Rattle Can Basics


Rattle Can Basics

Ok, you’ve separated the car’s body from the base and you’re ready to prepare the car for new paintjob. It’s not always necessary to strip off the factory paint.  If it’s a solid color and there are no tampos, you can spray automotive primer over it. I’ll explain some other quick methods later.

Shown to the above are some items you’ll need for stripping paint.  Most importantly, you’ll need these safety items: A pair of industrial type rubber gloves, and safety goggles, preferably with the side splash shields. I put the car to be stripped on a small piece of plywood, so I can move it without touching the car.  If you don’t have running water near where you plan on stripping the cars, this is a good idea. I use the aerosol stripper shown in the pic, but it’s also available in gel form. Apply the stripper to the car in slow careful strokes.  In most cases, the paint will start to bubble almost immediately. After about fifteen minutes, you can begin to clean the loose paint from the car. I use that angled brush shown, to remove the layer of foam from the car. The angle is great for cleaning out the inside corners of the casting.  Brush off the stripper slowly, IN ONE DIRECTION ONLY and that’s AWAY FROM YOU.  If you wonder why, just check the spray on the bathroom mirror after you brush your teeth.

There will still be some stripper left on the casting.  Take the car (on the board) and rinse it off with a SLOW stream of water.  You can then brush off any remaining paint.  A dental pic, or a sewing needle can be used to remove paint from the hood and door lines and other crevices.  Some of the newer factory colors are more stubborn and you may have to repeat the process a few times to remove all the paint.  When all else fails, you can resort to sanding any remaining paint off.

If you plan to sand down any rough spots or use bondo/body filler, now is the time to do those steps.  Primer, paint and clearcoat will not hide those for you. They’ll just make them more colorful and shiny. If you’re going to use an enamel paint, it’s very important to use a degreaser on the casting prior to painting.  The oils from your fingers will still be on the car without it and enamel paint won’t adhere to those places, causing it to bubble or blotch.

I always start my paint coats with the hard to fill areas, like wheel wells and door lines and corners.  Then I begin full passes across the entire body and work my way around the car. I never make more than three or four passes across the car before moving on to another side.  This prevents paint from building up in any one spot.  Work your way around the car until you have a thin coat all over the car.  It’s all right if the paint looks patchy or grainy.  You’re not trying for complete coverage at this point.  Spray can primers and lacquers dry pretty quickly.  A half hour is usually all you’ll need before you can start your next coat.


Look for the weak spots in your first coat and start with those areas. Then, work your way around the car with full passes.  Two coats of primer should be plenty.  Give it a half hour to dry and you should be ready to start your paint.


Enamels:  Apply three or four light coats.  Your goal is just even, overall coverage.  Let that dry over night.   The final coat is the one, where you want the car to have that wet, mirror, glossy look.  I start with the front and rear, then the sides and then the hood, roof and trunk.  Enamel paints, especially high gloss, take a long time to dry.  You can speed this up by using a hair dryer.  Work it around the car, just like you did with the can. 

Lacquers:  Two or three coats with overall coverage, before the glossy coat.

Clears:  Four ‘mist’ coats.  Just quick passes over the car.  Clears tend to chunk if you try to build it up too fast.  Take your time trying to put that mirror finish on.  Check corners and lines for the start of that chunky build-up.

Cheap tricks:  Metallic enamels can be used underneath lacquer paint, without the lacquer eating it and orange peeling.  Golds and Silvers can give you the ‘polished’ look in a hurry. They also can give a nice metal flake look to lacquers. Black and red oxide primers can give you different tones with the same color of lacquer paint.

Don’t try to hurry it, but I’ve used cheap automotive primer, lacquer touch-up cans and clearcoat and finished painting in an afternoon.  Some of those have gone to fellow customizers, who’ve written to say, that it’s as good or better, than some airbrushed cars they’ve received.

-Bryant Temple (Shelby23)

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