Car Repainting: The Ins & Outs

By Angela Monroe - September 22, 2020

Car Repainting The Ins & Outs

Respraying cars is an art in its own right. It’s one of the most labour intensive repairs/upgrades you can do to a vehicle. We investigate the process of car paint:

Auto Paint Key Takeaways:

  • There are over 60,000 auto paint colours
  • Paint styles consist of metallic, matte, candy, glitter, chameleon and more
  • Auto paint is not brushed on, it’s sprayed on via an air compressor
  • Cars have paint codes that detail the exact colour of the paint
  • Colour preferences involve a long through process

Did you know that professional car painters take a number of precautions to make sure the result looks its best? These include: – Keeping car surfaces grease and dust-free

  • Keeping car surfaces grease and dust-free
  • Spraying cars inside sealed paint booths
  • Controlling the humidity, temperature and airflow in the spray booth
  • Wetting the floor to minimise airborne dust
  • Baking paint onto car bodies
  • Even controlling the distance between the spray gun and car surface!

Any mistakes in the preparation and application work can ruin the whole job.

When / Why Should You Respray a Car?

Damaged paint

Generally, cars are resprayed for three reasons:

Crash/damage repairs:

This is the most common reason. It usually only involves a few panels of the vehicle being repainted rather than the whole car. A bumper bar may have been damaged in an accident. When a new one is fitted, it needs painting to match.

You may have seen faded paint on older cars. This is commonly UV oxidation and appears as a white, chalky discolouration. It can be repaired by repainting.


Restoring classic cars is popular in Australia. To bring these cars back to showroom condition, they’ll likely need a full body respray in their original colours.


Show cars and other highly modified cars often upgrade from the factory colours to make them stand out-think the ‘fast & furious’ movies. This kind of respraying can involve graphics, pearlescent, glitter, matte, candy and even chameleon style paint. Yep, it changes colours depending on the angle you see it from!

This kind of car repainting is the most expensive.

Wow Factor: Ferrari offers a matte paint option that costs over $67,000!

What Colour is Your Car?

different coloured pencils

Your car may look white or silver but automakers don’t think so. To add sales appeal to new cars, automakers give exciting names to colours, for example:

Red might be called ‘Jupiter Red’
Black – ‘Cosmos Black’
White – ‘Antique White’
Silver – ‘Ice Silver Metallic’

Find the actual colour of your car via the paint code – this is found next to the compliance plate, often in the engine bay or door jams and also in your owner’s manual.

Paint codes are often an alphanumeric combination. For example, paint code: ‘G1U’ is Subaru ‘Ice Silver Metallic’ found on some BRZ models.

Wow Factor: Porsche has over 100 ‘blues’.

Process of Respraying a Car:

Porsche in spray booth

Respraying a car is a long and costly procedure that can offer amazing results that really make a vehicle ‘pop’. Here’s the general process:

Paint selection. This may be a match of the manufacturer’s paint or a totally new paint scheme. The style also makes a difference. Metallic or pearlescent for example. Metallic paint gives an extra shiny appearance. Pearlescent paint reflects and refracts light, giving the appearance of more than one colour – a pearl-like effect.

Wash time. The car is washed to remove any dirt or road grime. When the car is clean, the painters will position the car in a clean location where dust and debris won’t fall on it.

Preparation. The windows, engine bay, wheels and other parts of the car that won’t be painted are removed or taped over and covered to prevent any damage or paint overspray. This is a time-consuming process and mistakes are evident when finished.

The old paint. Painters remove the old paint. New paint won’t stick to the clearcoat. They use electric sanders and do some areas by hand. Again, the process is time-consuming and must be done with care.

Any dents or scratches are also repaired and smoothed over. Depending on the damage and severity, it can again be a time consuming (and costly) process.

Into the booth. The prepared areas are cleaned again to make sure there’s no grease or debris and the vehicle is moved into a painting booth. In the booth, airflow, humidity and temperature and be optimised in addition to the area being clean and dust-free.

The primer is sprayed onto the car. This is an undercoat that makes the actual paint stick properly. Usually, 2 or 3 coats are sprayed on. Primer also makes a smoother result and increases durability. It’s usually a matte gray colour.

Prepare the primer. Using a fine-grit wet sanding process, the primer is again smoothened out to make the surface as flawless as possible. Again, a time consuming and slow process.

Paint the car. The actual paint is now sprayed on. This is what it’s all come down to. Usually, 3 or 4 coats are applied. Sometimes, additional fine-grit sanding is carried out if there are blemishes. The paint is ‘baked’ on to ensure consistency.

Clearcoat. It’s now time for the protective clear. This process is similar to the paint in the previous step. The clear coat is the actual surface of the car. It adds shine and protection from the elements. The clear coat is buffed and polished to remove any imperfections.

When dry and all the blemishes repaired, it’s time to remove the tape and put the car back together. And, most importantly, enjoy the stunning new paint job.  

Wow Factor: A simple ‘rattle can’ respray can be done over a weekend – an ultra-professional job can take several weeks.

To Sum Up

Green Benz

A spectacular paint job is something people often notice first when looking at a car. It can really make the vehicle look awesome and grab attention – on the other hand, damaged and faded paint can grab attention too, for the wrong reasons.

Keep your paint in top condition to avoid the long, expensive process listed above by spring cleaning your car regularly. 

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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