Surface Preparation

5 Auto Body And Paint Surface Preparation Tips

Join thousands of people like you who are learning how to customize their cars and saving thousands by doing it themselves. Join Learn Auto Body VIP here.

Auto painting consists of a series of step-by-step tasks.

When combined, these steps produce a quality paint job that looks fantastic, feels smooth looks flawless, adheres securely, and has lasting durability. When a job comes out nice, you also feel pretty damn good too!

The outcome of any auto painting stage is determined by the thoroughness and result of the previous stage. Poor work during any stage will affect the end result, remember this. Just make sure you complete each stage of the painting process to the very best of your ability. If you make a mistake, don’t pass over it, simply go back and correct it, no big deal. It’s all a learning curve.

Don’t rush any of the stages, always keep your end goal in mind; a professional looking paint job that you will be genuinely proud of for years to come. Inside of the VIP area of this site, we hold your hand and walk you step-by-step through each step until you get it and are ready to get the job done.

 Auto Body Surface Preparation embodies 5 areas that ultimately prepare auto body surfaces ready for paint. Let’s start with auto part removal.

Click on any of the 5 links below for more information on each topic

  1. Tacking your vehicle before paint
  2. Paint Mixing Ratios
  3. Auto body questions and answers post
  4. Rust repair using kitty hair and fiberglass fillers


The Best Way to Prevent Overspray  – And why Auto Part Removal is Important?

Experienced auto painters and automotive enthusiasts can always detect if a vehicle has been repainted.

It should be your desire therefore to perform such a thorough and meticulous paint job that nobody has any idea your vehicle has been near a spray paint gun, unless it’s an obvious and outlandish custom paint job of course.

Tiny amounts of paint overspray that manages to get onto window moldings, door handles or light assemblies will be giveaway signs that your vehicle has been worked on.

A closer inspection of the vehicle surface may also reveal some sanding scratches that would indicate that some degree of bodywork has been performed.

A buyer may suspect that your vehicle has possibly been involved in an accident and the damage repaired. Whatever he/she believes to be the reason; your car will no longer be so attractive to buy.

 Where to begin.

To make sure that no overspray is able to accumulate anywhere on auto parts and accessories including trim, it would be a sensible option to start by detaching or peeling off, anything that gets in the way of painting the basic surface of the car.

This will even include removing some larger pieces such as plastic bumpers that should be painted separately and reinstalled on the repainted body later.

This allows for controlled and thorough body preparation and is the best way to prevent overspray concerns and paint build-up along the edges of trim.

Where to find help.

auto part removal

 For those auto parts and accessories that you aren’t sure how to remove, ask a service manager from a local dealership, a professional auto body shop or an auto paint supply store.

Don’t risk breaking auto parts and accessories when

willing assistance is readily available.

You can also get the information you need from a factory repair manual for the make and model of the vehicle you are working on. You should be able to obtain one of these for a late model vehicle from a dealership.

You should also be able to pick one up from an auto part store, if all else fails browse around on the Internet for one.

Before you buy, flip through it and make sure it has the required information that you need. These manuals are very handy to keep for any future problems you may encounter.

You need to be systematic in your approach when removing auto parts and accessories

You will find that most of the auto parts and accessories from a vehicle including door handles and mirrors are secured in place with screws, nuts or bolts.

It won’t take you long to see the benefits of removing auto parts and accessories. This stage is completed much faster than masking, however don’t rush through it. Have a sensible plan ready for removing and storing each item.

Large boxes work well for this. It is simple to label the boxes for each section of the vehicle. Put screws, bolts and nuts back on the part it came from once you remove it so you’ll know exactly where they are when it’s time to put everything back onto the vehicle.

Once you get trim strips off, it’s best to remove all the clips. Put them and any other fasteners or small parts groups, in zip-lock plastic bags or smaller marked cardboard boxes and store them in the same place as other items from your project.

Some newer model vehicles use adhesives to hold the emblems, badges and trim in place. It is a good idea to examine each item before you try to take it off so you can determine exactly how it is mounted. You don’t want to have to buy new to replace broken pieces.

If you want to replace them after painting, however, get new ones, with fresh adhesive, from the dealer.

Door Handles

Door Handle

You will find that some door handles can be removed by loosening a heavy duty screw found horizontally across from the handle on the edge of the door.

Other door handles are secured by a couple of screws or nuts; you will need to access these from inside the inner door cavity. To gain access to the handle support you’ll need to take off the interior door panel.

Interior door panels are usually secured either with screws or clips. If you can’t find any screws around the perimeter of the panel then it is likely it is held in place with plastic clips fastened securely into retainer mounts.

You can easily pull them loose. Before you do, make sure you remove the arm rests and window and door handles first.

Vapor Barrier

After you have removed the interior door panel, you will see a piece of plastic or similar material between the panel and the door skin. This is the vapor barrier.

