Kevin Tetz
March 17, 2011
Photos By: Jim Smart, The Eastwood Company

The process of painting a car has been a series of constant improvements and innovations since the 1920s. Although the basic mechanics of spray-painting are essentially the same, the technology and equipment has changed drastically since the first automotive assembly lines began production.

The fact that about every four years or so the entire paint industry is set on its ear and changed due to constant EPA pressure makes it a little intimidating for someone who's never "done it themselves," however, it's not all that complicated, and the basic techniques of applying paint have not changed that much.

We're not going to say that autobody work is easy, it's not! Like anything else, it's a skill that takes repetition and time to perfect. The good news is that the fundamentals are quite simple and easy to understand when broken down into basic steps. Those simple steps, when strung together into a procedure, are what create award-winning show cars.

Can you get show-winning paint the first time out? Yes, but it's not typical. We've seen it done several times, but it takes a lot of dedication on the part of the student. Although it's unusual to win "best paint" on your first paintjob, what is typical is that when you follow some simple guidelines and pay attention to the fundamentals, your first results are usually pretty darn good. A successful paint and body job typically prompts a buddy into asking who painted the car, followed by, "What would you charge to do mine?" And a technician, small business, or solid weekend "paint and body" warrior is born!

If you have the urge to learn the necessary skills to do it yourself, or to do most of the work and turn it over to somebody to shoot the paint, or if you just want to know what questions to ask so you don't get taken to the cleaners when you're looking for a qualified shop, this article should get you up to speed. Start with your local car clubs and ask a bazillion questions! Painting your own car can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and one that will empower you, save you money, and possibly put a little scratch in your pocket when your buddies find out you did it yourself!

Find The Right Shop

Even if you don't plan on doing the painting, or even any of the bodywork yourself, you need to educate yourself to know what to ask for. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by letting your project sit in the back corner of a shop that doesn't care. Here are five things to look for in a good, quality autobody or restoration shop:

1. Clean, clean, clean: If the shop doesn't care about its shop or tools, it doesn't care about your car...move on!

2. Check references: If a shop manager won't give you references to call, he's got something to hide. Period. Move on.

3. You get what you pay for: Shop around for the best value, not the best price. Less expensive is OK, cheap is lousy, and you'll regret it long after the discount is gone.

4. Turn-around time: Nobody can predict unforeseen work that needs to be done, so don't expect a timetable to be written in stone. Asking for a reasonable estimate on how long it will take is perfectly acceptable though.

5. Insurance: Ask if the shop has insurance on your car while it's in the shop's care. If it doesn't, move on. Always keep insurance on any project for your own personal protection, but don't let them lean on your premiums. A legitimate shop will have a garage keeper's policy in place.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery