Best Automotive Sandpaper Grits To Use for Each Car Paint System – Day 2 Boot Camp

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Best Automotive Sandpaper Grits To Use for Each Car Paint System – Day 2 Boot Camp

In the video above I show you the most common automotive sandpaper grits that are used for body and paint.

These sandpapers are used for the main body work process when cutting body filler (Bondo) shaping, feathering and final sanding when prepping for paint. Finer grits like 1200, 1500, 2000, and 3000 is used for finishing. A term that is called, color sanding and buffing, or cut and buff.

Auto Body and Paint Sandpaper Grit Breakdown

Let’s start with the heavy duty grits and what they’re used for.

32 and 40 grit sandpaper can be used for sanding and grinding paint down to metal. It will allow you to cut out old body filler or shape new filler if you have some extremely high areas in your bodywork.

32 and 40 grit sandpaper can also be used for sanding heavy rusted areas and cleaning them down to shiny metal. Then you can proceed to treat the rust and move on to repair and refinishing.

80 grit sandpaper is the most common for shaping body filler. It’s a great grit to cut and shape your body filler and sand down rusted body panels. I find myself using 80 grit during the rough draft stage when doing major body work. It’s a great grit to use  that will help you lay the foundation to move toward the finer grits that I talk about below.

After your major body work is shaped and cut down with 80 girt, you have a few methods. I’ve heard of people spraying a thick polyester putty right over that to fill your scratches, then cutting that down with a DA sander and blocking it using a 150-180 grit paper, then spraying a 2k primer filler and blocking that down to a 400 girt for final paint. Actually, John Kosmoski founder of House of Kolor, does it this way and says it’s faster because you cut time off of your body work sand time. To me it’s all relative because no matter what, you will have the same sand time. If you do it this way, you’ll be cleaning your gun more than you need to.

OR, you can eliminate that process (which is what I like to do) and sand your body filler from the 80 grit down with a 220-240 grit paper and getting that ready for a 2k primer filler. I think it’s much easier to do it this way, plus you’ll save on the extra time and money that is spent on the polyester putty. I’ve tried it, and I’m not that fond of that way or style. My final comment on this: Get your filler shaped with 80, cut down further and smoother with a 240 grit, then spray two – three coats of 2k filler primer, block with 400 grit, check for imperfections and repair during that stage. Then you’re ready for paint directly over your 2k primer.

If you chose spray a primer sealer over that, you may, but is not needed to get a pro finish. I actually show you theses steps on video in step-by-step format inside of the VIP members area. Check it out here and get full access to save yourself a whole lot of time and money.


In the end. You want to finish your final sanding when prepping for basecoat clearcoat with a 400 grit sandpaper. This is the BEST grit to paint over. Don’t listen to what others are saying all over the internet. Follow those who are doing it and getting professional results. I have been painting for over 18 years and have a lot of knowledge when it comes to auto body. John Kosmoski and I don’t agree on every method when it comes to auto body, but when it comes to final paint grits, we agree that 400 is the best grit. Why? It gives you enough paint TOOTH for your paint to grab on to. If you sand any finer, look forward to some paint peeling in a few years. 600 grit is on the fence and at the border. If you feel that you just NEED to sand finer, I would absolutely not sand any finer than a 600 grit paper. We paint pros recommend 400.


Prepping and painting over a single stage paint can be a different animal. Single stage paints are a thicker paint than your basic base coat systems. This gives you more room for a little error because the thick paint fills imperfections. You can also paint single stage paints over coarser sand paper grits like 240, and 280 grits. The thick paint will cover and fill well and you need not worry.This is why cheaper and more affordable paint jobs are done with single stage enamel paints. It doesn’t matter if you’re spraying cheaper line of the enamel systems which is the (synthetic enamel) systems or the higher, stronger enamel system, the acrylic enamel system. The only main difference is the addition of a hardening system in your paint. That does not mean that the synthetic system won’t harden, it will. The acrylic system just provides a longer lasting finish and costs a little more.