It is designed to prevent water from entering the vehicle after it has leaked past window trim moldings.

It is very important that you don’t damage vapor barrier. It’s very easy to simply roll them up to the top of the door and tape them away safe.


For light assemblies, these are generally secured with screws found on the back of the housing assembly. You can remove the rear light units from inside the trunk area or by pulling them out from the outside.


Grilles can be a little trickier to remove. Look for screws around the perimeter of the grille section. Entire grille assemblies are usually made up of a series of parts which can be removed as one unit so long as you remove the correct screws.

Most grilles have parts that are held together with clips that you would have to remove also.



It’s important to leave the headlights in if possible; this will prevent the current light beam setting from being disturbed. If you need to remove them however, remember not to touch either of the screws that have springs underneath them. These are the directional adjustment screws that adjust the headlights in all directions.


You shouldn’t have any problems removing the bumpers on older vehicles; they have support bolts which are easily located.

Newer car bumpers aren’t as easy. Take your time when removing a bumper from a vehicle and get help if you need it due to these parts often being quite heavy.

You definitely don’t want a bumper to fall on you while you are under the vehicle loosening the bolts so take the proper precautions.

Door Edges

If you will be painting the door edges then you are going to have to remove the weather stripping. You’ll need to take a closer look at it first to see how it is secured into place.

Sometimes you will find that it is held in place using adhesive, therefore an adhesive remover will have to be used.

It may appear to be substantial enough to be pulled straight off however, it is better to be safe than sorry and opt for the adhesive remover.


Did you like this post? Well, please like, share and comment below. We would love to hear your voice!


P.S. Learn more about our EXCLUSIVE VIP Club Here and see how we can help you!  Juicy Step-by-Step video tutorials are waiting for you to open up inside. You’ll even get access to our private forums and VIP member community. Thousands of members are waiting to hear your story and help you out with your projects along the way!


15 thoughts on “Surface Preparation”

  1. What’s up Tony, i been reading all your emails and watching your videos, i haven’t had the chance to buy your videos yet because I’m just waiting to get some money, but can’t wait, after i buy them I’m going to paint my car.this will be my first time trying to paint a car, so right now I’m just trying to get my car ready like taking the moldings off, but my question is that,i have a 1987 cutlass salon and this car has a lot of moldings, and i been looking on line for the molding clips so i could take the moldings off before i paint it. But can’t find any, what do you think i should do about the moldings?, do you think i should risk taking them off and not be able to find the molding clips? Thank you.

    • That’s a hard call. I hear you on that and it’s smart that you are looking at that angle though. It’s really up to you. If you can find them, great. If you can’t then you risk breaking them. I would try and take one off, see how it goes. You may be ok you know… If you break a few and can’t get clips you can always use a 3M two way tape. I’ve done that many times. You’ll have a nicer job if you do take them off though. But sometimes you gust gotta mask them and if you do, just take your time and do a good job!!

      Good luck Matthew!

  2. Tony, enjoy your videos, something I haven’t seen covered or maybe I have missed it. Primer seems to be very important, I noticed that there are a few types, etching and a few others. Can you please comment on what types of primer are best, specifically for a 66 mustang body, I assume for steel and fiberglass bodies primers would be different. Thanks alot for all your insight.

    • Thanks! I do have a lot more on this in my blog, did you browse through older posts? We also cover this extensively within VIP. Did you get a chance to see what that’s about? It’s not just video trainings, but more like a full support community on demand. Check it out when you can. Talk soon.


      For your Mustang body you can use a 2k primer, or etching and or epoxy if you are going over metals. No, steel, plastics and fiberglass panels can use similar primers. You just want to be sure to use epoxy or etching for over large metal panels.

  3. thought I joined and you were going to send me a copy of your book. Please check that out…

    I watched your demo on how you use the stud welder. I went down and bought one
    slide hammer dose not lock on stud is this common problem ?

    • If you signed up with your email for the 85 page book, you should have gotten an email to download it. Please check your spam folder. It may have gotten hug up in there for some reason… If you still haven’t gotten it just email us again and I will have our support team send you a copy!

  4. Tony great site and just getting started with learning bodywork. Had a quick question, I bought some saddlebags for my motorcycle and they are ABS Plastic and they must have been a two piece mold cause there is a seam around the entire bags. What would you suggest for bodywork? What product and method?

    • hey Chris,

      I know exactly what you’re talking about. Just sand them flat with 280 – 400 depending how much they protrude, then you would prime the area and fill with spot putty, wet sand, prime and you’re ready for paint.

  5. Thanks for the tips on how to remove the grill, my son managed to dent his this week but I think it will come out easily. I just need to take it off and take the time to repair it. If not, it’s a good thing you can always take your car into a body shop.


Leave a Comment