Whether you are restoring a vintage car or simply want to strip and repaint your everyday car, you can remove the old paint yourself. As long as you have a place to do the work, some basic supplies, and a little motivation, you should have that paint stripped off your car within a day or two.
Set up a Work Space
- Thick plastic sheeting
Step 1: Secure a location with plenty of ventilation and protection from direct sunlight, wind, and weather. The project will likely take a day or two.
Step 2: Lay plastic sheeting down on the floor or ground where you will be working. The materials you will be using are hazardous. You will want to be able to easily clean everything up and dispose of it responsibly.
Prepare Your Car or Car Parts
- Dual-action sander
- Dust mask
- Heavy-duty masking tape
- Sandpaper (80-grit)
- Thick plastic sheeting
- Tools to remove car parts
Step 1: Remove the parts you are going to strip from the car and lay them out on the plastic sheeting. If you are removing paint from the whole car, or most of the car, remove the parts that you don’t want to get paint stripper on or carefully tape them off with masking tape.
- Tip: Tape seams with masking tape to keep stripping chemicals from seeping underneath and then oozing back out to ruin your fresh paint. Sand the paint off of the seams by hand with 80-grit sandpaper after stripping.
Step 2: Scuff up the paint with 80-grit sandpaper. You can use a DA (dual-action) sander to make it easier. You don’t need to take all the paint off. Just rough it up a little. Wear a dust mask so that you don’t inhale paint particles.
Strip the Paint Off
- Acid-resistant paint brushes
- Coffee can or container
- Paint stripper
- Plastic or nylon flat-edged scraping tool
- Protective clothing
- Protective eyewear
- Thick rubber gloves
Step 1: Put on all of the protective gear. You will be working with corrosive chemicals. Make sure your body is well covered and protected. Wear long sleeves, pants, socks, and boots or shoes.
Step 2: Pour some of the paint stripper into a small coffee can.
Step 3: Paint the stripper on the car parts with acid-resistant brushes. Make sure you get the correct stripper for the type of car part you are stripping.
There are different types of paint stripper formulated for use on metal car parts, fiberglass car parts, and plastic/rubber car parts.
- Tip: It should take about two gallons of stripper to remove the paint from a full-sized car.
Step 4: Follow the paint stripper manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Each type of stripper has a slightly different procedure that must be followed in order for it to work properly.
- Tip: It is easier to strip the car in sections as opposed to stripping the whole car at once.
Step 5: Scrape the paint off. Usually, the paint will begin to wrinkle or bubble up when it is ready to be scraped off. Be sure the paint and chemicals stay on the plastic sheeting as you strip them off the parts.
Step 6: Apply another coat of stripper, if necessary. Depending on how many coats of paint there are on the car parts, you may have to repeat steps 4 through 5 several times.
Step 7: Neutralize the stripper, if necessary. Some paint-stripping chemicals require a finishing step that will neutralize them. Follow the instructions provided with the stripper.
Step 8: Take all of the chemicals and paint to a hazardous waste collection site.
Stripping paint off a car is a task you can do yourself, but thorough preparation is key because the last thing you want to do is run to the store when you’re in the middle of the job. Plan ahead and gather all your supplies so that removing paint from your car parts is as straightforward as possible.