How to Paint your Car without a Gun
by Zack Klapman
A car’s paint says something to the world. To paraphrase Jack Donaghy, it is a car’s “head suit.” A Ferrari with oxidizing paint and 4 shades of red? Think homeless Eric Bana. An old Corolla with new paint? Bernie Eccleston; hardly attractive from the factory but if you look at him you can tell he’s on top of things. Paint completely changes a car’s value, and-to some extent-what the car says about the person driving it.
My car’s paint is currently starting to look like the arm of a 92 year old man, all flakes and open sores (enjoy your lunch!). I always thought painting it myself meant getting a booth and a gun, which then require actual skill to use. But an industrious man on Reddit had (in the past) found paint guns to be stressful and complicated, so after seeing this guy paint his Corvair with a normal roller, he decided to give it a shot. The results are surprisingly good, at least from what I can tell in the photos. Make the jump for more photos, and some tips that were added by a professional painter in the Reddit comments.
The before and after pictures show the difference, and the reflections on the hood show the clarity and depth of the color. If you’re a buyer shopping on CraigsList, a car with fresh paint will surely get a longer look.
To be clear, he didn’t just walk outside, dump paint on the car, and spread it out. He sanded it all down, added a base layer, then sanded between each coat. But for only $170 and 100 hours, his car looks 100% better.
The response on Reddit was very positive, with several self-proclaimed professionals saying how impressed they were. However, one spoke up about the OP’s selection of paints, and how other people could use the same techniques with even better results.
I paint cars as well…with a gun…and booth, but I have done my fair share of rustoleum paint jobs, so I will add a few things here.
Rustoleum is an alkyd enamel, not to be confused with acrylic enamel, and is a very old technology (predating lacquer). Rustoleum has very minimal UV protection and will fade out. It is not instant, but it will fade.
Rustoleum also does not use an activator (hardener). The paint “dries” like most think of paint drying, it does not cross-link like activated paint. This means that rustoleum is significantly softer than urethane or BC/CC. Its bond is also purely physical and has very little chemical bond to the primer since you used rattle can primer. This makes the entire job a lot less durable.
There isn’t anything wrong with a rustoleum paint job on a car like that, but I do not want everyone to think this will replace activated paint (BC/CC, single stage urethane, or even activated acrylic enamel). They both have their place and you chose a good route for the car you have.
I will note that you can roll on activated acrylic enamel as well. If you would use this instead of rustoleum, you can buy it for around $60 a gallon for the cheap stuff. The durability and UV protection will be so much higher that it isn’t even worth thinking about…you have all those hours in it and the cost is about $40 more total.
Painting your car with a roller last used to save your apartment deposit is totally feasible. But make sure you pick the right kind of paint, so all that hard work doesn’t go to waste after a few years in the sun. And make sure you take the time to follow the steps in the post; don’t just roll a coat on and call it a day. It’s not so much a short cut, as it is new paint on a budget, and without buying a haz-mat suit and a compressor. For the full gallery and the OP’s process, click here.
If you’ve done this, tell your story in the comments.