Painting Auto Interiors
by Gary DelVecchio

1) Painting is 98% prep work.
2) Dirt & Dust are your biggest enemies !!!
3) Take your time.
4) If something's not going well, give it up for a while & come back to it.
5) Make the paint shop guy your best friend
6) Memorize steps 1 thru 5.

Things you'll need:
0) Shop Manual 
1) Wax & Grease Remover (PrepSol, etc.)
2) Steel Wool "00"
3) Aircraft Paint Remover - No Spray get the brush on.
4) Metal Etch - 2 part mix with water 7 to 1
5) "Sandable" Primer (light gray - no black !!!) Spray cans OK here
6) SandPaper Wet/Dry grits = 400 600 1200 2400 or finer
7) Lint free paper towels
8) Tack Rags 
9) McGuire's #2, #7, #9
10) Gallon of cheap Laquer Thinner - Mostly for cleanup
11) Appropriate Respirator
12) 3M Making tape - Newspaper - some large covers/drop cloths
13) Compressor / Gun (Biggest one you can rent for 110V)

Paint Choices - Basically 2 choices. You can use an Acrylic Enamel or the 2
step basecoat clearcoat. I wouldn't recommend the basecoat clearcoat for your first project.

Let's do it....Refer to Shop Manual for all disassembly & assembly. You'll be amazed at how much you forget between the time you take it apart and the time you put it back together !!!!
1) Remove door pulls, handles, then door panels & water shield (You'll need a new shields and adhesive) May think about new weatherstrip around doors as well - Loosen window stops & drop windows down below felts & remove the felts. You will need to replace these as they never come off in a condition to put back on.
2) Follow the instructions on the Aircraft Paint Remover. Mask off any areas you don't want to fuss with - door jambs, underneath, etc. Make sure you wash it well after. This may require multiple applications. You will find it almost impossible get the paint out of the wrinke finish. DO NOT SAND !!!! Use some thinner and steel wool to get it out of the crevaces. It takes time, but it can be done and the results will be worth it. We're after bare metal here. When finished rinse well with rags & warm water. Then Dry Completely... Use the Metal Etch following the instructions. Do not wait till tomorrow to put the etch on - it needs to be done fairly soon after you get to bare metal. You can't believe how fast rust can form. Allow the etch to dry (8 to 10 Hours). If it turns pink that's a good thing. Do not fuss with it any more.

3) Cover the car & mask areas acordingly. Remember paint seems to go everywhere, so extra time here is worth it.. Use a tack rag - Unfold it and let it air dry for about 10 minutes before using. Then wipe the surface, don't rub it removing any accumulated dust. It's finally time for a thin coat of primer. Keywork is thin here. We need a good coat, but we don't want to start filling our wrinkle finish we worked so hard at clearing either.
4)Let dry 12-24 Hours. With 2400 grit sandpaper (dry not wet) VERY LIGHTLYsand the primer. Never use your fingers to sand.. Use a rubber pad available at your paint supply house. Don't worry about the wrinkes we are just trying to get a smooth surface. Watch you don't cut to bare metal again or you will need to reprime. There is a lot of discussion about using primer on the door panels, but I personally feel it is necessary.


1) Remove everything you can. Steering wheel & column, glove box, dash pad, instrument cluster (make sure to label all wires as you will not remember where they go later & shop manual won't be a lot of help), switches, radio, etc. Don't cheat here and start masking stuff off. You won't be happy with it when done. Seats should come out as well. It's going to be difficult for you to spray these areas trying to work around the seats. Remember rule #1 !!!!! Now is the time to make your shopping list for new parts. See what cleans up to your satisfaction. Use some thinner & 000 steel wool to clean all your chrome parts.
2) Clean all areas to be painted with Wax & Grease Remover. Do this a couple of times. Surface might get dull & this is good. Sand with 320 grit paper dry. We aren't going to strip the old paint, just give the new paint something to adhere to. Make sure to get all the nooks & crannies. Use Wax & Grease remover again.

