3 Things Auto Body Technician Students Should Know About Paint Stripping

Stripping paint off of a car is the first step towards giving it a fresh look—whether it’s for a restoration project or simply because drivers sometimes get bored of looking at the same old color.

There are a few techniques that auto body experts use to remove paint, and there have been many debates over the years regarding which method is the most effective.

If you want to become an auto body technician, you’ll learn that choosing the right paint stripping technique depends on a wide range of factors, including the condition of the car you’re working on, the client’s budget, and the amount of time it will take.

Want to learn more about automotive paint stripping? Read on for a quick guide to 3 of the most common techniques you will see during your auto body career.

1. Automotive Painting Pros Know Sanding Is Time-Consuming, but Effective

Sanding and scraping are among the most common methods of paint stripping. Experts say that these methods tend to work best when working on a car that still has its original finish, or hasn’t been eaten away by rust. Sanding and scraping is as straightforward as it sounds: an auto body technician uses different grades of sandpaper or scraping tools to strip the paint off of the vehicle.

Using a mechanical sander can clear the paint off of a panel pretty quickly, but it’s advised to use broad strokes so that no area of the metal becomes warped by the heat that’s produced from friction. Using a scraping tool like a razor blade, on the other hand, creates no heat or dust but can be very time-consuming.

2. Automotive Painting Experts Use Media Blasting to Quickly Remove Paint

Media blasting uses compressed air to shoot tiny pieces of material (media) from a nozzle in order to strip away the surface paint. It’s similar to pressure washing; however, it uses a lower pressure as well as media that are much more abrasive than water.

This paint stripping technique used to be referred to as “sandblasting”, but sand is no longer used due to its associated health risks. Today, the most common media used for this method include plastic or glass beads, aluminum oxide, and ground-up walnut shells.

Media blasting can strip paint without damaging a car’s panels, and is even effective for quickly removing multiple layers of paint. Automotive painting experts try to avoid media blasting paint when the metal surface is too thin—like on the hoods of certain car models—to avoid warping caused by intense air pressure.

3. Automotive Painting Pros Sometimes Use Chemicals to Strip Away Paint

Industry experts know that chemical dipping is one of the most effective paint stripping techniques used in today’s auto body shops. This process requires body shop experts to send the car to a separate facility, where its panels will be dipped in tanks that contain strong chemicals. Panels are usually immersed in a tank that first degreases and loosens the paint. The body then undergoes a warm pressure wash to remove all paint, grease and grime. The second tank is usually filled with an alkaline solution, which makes the car’s body appear much cleaner and shinier than before.

This process is most effective because it ensures that the paint is removed from every corner and crevice of the vehicle. And of course, it should come as no surprise that it is also among the most expensive technique.

While many auto body shops have access to tons of useful chemical paint strippers, such products can also create hazardous waste and are therefore not the preferred method of every industry professional.

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