How to paint cars with clear lacquer

Written by contributing writer
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When a car's paint becomes old and faded, there are several remedies which the vehicle's owner can implement. A complete paint job from a professional bodyworks garage is the most costly in nearly every instance. Renting a paint booth and putting a complete paint job on your vehicle yourself is another option. This often requires more expense and preparation time than the owner has available—a good alternative might be a simple clear lacquer coat over your existing paint.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Paint booth
  • Sandpaper
  • Water and detergent
  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Razor blades
  • Oil and grease remover
  • Clean rags
  • Tacky rags
  • Protective mask
  • Paint suit
  • Air compressor
  • Spray gun
  • Clear coat
  • Reducer, slow drying

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  1. 1

    Find a paint booth. Many bodyworks garages and even some automobile dealers will rent out their paint booth. Speak with the shops in your area and find one that will rent one that you can afford. Pull your car into the paint booth.

  2. 2

    Ready the vehicle. Sand the entire surface of the vehicle with 320 grit sandpaper to create a surface for the clear to bond to. Wash your vehicle with a grease-fighting detergent to remove any grease, oil and finger prints from the surface. Once dried, tape paper over the glass, tires and any other part of the vehicle that you do not want the clear lacquer to spray onto. Trim tight corners with a razor blade. Take your time and make sure it is taped up correctly. Go over the vehicle with a tacky cloth—a sticky cloth material which removes all traces of dust and contaminates from your vehicle's exterior.

  3. 3

    Clear coat the vehicle. Get into your protective suit and mask. Mix the clear lacquer to the manufacturer's specifications and apply to the vehicle at the recommended air pressure of your spray gun. Cover the entire vehicle with 20 to 30 light even coats allowing the clear to flash or tack for two minutes or so until it is completely covered and allow to dry.

  4. 4

    Go over the entire now-dried vehicle with 500 grit sandpaper and once again wipe vehicle with a tack cloth. You are now ready for the final coats. Lay this coat on evenly and allow to dry. Increase the amount of thinner with each coat so that it will flash off sooner. The last two or three coats should be mixed with a slower-drying reducer to allow the clear to flow out more evenly. You are now ready to buff and polish your shiny new paint.

Tips and warnings

  • For the highest show quality, paint six to eight coats and allow to dry overnight and repeat until you have applied twenty five to thirty coats wet sanding between each batch.
  • Do not allow lacquer to sit over night in your spray gun. It can be very difficult to clean.

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