3) Mask & cover everything. Plug any holes (Radio, Guage holes, etc) from the back. This will take you a good deal of time and patience. Also we'll be painting the doors as well so this is will be your final mask job. Car should be covered inside & out including headliner !
4) Give the dash 2-3 good coats of primer waiting about 20 min between coats. Wait 24 hours & then sand with 1200. (NO FINGER SANDING!) One more time with Wax & Grease Remover when done with sanding


Rent a compressor, hose & connectors. Don't rent a gun! You don't know what shape it's in, nor what's been put thru it, nor what contaminants are looming inside. You can buy a touch up gun from Sears for under 50.00. Money well spent. If you use the touch-up gun mentioned you'll need a compressor that will handle about 4 SCFM @ 40PSI. Just tell the rental guy that.
Paint stuff you'll need.

Acrylic Enamel, Hardener, Reducer (Pint of color should do it if they'll custom mix that small amount)
Sealer (I use PPG DAS 1980) 
Stir Sticks, Measuring Cups (from paint store), paper strainer, throw away water seperator.


Set compressor at 35 PSI & run some thinner thru the gun. You can spray it at a large piece of cardboard to get the feel of it. It will evaporate quickly so you can make all your adjustments (paint & air mix) and get comfortable. Always keep the gun on the same plane as the material being painted. (impossible for the most part on the dash)

Let's do it.

We are going to seal the dash area. The purpose of this is twofold. The first is to prevent problems with paint reactions (Laquer over Enamel & vice versa). The second is to stop any bleed thru of the old color. Parchment over blue could cause problems and yes I know there is primer in between. Note: You cannot sand the sealer so be careful.

1) One more pass with wax & grease remover, dry (use compressor to blow out all areas), tack rag dash.
2) Most sealers are used straight - Just mix & strain into gun.

3) Follow Mfg recommendations for coats - wait & dry times. (final dry in about 1 hr.)


5)Clean gun by running thinner thru it.


One more pass with Wax remover over everything, blow out any moisture in cracks & crevases with compressor, tack rag.
Thoroughly Mix your color. Mix your paint, reducer & hardener per Mfg. instructions / no more no less & poor thru strainer into paint cup. Your probably going to need enough to fill your gun twice. Mix it all at once & cover what your not using.
Don't forget the resperator !!!!

Work from the inside out. We don't want to rub an air hose across a freshly painted door. First coat should be thin, don't get in a hurry here. Wait 15 minutes. Put on 3 nice coats over everything following Mfg recommendations of dry times between coats. This will also depend on temperature, humidity, etc. Overlay your passes by 50%. Wait between coats even if you can't stand it. Nice jobs can be ruined because the last coat was enough to cause the paint underneath to sag. Then we have a mess. Don't worry a lot about brilliance & luster - It will come with finish work. Clean your gun and admire your work. Allow to dry at least 48 hours.

Color Sanding.

Don't sand the doors if you can help it. If you've done a good job you won't need to. If you must - wet sand with 2400 LIGHTLY & follow McGuires steps below.

Wet sand dash with 600. Just sand until the any orange peel is gone. It shouldn't take much & don't get too aggressive with 600. It will cut quick so be careful Use plenty of water & NO FINGER SANDING. Be very careful on edges, you can cut to primer in a heartbeat !! Then wet sand with 1200. Purpose is to remove scratches left by the 600 step. Next wet sand with 2400. Purpose is to remove scratches from 2400. If your paint shop carries finer than 2400 use it next. When sanding, sand in all directions - horizontal, verticle, 45 left, 45 right & circles.

Now comes the big payoff:

Use Mcguires # 2 - This should remove scratches from the 2400.

Next McGuires # 7 - This will remove scratches from the #2

At this point surface should not show any scratches, but swirls are OK. If scratches show go back to the #2 & start over.

For a final us the McGuires #9 - swirls will be gone and you won't believe your eyes.

Do not wax for 60 Days! Use the McGuires # 7 & 9 to bring the shine back up if needed.

Reassemble & be careful. The fresh paint is still somewhat soft.

To return to the Main Page click here