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Can You Paint Over Existing Auto Paint? (Read Before Doing)

Man painting over existing auto paint

The short answer to “Can you paint over existing auto paint?” is yes, you certainly can. There is quite a bit of preparation work in advance of the actual painting and you must use modern paints to have a good outcome though.

Why Paint Over Existing Auto Paint?

There are four main reasons for painting over your existing auto paint: worn paint, you dislike the color, to protect it, and to increase the resale value.

If the paint on your ride is worn and faded because it’s several years old, you may want to repaint it just to make it look better.

Factory paints generally look good for about 10 years, but other things can mess up the appearance of your paint job.

If you live in an area where it’s cold and they salt the roads in the wintertime, the paint on the bottom half of your car will tend to fade much quicker. The same is true if you live by the ocean, because salt has a negative effect on any type of paint.

If you buy a car because it’s a good deal and you’ve always wanted it, like a dream car– think 1957 Chevy or an antique car, you may just not like the color of it.

In this case, you can choose the color that you really love and paint over the existing paint for the car you’ve always dreamed of and maybe in a newer color that wasn’t available when the car was manufactured.

A good quality repainting job on a vehicle makes it look better, but it also adds extra layers of protection for the body itself.

UV-protected paint will keep it from fading as fast in the sunlight and additional paint layers also protect your vehicle from flying rocks and other items that can dent or scratch your car.

If you are going to resell a vehicle, adding a fresh paint job will increase the resale value drastically.

These days, many people list vehicles for sale online and your brilliant new paint job will definitely get noticed over the same vehicle with old and faded paint on it.

Do You Have To Remove The Old Auto Paint First?

No, you don’t have to remove all of the old paint first unless there is damage down to the metal bodywork that will not be covered as it should.

In most cases, you only need to sand down areas that are gouges and scratches and fix any dents or dings first instead of removing all of the old paint.

Now, if you decide you are changing the color entirely, it is the best idea to remove all the old paint. Painting a new color over a much different old color will affect the final color of your car.

Otherwise you will need multiple coats of paint that are expensive and time-consuming to totally cover the old paint color so you only see the new color.

Can You Paint Over A Car Without Sanding It?

Man sanding automobile

The process of sanding your car before you paint it scuffs up the surface so that the new paint will stick to it and dry right as well.

If you decide to skip the step of sanding before repainting, your paint may not adhere well and it can cause more drips and pooling that will then need to be sanded again and repainted again.

It’s definitely best to sand the original paint first before repainting it as it doesn’t take that long and it will help you to produce a professional-grade appearance.

How Many Coats Of Paint Do You Need On A New Car?

You should ideally apply two coats of primer first, letting it dry completely between each coat. Next, you need to apply three to four coats of your base paint for the color you choose.

Your last steps in your is to use three to four coats of clear coat on top for the maximum protection for your new project vehicle.

This may seem like a lot of coats of paint, but it will give you a professional appearance, and skipping coats of primer, base paint, and clear coats will save you some time and money, but at the expense of a substandard looking paint job.

Preparing The Vehicle For The Repaint Job

Your first part of preparing to paint a vehicle is to remove any imperfections in the body.

You should first pull any dents out with a dent puller and then sand the entire surface of the car with an orbital sander using a 500 to 1,200 grit sanding pad.

Use consistent pressure so the same amount of old paint is removed and scuffed up on the entire car.

At this point, if you are changing the base color, you should sand the car down to the metal to remove all the clear coat, base color coats, and primer.

Wipe off any sanding dust with a wet shop cloth that is lint-free. Then use a microfiber cleaning cloth to dry the entire surface thoroughly.

Cover any areas that you aren’t going to paint with newspaper or painter’s paper and tape.

This will be the windshields, wheels, and tires, plus the bumpers and the side view mirrors if they are metallic, as well as the door handles if they are metallic.

You can remove the antenna instead of covering it.

How To Paint An Old Car Over Existing Paint

Dilute your automotive primer according to the directions on the can. Stir it thoroughly with a paint stir stick and apply it with a paint sprayer in long sweeping motions to cover the entire surface.

Allow the primer to dry for the amount of time on the package, which can be between 30 minutes and an hour.

Then lightly sand it and remove any sanding dust with a wet tack cloth and a microfiber cloth to dry it.

Apply two more coats of primer in the same way while allowing it to dry completely and sanding between coats.

Next, you apply your three to four base color coats of paint in the same way as the primer, and finally your three to four top clear coats of paint.

Be sure and let each coat dry thoroughly before sanding them between all coats and don’t sand the very last clear coat you apply.

Is Repainting A Car As Good As Factory Paint?

If you are an experienced painter with a paint sprayer and you follow all the steps necessary, you can certainly produce a factory-appearance-looking paint job.

It’s best to buy quality products and don’t skip any steps in the process.

You can buy quality paints, primers, and clear coats from an automotive dealership as they will use the same items as OEM as the factory when they do bodywork and repaint vehicles.

How To Find The Paint Color Codes On A Car?

different colored paint brushes

If you want to repaint your vehicle the same exact color as it was originally painted, you will need to find the color codes and then order your paint with these codes for an exact match.

You should be aware that if your vehicle is over 10 years old or so, the color codes will help you to return it to the original “new” looking colors, which can be quite a bit brighter and contain more depth than the current color.

Find the service parts identification sticker on your vehicle. It will usually be either in the glove box or on the driver’s side door sticker.

Write down the letters and numbers on the bottom line of the sticker for your original paint codes. The first is BC, which is your base coat color. If there is a TC followed by a number, it’s your top coat.

Some vehicles have both a base coat color and a top coat color that achieve the final color of the vehicle.

The CC on the sticker tells you that it has a clear coat for protection on the vehicle. If there is a U followed by a number, this is the upper body color and an L followed by a number is the lower body color.

Some cars have a different color on the bottom and top or on the roof and hood. An example is the original colors of the 1970’s Ford and Chevy trucks that are two-toned.

If your vehicle is quite a bit older or there is no service parts identification sticker on it, you can enter your VIN number to find the color codes from your vehicle’s dealership.

Your VIN number is on a metal plate mounted on the driver’s side of the dashboard where it meets the front windshield.

Note that the VIN number doesn’t specifically state the color codes but your local car dealership can find them for you and sell you the quality products you need for a professional-looking paint job.

Final Thoughts

The above tips and strategy can help you to achieve a professional-looking paint job on any vehicle, whether you are repainting it to the original colors or choosing a new vibrant color that you love.

It will also help protect your vehicle from developing rust in any spots where the paint is already scratched or removed, so that it will look new much longer.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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