The synthetic enamel paint systems are great if you want to get a quick paint job out. A wham bam, thank you mam style fast paint job that is fairly inexpensive with a life expectancy of 1-3 years depending on how you care for your vehicle.

Simply slap a 280 grit paper on your DA (dual action sander), and you’re off to the races. As I said, you can safely paint over a 240-280 grit paper when painting single stage. But personally, I like to get it a little smother. If I’m painting a single stage job, I get the paint prep down to at least a 320 grit finish. Check out the 24 hour El-Cheapo paint job that I did that came out fantastic. I did it under a tent outside using a single stage enamel system and I documented the whole process on video for you right here in the VIP members area.

Again even when painting single stage enamel systems, if you can, end with a 400 grit sand. This grit is mostly used for final finishing before laying the paint on. It’s true, a lot of your paint results will come from your prepping. If you do a good prep job and get your panels ready for paint and sanded correctly, your paint will flow on nice and will come out good. Do a crappy prep job, you will have problems.


Most common grits are: 1200, 1500, 2000, 2500 and 3000.

These sandpaper grits are used for detailing and refinishing like color sanding and buffing, or maybe you’ve heard the term cut and buff. This process is done to take out common paint finish issues such as orange peel, runs or dry spots in your clear coat. You can also rejuvenate older paint jobs by color sanding and buffing your paint.

Many show cars have gone through this process. If you see paint jobs that simply look like glass, know that the clear coat was refinished through a process called color sanding and buffing. By sanding your clear coat down flat with a very fine sandpaper, normally a 1500-2000 girt paper, it removes imperfections and cut’s out any textured area in your paint. 1200 grit can used for your initial cut. You want to be careful when sanding with 1200 because you can sand too deep if you don’t know what you’re doing and looking for. If you’re new to this use 1500 for your sanding, then move to 2000. You can even start with a 2000 if you wish and just sand your clear flat until the paint starts to look smooth and dries to a matte look.

Don’t worry. I’ll show you this exact process in step-by-step video and detail so you TOTALLY get it. To learn more about how to see all of this on video so you can repeat the process in full confidence, see what you get inside of LABAP VIP here. I know you’ll be amazed.

When you have your clear coat all sanded down and finished with 2000-2500, you’re ready for buffing. I’ll cover buffing, pads and compounds in another lesson.

But this is basically all of the automotive sandpaper that you’ll need when working on your special project. On the other hand, you only may need some of them. I hope you learned a lot by watching this quick video above and reading this post today.

I’ll see you in the next lesson!

To see the last lesson on spray gun setup tips go here.

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Talk soon,


19 thoughts on “Best Automotive Sandpaper Grits To Use for Each Car Paint System – Day 2 Boot Camp”

  1. What steps are taken to repaint a fiberglass engine bay accessory that has already been painted and clear coated from the factory? Do I just scuff it up with 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper? Then repaint and clear? Any help would be appreciated.

  2. You recommended using a 400 grit to finish, What is your thoughts on using a 500 grit for final finish before laying down base coat ?

  3. Hi tony i would like to know if i can put down a black basecoat than put white flames over that than do a itercoat clear with flakes over that with candy apple red over that than clearcoat
    Thanks mate

  4. one of the few, if any bodywork experts on the net..
    Been watchin tonys videos for 5 yrs..

  5. Hey Tony thank you for all the great info, you are definitely saving me from making some huge mistakes! I am about to try my first car and of all things it is a pearl match I am attempting. I am wondering about primers. Can I use a rustoleum primer under a solvent base?

  6. This information seriously informed me. I’m about to take on my 84 el Camino. Ive sanded it down to the metal. Cut out and treated some rust. Ive painted but not an entire project solo. What grits do you recommend for wet sanding?

  7. Tony
    Thanks for the info.
    This may be a silly question but,
    How do you know when to toss sandpaper ? When does grit
    Disappear ? So is it wise
    Not to reuse sandpaper ?
    Especially in the wet sanding phase. Thanks


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