In order to paint your car yourself and achieve exceptional results, it is essential to invest in a professional-style paint sprayer and to follow professional painting procedures. Because your car’s roof is less noticeable, you may decide that it is acceptable to settle for “pretty good” results instead of “excellent.” In this case, using rattle can automotive spray paints is a more convenient and cost-effective alternative to painting by hand. However, don’t skimp on the preparation!
Part 1 Prepping the Roof for Painting
1. When purchasing paint, make sure to match the existing colour by using the car’s colour code. If, for example, your car is currently blue-grey and you want the repainted roof to be the same colour as the rest of the car, find out what colour code your vehicle has. It’s usually listed on the “compliance plate” under the hood, which also includes information such as the vehicle identification number (VIN). Make a note of this code and bring it with you to an auto paint retailer so that you can get a colour match.
It is also possible to find the colour code on the driver’s side door frame, in the same location where the tyre pressure recommendations are displayed.
If you want to paint your roof a different colour than the one it is now (black is a popular choice, for example), you can choose any colour you want!
Several online retailers offer color-matched auto paint, which you can purchase as well. To order the paint, you’ll need to know the make, model, year, and paint code of your vehicle.
Along with rattle cans of color-matched automotive paint (spray cans that rattle when you shake them), you’ll need rattle cans of automotive primer and automotive clear coat finish (also known as rattle cans of automotive paint).
2. Any car painting job should be completed with the use of a respirator and personal protective equipment. The fact is that automotive paint contains chemicals that should not be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, no matter how you apply it (using a compressed air sprayer or a rattle can of spray paint). Don’t forget to put on a respirator mask (not just a dust mask) and to dress in long sleeves and pants as well as gloves for your own safety.
In order to provide even greater protection than your long sleeves and pants can provide, consider donning a disposable full-body protective suit that includes a hood.
3. Maintain your workspace in a well-ventilated garage or under cover in the outdoors. When working with automotive paints, good ventilation is essential in addition to wearing a respirator and other protective equipment. When it comes to a residential setting, a well-ventilated garage is usually the best option. Spray paint should not be used in your garage if it contains a water heater, furnace, or any other source of ignition that could cause an explosion.
If possible, keep the main garage door and another exterior door or window open as much as possible. Install fans that will both draw in and exhaust air to provide additional ventilation. You’ll also need to put up a lot of plastic sheeting to protect your belongings from paint overspray, which can be hazardous.
In order to protect your work from the elements, such as sunlight, raindrops, leaves, twigs, and other debris, it is best to set up a canopy tent over your car.
4. After washing and rinsing your car’s roof, allow it to dry naturally. To clean off all visible dirt, dust, and debris, use a regular automotive soap, water, and a sponge or rag to clean them off. When you’re finished, thoroughly rinse the area with clean water to remove any residue. Wait for the roof to dry naturally before proceeding; do not use a towel to dry the roof because this may leave lint behind.
Don’t use any wax because you need to get rid of as much of it as possible before painting!
5. Using sandpaper or a grinder, remove any rust spots that may have formed. For smaller rust spots, a sanding block with 180-grit sandpaper can be used to remove the rust. Metal grinders should be used for severe rusting to remove as much metal as possible from the surface. Use a putty knife to fill any small holes that may have formed with a non-rusting auto body filler before proceeding.
Make small circular motions with a sanding block or a metal grinder to remove the rust, regardless of which tool you’re using.
6. Sand the entire roof with a 400-grit sanding block to ensure that it will accept primer more readily. With your hand, apply firm but even pressure to the sand, sanding in small circles. To wet down the area you’re sanding, use a spray bottle; alternatively, poke a hole in the cap of a plastic bottle so that you can squeeze water from it. If you want to speed up the process even more, use a 320-grit sanding block instead of the 320-grit one.
While sanding down to bare metal will yield the best paint job, it is not absolutely necessary when painting your roof with a rattle can. Simply sand away all of the existing clear coat finish with a fine-mesh sander. When you’re finished, the entire roof should have a dull finish to it.
If you do sand down to bare metal anywhere, feather the paint around the area where you sanded. Pressure should be applied more forcefully at the bare metal and less pressure as you move away from it in order to smooth out differences in paint depth.
