I cannot believe my last post was October. It really doesn’t feel like it has been that long. I guess the holiday season can be crazy for everybody.
I have not done any real auto-body work in about 25 years but with my restoration plans for the summer including paint I knew I had better get in some practice. A recent event presented an opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately my son had a small fender bender that left the front end of his car a little banged up. He is okay but the hood was destroyed. After assessing the damage we realized we could fix it all ourselves and save a bunch of money. The car still drove fine it just needed some cosmetic work.
I am constantly surprised at the aftermarket support for vehicles. Not only was I able to find a new replacement hood, it was less than half the price of a junk yard equivalent. In hindsight buying a hood from a local junk yard would have been a lot less trouble. When the hood finally arrived it looked like it had been rolled down a flight of stairs. Every corner was dented or bent. The online warehouse front of a website refunded my money and left me with a free damaged hood. Seeing an opportunity to save even more money and get some metal work practice I was determined to use this hood.
The basics of repairing damaged metal and paint has not changed all that much but I wanted to make sure I was using the best materials and processes. I already had a cheap spray gun but no materials. I found a local paint shop and walked in with empty hands, a mind full of questions and an open wallet. After explaining the task ahead of me and a short Q and A session with a very patient salesman I walked out with everything I needed for under $130.
TIP #1: Paint code is not enough, I had the exact code used on the car but there were actually 5 different shades for that one paint code. Take a sample if you are trying to match an existing color.
I guessed on the paint code, this is just practice on a car my teenage son will probably destroy in the end. Perspective.
It did not take long to get back in the rhythm of the hammer and dolly. I enjoy seeing the metal slowly bend to my will and move into place. Bondo, or body filler, is much harder to work with. I need more practice getting each layer just right and sanding it is just a mess.
TIP #2: Do not overwork body filler. One or two thin swipes and then just walk away.
I had done enough research on paints and primers to know when to use each type. After the metal work and body filling was done I covered the bare metal with a self-etching primer. There are other choices for DTM (direct to metal) coverage but I plan on testing those at another time. Next was a 2k high build primer and more sanding. This primer is really easy to spray. It can give you a false sense of security. When sanding, a specialty guide coat helps you find all the low and high spots. I found a few. Bondo is designed to be used on bare metal or itself but I already have several layers of primer built up. This is where glazing putty comes in. I had never used it before and it is much easier to use than regular body filler. It is a must for that perfect finish. After the glazing putty was sanded I applied more 2k primer and sanded some more.
TIP #3: You can save money on the paint, the gun and the body parts but do not go cheap on the sand paper. Get the best you can afford, you will not regret it.
Once I was done obsessing over the primer it was finally time to spray some color. I was more than a little intimidated. I have never made it this close to spraying color on a car body part. Last time I did all the body work and priming and paid Maaco to do the rest. I didn’t pay them much and I got what I paid for.
TIP #4: Read the instructions on all your paint and clear coat before starting the job. Due to flash times you are on a ticking clock that you cannot stop.
The color coat requires a reducer so you can spray it correctly. I didn’t buy any reducer and I could not find any local stores that were still open to buy any. How am I going to reduce this paint? What does reducer really mean and how does it work? I have a lacquer thinner, will that work?
TIP #5: Reducer is a fancy word for thinner. Lacquer thinner still does what the name implies. It thins lacquer. I don’t know the science behind a dedicated reducer and I will make sure to have some in the future but I have a feeling that the results will be the same.
I sprayed 3 coats of color, using all I bought, and let it dry. Even paying really close attention to gun control and pattern overlap the paint still looked uneven. It was a little depressing but there was no looking back. The job was getting done that day no matter how bad it looked.
If spraying color was scary, spraying clear was terrifying. This is it the final layer. All the hours of work for 30 seconds of spray time.
DEEP THOUGHT #1: Do you need to stir clear coat? How can you tell? It’s colorless!
I sprayed on 2 coats of clear coat. I was not planning on wet sanding so I didn’t think I would need more than that. I was not disappointed, the color, even though it was just a shade of white, came to life. All the unevenness I witnessed before was gone. I could not be happier with the results except for that bug that just landed in the fresh paint. And that bug. And that bug! This stuff is a bug magnet.
TIP #6: Spray the clear coat in a controlled environment. The primers and color dry almost immediately so the bugs and dirt do not have time to get stuck but the clear is tacky for at least an hour.
Still, the results exceeded my expectations. I am really proud of the job even with the well preserved bugs. I actually had fun.
Why did I enjoy this so much?
- Each step is clearly defined
- Each step is equally important to achieve excellent results
- There are cool tools involved
- You have to touch and feel the metal a lot
- It is really messy (or is it because I like the smell of Lacquer Thinner)
- Results! You took something ugly and made it pretty.
- Chicks dig guys that can paint cars. Not sure this is true but it should be, car painters are artists!
So the big question. I spent 20 hours painting a hood. One hood. Can I paint a car?
And I’m really looking forward to it. Do you have anything that needs to be painted?