How to Strip Your Car

Let's strip!

Do you need to strip your car? If it's in decent paint without cracking or without repaints, you probably don't need to...

If you just need to do bodywork on a panel, then just strip that area or the whole panel.

If the surface is cracked, lots of paint layers, lots of filler, etc. it probably needs to be stripped.

There are various ways to go about this. Sanding, chemical stripping, media blasting, etc.


If you want to sand the surface completely down to bare metal, start with 180 to 80 grit paper and take it down. Be careful not to gouge or remove any metal. For stubborn rust or pitting, use a wire wheel. Don't use too agressive of one though, as you can gouge the surface with it too.

Heavy steel, such as a frame, will need to be sanded with 80 to 36 grit paper depending on the amount of rust or damage that needs to be removed or smoothed.

Chemical Stripping

Chemical stripping such as "Aircraft Stripper" can be a good way to strip finishes down to bare metal. It won't remove rust or filler, though. You will need to sand that off afterwards...

Yes, it's smelly and messy. Wear protective clothing and do it in a well ventilated area. Follow all directions to the letter! But, it can be much faster than sanding down an entire car.

To remove rust chemically, use something like "Naval Jelly".

Media Blasting

Try not to blast sheetmetal with sand or other "heavy" material as it may cause the panel to warp. This is really important if you don't have much experience with it. The use of plastic media, walnut shells, or soda is a better idea.

You want to blast at an angle to the sheet metal, not straight on and not too close. Just close enough to remove the paint. Move around, because you can overheat the metal if you stay in one spot. You can have it profesionally done, but make sure they have experience with sheet metal.

Make sure to clean and sand the surface after blasting before doing any bodywork, welding, or finishing as the media you blasted with is now imbedded in the metal. A good cleaning and sanding will take care of it though...

Now Coat It

If you won't be doing any bodywork for a few days, then you want to spray any bare metal with an epoxy (or etching) primer. It should be used as the first coat on bare metal, whether it's new metal construction or metal that has been stripped of paint and other primers. You want to use it because of its corrosion protection and its adhesion qualities.

Anytime sheetmetal is stripped (sanded, chemical, or blasted) to bare metal, it should be cleaned and coated with epoxy primer as soon as possible to avoid the formation of surface rust.

Ok, Now let's move on to Filler

Return from Stripping to Bodywork

Return from Stripping to How-To-Build-Hotrods