This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links.
Painting a car can be a difficult task, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. One reason for this is that you need special equipment like a car paint sprayer and know the techniques of using these tools. If you don’t perform the job correctly, you’re likely to experience various car paint problems, forcing you to redo the job.
However, one of the most frequently asked questions by beginners is whether you can sand between coats of car paint. Well, if that’s your concern too, you’re in the right place.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss whether it’s necessary to sand between coats of car paint, and how to do it without harming your car paint!
First, let’s look at the different layers of car paint available!
Different layers of car paint
To get a better understanding of the car painting process, we’ll divide the car’s paint job into 5 separate layers. That is; Metal, primer, the basecoat, clear coat, and wax.
Clear coats and wax are protective layers that safeguard the paint job from external elements like dust, UV rays, rain, dirt, etc. In addition, the primer serves as the bonding agent between the base coat and the car’s bare metal, while the base coat is the vehicle’s color.
Knowing where each layer of car paint is located will help down the road when you have sandpaper in your hands!
Should you sand between coats of car paint?
Sanding between coats of car paint isn’t a good idea for various reasons. First, sanding between coats of car paint tends to leave small scratches and tracks, even if you use the finest sandpaper.
Although these scratches are not visible to the naked eye, they will prevent the paint job from becoming as smooth as it should.
Secondly, despite it feeling dry to the touch, the car paint could still be too soft to sand. As a result, you might end up sanding off too much paint, especially if the paint hasn’t fully cured.
Not to forget that you may even sand off the entire previous coat since the car paint layers are very thin, forcing you to start all over again. At the same time, this will prevent the paint from getting proper protection and the car surface may end up looking a little rough & uneven.
That said, sanding between primer coats, clear coats, touch-up paint, or base color paint is not a good idea. However, it’s important to sand the primer once it dries fully to prepare it for painting since they usually have a rough surface that can be a huge problem in the end.
All in all, sanding between primer coats is pointless. Instead, you should sand it at the end of the primer step to reduce the time taken to complete the task.
When you may sand between coats of car paint
Although we don’t recommend sanding between coats of a car basecoat, you can do it if there is something wrong with the application. For instance, if a little dirt lands in the paint, you can allow it to dry and sand out the speck.
Similarly, if you’re getting runs in the paint or having a problem with too much texture, you may want to sand between coats of paint. Whichever the case, you have to wait until the coat dries and cures fully before you sand between coats.
One thing you need to note though is that sanding between coats of base coat can destroy the effects of pearl or metallic colors, causing the pattern or color of the flake or peal to change.
So, if you sand the base coat at any step, make sure you recoat it with another layer of color before you apply the clear coat.
As for the clear coat, polishing, and wet sanding, the final layer offers a better result than doing it between each layer. This is because you may end up damaging the base coat layer, especially considering how thin the layers of clear coats are.
What grit sandpaper should be used to sand between coats of car paint?
Sanding between layers of car paint should only be done if, after drying, the paint job has uneven areas, runs or paint drips. But, which sandpaper grit should you use for the job?
First and foremost, sandpaper grit refers to the number of abrasive particles per sq of a sandpaper sheet. So, the higher the number, the more abrasive particles present, making it finer sandpaper.
On the other hand, the lower the number, the fewer abrasive particles are available, making it a coarser sandpaper.
Different sandpaper grit sizes
With that in mind, 40 to 80-grit sandpaper is not ideal for sanding scratches on the clear coat since it’s very coarse, which can leave behind visible marks on the car’s surface.
However, you can use it for rough sanding before working on the bodywork and shaping the body filler.
Moving on, 120 – 180 grit sandpaper is ideal for use in feathering body filler edges, flattening out scratches, and removing light rust.
320 – 400 grit sandpaper is much finer than the sandpaper we’ve mentioned above. It’s ideal for pre-primer sanding, fine sanding spot putty, final body filler sanding, and rough primer sanding.
Moreover, you can use this grit range as a sanding block.
600 – 800 grit sandpaper is the best sandpaper grit range for sanding surface imperfection in the primer before you apply the base coat. Start at the low grit end as you work your way up towards 800 grit.
The 1000 – 1200 grit range is a great option for removing imperfections in the basecoat. However, you should ensure that you use the wet sanding techniques for excellent results.
Lastly, 1500 – 2000 grit is the best sandpaper grit range for smoothing out scratches and surface imperfections between layers of clear coat. However, like the 1000 – 1200 grit range, this sandpaper requires wet sanding to prevent them from clogging.
How to sand between coats of car paint correctly
Car painting requires a lot of practice before you’re ready to do the job, especially if you need to get good results. However, even if you make some mistakes, you can improve your paint job by sanding the affected area and painting it again.
Alternatively, you can keep on applying the next coat until you get a good surface.
As stated earlier, sanding between coats of car paint isn’t recommended. However, it can be done in case of application errors like paint drips, uneven paint, thick coats, dust on the paint, bad preparation, or even bad paint color.
Whichever the case, there are some important rules you should always adhere to when sanding between coats of car paint.
Things to consider when sanding between coats of car paint
- Always pour some water from a bottle to wet sand the surface. Wet sanding between coats of car paint prevents the sandpaper from leaving scratches on the car’s surface.
- Don’t peel off the entire coat of car paint. Sanding the surface too hard will force you to repaint the entire car surface. For that reason, only partial sanding is recommended when sanding between coats of car paint.
- Use the finest sandpaper. Specifically, you should only use automotive sandpaper that is designed for car painting.
- Use round movement when sanding between coats of car paint to avoid making a pit on the car surface.
- Avoid sanding the surface for too long as this may sand off all the applied paint.
- Sanding between coats of car paint should only be done with light and slow movements. So, make sure you don’t press the sandpaper too hard on the car’s surface.
If you observe the above rule while sanding between coats of car paint, you can rest assured that your job will be perfect. More importantly, the surface will be shiny and smooth, although the result may vary depending on your experience, equipment, and the material you use.
Sanding your car between coats of car paint can be time-consuming. Not to mention that you may end up damaging the paint underneath, especially considering how thin coats of car paint are.
For those reasons, sanding between coats of car paint isn’t recommended. However, it may be necessary for some scenarios such as when you apply an uneven layer or thick coat of auto paint.
Similarly, you can sand between coats of car paint to get rid of paint drips or previous paint if you’ve used a bad paint color. Other than that, I’d recommend you avoid sanding between layers of auto paint at all costs!