro instead.