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How to Paint Plastic Body Panels

Updated April 17, 2017

Cars with plastic body panels are easier to repair, since they don't get the dings and dents that regular sheet metal body parts do. Plastic panels have no body filler to work with or metal to sand and smooth. When it comes to painting plastic body panels, there are a few things different from painting sheet metal body panels. Learn how to paint plastic body panels the right way and get the best paint finish possible on your car.

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  1. Sand the plastic panel by hand using 300 grit sandpaper. Sand until the area is smooth and dull. Wipe the panel down with wax and grease remover to remove any sanding dust and grease from your fingers.

  2. Place masking tape and paper around the edges of the area you are painting. Wipe the area down once again with wax and grease remover to get rid of grease from your fingerprints, which can cause bubbling under the paint once it has dried.

  3. Spray a thin coat of adhesion promoter over the plastic body panel and let it dry for 30 minutes. This gets into the surface of the plastic and allows the primer and paint to adhere to the plastic surface. Without adhesion promoter, the primer and paint will eventually peel and flake off.

  4. Apply a thick coat of primer on the area and allow it to dry for 30 minutes. Sand it lightly with 400 grit sandpaper until it is smooth. Wipe the panel again with wax and grease remover.

  5. Paint the area with two thin coats of paint, waiting 30 minutes between each coat. Go over the dried paint with two or three thin coats of clear coat paint, waiting 15 minutes between each coat. Remove the masking tape and paper. Allow the panel to dry for 24 hours before handling.

  6. Warning

    Never paint in an enclosed area. Always sand and spray paint in an open, well-ventilated area.

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Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • 300 grit sandpaper
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • Adhesion promoter
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Clear coat paint
  • Wax and grease remover
  • Microfiber towels

About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including lovetoknow.com, autotropolis.com, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.

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