How to Refinish Car Paint

There are a number of reasons why a car's paint job might need refinishing. The paint can be peeling, or the car could be rusted or have some other type of body damage. If you want to refinish the paint so it looks like new, you can't just apply a new coat over the old one. This is a complex process involving sanding over the surface and making sure it is completely smooth, and shouldn't be taken on by someone inexperienced in car painting.


Tools You'll Need


Disposable gloves
Microfiber cloth
Scrubby sponge
Putty knife
Drop Cloths


Paper and painter’s plastic
Painter’s tape
Fine Paint Brush
Paint Bucket


Plastic Painter's Tarp
Spray on Oil-based Paint
Angled Brush
Extension Pole
Sanding sponge
Small paintbrush
Tack Cloth

Clean Up

Broom or dusting cloths
Screwdriver and/or electric drill
Mineral spirits

Tutorial Steps

This 8-step tutorial outlines all the steps that need to properly repaint your car.


Clean the entire surface with soap and water, then use a wax/grease remover. Make sure you remove all wax, grease and other forms of contamination from the old finish.

Cover all Surfaces

Cover all surfaces and panels of the car that are not being refinished, using tarp, masking tape or other materials that will completely mask those areas.

Remove Rust

Remove all rust from the surface. You might be able to remove small traces of rust using WD-40 type oil or sandblasting. If there is larger, more significant rust, you may need to cut that metal away and then weld patches of 22- to 18-gauge metal using a wire-feed welding torch.


Repair any dents in the panel. “Pull” or pound the dent back out using either a hammer from the inside or a suction cup with a handle on the outside. If there are large dents and you want a perfect surface, you’re better off having the whole panel replaced.


Sand down all the paint that remains on that panel. Rub the surface with 320-grit sandpaper until the old paint is smooth with no rough areas. If the paint’s top coat is peeling, remove all the paint from the panel; a power sander might be needed for this.


Prime the surface, whether it is bare metal or still has layers. Apply urethane primer to the entire surface, then block the primer by wrapping 400-grit sandpaper around a ridged block and running it against the surface to smooth out the primer and remove any gloss.


Double-check to make sure the surface is completely clean and dry, that all surfaces not being refinished are masked and covered, then apply the topcoat of paint, preferably with a good paint gun, using even strokes. If you are painting bare metal, apply two coats 15 minutes apart.

Apply three clear coats after the new topcoat is dry, waiting 15 minutes between coats for the previous coat to dry.

CPCA Member Products
Buy from the Best

CPCA Member Companies and their products comply with ALL Canadian regulations – making them the most sustainable products available on the market. When you choose paint and coatings products manufactured and sold by our members you are choosing quality paints with product formulations that have been engineered to the highest standards. Take a look at what our members have to offer.

Get Inspired to Paint

Check out our Pinterest board Painted Cars you'll be amazed and what you can do with paint.

Get Inspired