A Primer on Painting Carbon Fibre for Students in Car Painting Courses

auto refinishing prep technician

Because of how strong and lightweight it is, carbon fibre has been used to make parts for racing cars for quite some time, and now it’s starting to be used more widely in passenger vehicles as well. Part of the reason for this is that governments are becoming stricter about vehicle fuel economy standards, and as a result manufacturers are looking for new ways to make their vehicles lighter and more eco friendly. In addition, many car enthusiasts love to add aftermarket carbon fibre parts to their vehicles.

As carbon fibre continues to grow in popularity, there’s more debate in the automotive industry about whether it’s suitable to be painted or not. Read on to learn more about the challenges of painting carbon fibre.

Pros with Auto Painting Careers Are Divided on Whether Carbon Fibre Should Be Painted

Painting carbon fibre is a labour-intensive task that yields sometimes unpredictable results, which is why many professionals with auto painting careers believe that painting carbon fibre isn’t a good choice. In fact, because of how aesthetically pleasing carbon fibre is, many car enthusiasts argue that if a car owner invests in a carbon fibre part, which are quite expensive, they should leave it as a visual feature and not paint over its unique woven appearance. While this sounds good in theory, car enthusiasts also love painting and customizing their vehicles—including carbon fibre parts.

The Challenges of Painting Caron Fibre Explained for Students in Car Painting Courses

Painting carbon fibre is very different from painting regular car parts. Because the material is woven together, carbon fibre absorbs paint extremely quickly. This makes it difficult for an auto refinishing prep technician to create an even spread of paint. If the paint is not applied evenly, the crosshatch pattern of the carbon fibre may be visible in certain spots once the paint job is finished. In addition, many of today’s car paints require being exposed to high temperatures to set. The problem is that carbon fibre will buckle and warp under high temperatures. This means that to paint carbon fibre, a different approach is needed.

Steps for Getting the Best Results When Painting Carbon Fibre Parts

While painting carbon fibre does present some unique challenges, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. In fact, there are several steps you can follow for carbon fibre painting success.

If you’re painting a carbon fibre part that has a clear coating, which is highly likely, you have to start by sanding it. Use a wet sanding method to ensure you don’t cause any damage. You need to be especially mindful when you’re sanding carbon fibre parts because if you sand too much, you risk damaging the integrity of the fibres and creating a rough finish.

After you’re finished sanding, you can start priming. Depending on the primer you use, you may need up to five coats of primer before the surface is ready for paint. Once you’ve applied each layer of primer and let the part dry for a significant amount of time, you can apply your paint colour. If there is any unevenness once you are finished, you can buff the surface to smooth out any imperfections.

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