7. Clean the roof thoroughly with wet rags, tack cloths, and a degreaser before applying a roof sealant. As soon as you’re finished sanding, use a few damp rags to wipe down the roof. Remove any remaining dust from the sanding process by wiping the roof with a tack cloth after it has dried. Finally, clean the entire roof with clean rags and a commercial degreaser, following the manufacturer’s directions on how to apply the product.
Mineral spirits, paint thinner, or denatured alcohol can all be used in place of the degreaser if you want to save money. Only use one product at a time, and never mix them together, as this could result in dangerous fumes.
8. Protect the areas you don’t want to paint with tape, paper, or plastic to keep them from becoming a painting hazard. Painting tape should be carefully applied along all of the roof’s edges, pressing it down firmly into any seams that may exist between the roof and the doors, front windshield, and rear windshield. Apply plastic sheeting or contractor’s paper to the doors, windshields, front hood, and trunk of the vehicle with additional tape. The more you can conceal, the better it is!
If your vehicle has a sunroof, take your time and make certain that it is completely closed. If you don’t press the tape down into the seams around the edges, you might end up painting it shut!
Part 2 Applying Primer, Paint, and Clear Coat
1. Apply three light, even coats of automotive primer to the surface. Shake the can vigorously for at least 1 minute, and up to 4 minutes if possible—make sure the contents rattle! Hold the can about 12 inches (30 centimetres) from the roof surface and spray in steady, even blasts, moving the can from side to side as you do so. Begin at the side of the roof that is furthest away from you and work your way around to the other side in parallel lines until you reach the other side. Then, after waiting 20 minutes, apply the second coat, and then wait another 20 minutes before applying the third coat.
When comparing the results of applying multiple light coats to a single heavy coat, the former is significantly superior. Please be patient!
Use this time to practise your spraying technique so that it is flawless when you apply the colour coats and clear finishing coats later on.
2. Lightly sand the primer with a 600-grit sanding block, then wipe away the dust. Once the final primer coat has dried completely, use a 600-grit sanding block to gently sand the surface. Instead of sanding in small circles this time, use long, even strokes that always go in the same direction as the water. Remove the dust from the roof with a clean, damp rag, allow it to dry completely, and then wipe it down with a tack cloth.
Sand only lightly on this area! The goal is to even out the primer and lightly etch it in order to improve the adhesion of the finish coats.
3. Spray a light coat of rattle can auto paint in the colour of your choice onto the surface. Make long, steady, even, parallel strokes from the far side of the roof to the near side of the roof, using the same technique as you did with the primer. Although you should use a light hand with this first coat, you should still be able to see through it to the colour of the primer coats beneath the surface. Allow for a 20-minute dry time before proceeding with the project.
After the first coat of paint has dried, wipe the surface down with a tack cloth. In fact, you should use the tack cloth after every coat you apply from now on.
4. Add a second and third coats of paint to achieve a rich, even colour throughout the surface. The second coat should be applied using the same technique as the first, but it should be a bit thicker—by the time you’re finished, the primer colour should be barely visible. Allow the coat to dry completely before wiping it down with a tack cloth. Make the third and final coat a bit heavier where the primer is barely visible and lighter where the coverage is already good. When applying the final coat, pay attention to evening out the coverage.
After the third coat, you should use the tack cloth once more. If you’re still not satisfied with the evenness of the coverage after three coats, go ahead and apply a fourth.
5. Apply three coats of rattle can automotive clear coat to the surface. Use the same techniques that you used with the coloured auto paint to create this effect. Begin by spraying on a thin first layer of clear coat, making long, even, parallel passes to ensure even coverage. Allow for approximately 20 minutes of drying time before wiping down the roof with a tack cloth. Apply a second, heavier layer, wait a few minutes, and then wipe away the excess. A third layer is applied to even out the glossy finish.
It is acceptable to apply a fourth or even fifth layer of clear coat if you haven’t quite achieved the even, glossy finish you are looking for.
6. Remove the painter’s tape from the surface after at least 12 hours. Allow enough time for the clear coat to cure before carefully removing the painter’s tape and any plastic sheeting or contractor’s paper that may have been used. After 12 hours, and ideally up to 7 days, allow the clear coat to cure completely before exposing the car to any weather conditions.
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