The Best Way to Sand Down Car Paint

Written by arthur barnhouse
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The Best Way to Sand Down Car Paint
(Jupiterimages/ Images)

Sanding the paint on your own vehicle can, at first, seem a daunting task. However, if you're equipped with the right tools and tackle the job with patience, you can handle it. The best way to sand a car by yourself is with the use of a DA, or dual action, sander. A variety of DA sanders are available from an assortment of manufacturers. Most are easy to operate and efficiently remove paint while leaving a smooth finish.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Dual action sander
  • Sanding block
  • 80- to 180-grit sandpaper (for stripping to bare metal)
  • 180- to 320-grit sandpaper (for sanding away paint only)
  • 320- to 400-grit sandpaper (for finishing touches)
  • Respirator
  • Well-ventilated area

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  1. 1

    Clean your vehicle. Any dirt or debris on the paint may scratch the metal while you sand, which will result in an uneven finish when you repaint the vehicle. If you wish to be thorough, remove any emblems or trim from the car so you can access all the painted areas.

  2. 2

    Park the car in a well-ventilated area and put on your respirator before sanding.

  3. 3

    Attach the sandpaper of your choice to the DA sander. The sandpaper discs are sticky on back and simply adhere to your sander’s backing pad. If you wish to strip your car of all paint, right down to the bare metal, use a coarse sanding disc between 80 and 180-grit. Be careful, however, not to gouge the metal. Usually, stripping the top layers of paint is all that is required. In this case, a 220-grit sanding disc will suffice.

  4. 4

    Hold the DA sander flat against the metal surface of your car while you sand. Move the sander back and forth in a side-to-side motion. Move the sander smoothly over the surface and check the pads frequently. If they’re covered in dust or paint, switch to a new pad.

  5. 5

    Use your hand to feel the surface of the car. This is the best way to tell if the surface is smooth. If it feels rough, simply continue sanding until the entire surface is evenly smooth.

  6. 6

    Attach sandpaper to a sanding block to sand the paint from any difficult-to-reach areas, such as around the door handles or bumpers.

  7. 7

    Use a fine-grit sanding disc, between 320- and 400-grit, to give the surface a smooth, finished look. Re-sand the entire surface with the fine sanding disc. Remember to sand the hard-to-reach areas with the sanding block and fine-grit paper as well.

  8. 8

    Clean the car thoroughly between sanding sessions and before you attempt to apply primer and paint.

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