How to Spray Paint Your Truck

Instructions for Spray Painting a Truck

There are a lot of hobbyists out there who like to do things themselves. For the automobile enthusiasts, there is nothing like the satisfaction of painting your own truck. Having a custom paint job done on your truck can be expensive if you take it to an autobody shop. Depending on what you want, it can easily run four or five thousand. With today’s tools, it can be just as easy and much more affordable to spray paint your truck yourself. It is a lengthy step-by-step process and you need the right conditions but with a little patience, you can do the job to your own specifications.

You don’t have to be an artist to spray paint your truck. Although there are plenty of custom paint jobs out there that are really wild, if you are a beginner, you will want to start out simple. Anyone interested in how to spray paint their truck is going to need the following basic items:

  • Breather Mask
  • Belt Sander with Fine Grit Sand Paper
  • Spray Gun
  • Air Compressor
  • Steel Wool
  • Bondo
  • Automotive Primer Paint
  • Automotive Paint
  • Plastic Tarps
  • Masking Tape for Painting
  • Masking Paper
  • Enamel Reducer
  • Hardener
  • Clear Urethane
  • Rags
  • Grease and Wax Remover
  • Fiberglass Repair Kit

Where To Do It

Now that you have all of your tools together, you need a place to spray paint your truck. Doing it outside is a bad decision for several reasons. The first reason is that you don’t want any overspray from the paint drifting onto your other property, or worse, your neighbor’s property. The second reason not to do it outside is that the truck will be exposed to the elements such as wind. Any breeze can interfere with the paint coverage as you are spraying and dust and dirt can settle onto the wet paint can ruin your finish. The best place to spray paint your truck is going to be in your garage. Before you do the actual painting, you will want to cover things up with plastic but we’ll talk about that later. Right now just clear out enough space that you can easily work around your truck.

Take It Off

There are going to be parts of your truck that you don’t want to paint. Some of these you can take off such as windshield wipers, chrome fixtures, front and back fenders, mirrors (if they come off easy), and anything else that is easily removable. If you don’t take off some of these items, they can cover up parts of your truck body that you need to paint. Also, they can be difficult to cover adequately and you run the risk of getting paint on that expensive chrome. You don’t have to take the tires off unless you want to paint inside the fenders or are paranoid about getting paint on those expensive rims.

Scrubbing and Sanding

The next step is to take off the old paint off the truck. You will need the belt sander with the fine sand paper to do this. You don’t have to sand down to the metal nor do you have to remove every square inch of old paint. You just want to get most of it, making sure that you sand off the finish. You also need to pay close attention to any rust spots. Sand those down to the clean metal and make sure the areas are smooth.  Fill any holes or cracks with Bondo or similar fixative. Allow that to dry good before sanding it down smooth. If there are any large cracks or holes in the body, you will probably have to cover those using a fiberglass body kit.

Once everything has been sanded and smoothed, you will want to wash your care with soap and water. Make sure you rinse it thoroughly because any soap will repel the paint. Also rinse the garage floor so there is no dust or debris.

Cover It Up

This next step can be very tedious but extremely important. You will want to cover up all exposed areas that you don’t want painted with masking paper and tape. You will want to cover the headlights, tires, windshield, tail lights, mirrors, and any areas that you do not want painted. Take your time and be sure that everything is properly covered. Anything exposed, even if it is only a tiny corner, is going to get covered with paint. It is much easier to take your time to cover everything properly than to go back and try to remove paint.

You will also want to prep the garage. When prepping it for the painting process, lay down some tarps on the floor so you don’t get paint on the concrete. Then take plastic drop clothes and cover everything that you don’t want getting splattered with paint. Some people actually use the plastic to create a large tent around their truck but you may want to wait and do that after you have sanded and masked off.

How to Paint

Now you are finally ready to paint. Your truck should be sanded, smoothed, and masked off. Get your spray gun and put on your breathing mask. You are first going to paint a coat of primer onto your truck. Take your spray gun and make a few practice strokes on a test surface such as a scrap piece of metal, paper, or wood. You will want to know how to operate the gun before turning it on your truck.

When painting the truck, use smooth side-to-side motions, making sure the surface is covered adequately but not too thickly. Do not stop or pause in any areas while the paint is spraying or it will drip. Once you have a coat of primer on, let it dry. Primer paint dries fast, about fifteen minutes. You are going to want to add two or three coats of primer so as soon as one coat is dry, you can add another.

After the final coat of primer is dry, you are ready to paint with the actual enamel paint. You will hopefully have chosen the color of paint carefully or you will have to repeat some of these processes. Mix the paint with the reducer and hardener before filling the up the can for the spray gun. You will want to put three or four coats of enamel on the truck using the same side-to-side technique. It will take around 30 minutes for each coat to dry so as soon as one is dry, you can add another coat. After the final coat, let the truck dry overnight or for about 12 hours. For a really shiny finish, you can spray a coat of clear urethane on it and then wax it thoroughly after it has had time to dry.

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