How To Remove Old Paint from a Car

Old car door

Get your car ready for the paint-removing or media-blasting process, by taking out as many car parts as possible. It is recommended to remove the fenders, doors, core support, heater box, and even the frame, to ensure that the existing finish will completely be stripped clean, and that no parts will be accidentally damaged.

Here are some option methods to remove old paint:

Blasting. Proper training is needed to handle media blasting. Improper handling may warp your car body. To be safe, have the job done by a recommended media blasting or body shop. Materials that can be used in blasting include:

  • Sand that is best for thicker and rusted car bodies, the car frame, brackets, and thicker, older, and rigid sheet metal components. Extreme caution is needed when using sand since the sand particles can stretch, peen, or warp sheet metal. Make sure to vacuum or blowout all the sand that may remain after blasting to avoid damage to other car parts.
  • Walnut shell, the most common material used in blasting, since it is soft and quite easy to clean up. The outcome is not abrasive but, the walnut shell method will not take out even small rust. You will have to use a small rotary disc on the rust or use another method to remove the paint in the rusted area.
  • Plastic that is not abrasive and taken from material used in making most plastic buttons. This blasting method does not remove metal rust.
  • StarBlast, a staurolite abrasive material frequently used to remove paint and portions of rust. The grains have rounded surfaces, are clean and uniform in size and do not damage car metal. StarBlast does not cut the paint off but knocks the paint off.

Chemical Removal. Chemical-dipping or hot tank stripping effectively removes rust and paint. An entire car body is dipped for hours in a hot tank, to allow the caustic solution to flow into all areas where usual media-blasters can not reach. Chemical stripping gives the car body a fresh and clean look ready for a body shop.

Concerns in using this method include:

  • Metal in hidden areas in the car body or hood become bare after the rust and paint is removed, and may no longer be treated.
  • The chemicals must be removed or treated with metal conditioner to avoid it from weeping into the new primer or paint.
  • The caustic solution can ruin aluminum items in your car when chemically dipped.

Hand-Stripping. Hand-stripping is effective in removing body fillers and paints but will not completely clean car parts compared to media blasting. The hand stripping solution left on the metal surfaces and crevices have to completely be removed to avoid the remaining solution from coming to the surface and ruining new paintwork.

Power Sanding. Power sanding is labor intensive but can remove rust and majority of old paint. The sander will removed paint only where the sander will reach, but sanding costs less, can be done anywhere, and costs will only be for the sandpaper, power sander and power used for your compressor.

Decide on which media-blasting method or paint-stripping job to use based on how you want your car to look. Use a combination of processes if needed.


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