Wet Sanding Automotive Paint

Wet sanding or color sanding is the process of bringing out the showroom shine on new or older paint. The basic principle is to use very fine sand paper and then buff the paint with a buffing compound. Depending on how good or how bad the paint is will determine the grain of sandpaper to use.

Wet sanding can repair mediocre paintjobs that have faults in the them like orange peel. It is called orange peel because the surface of the paint looks mottled like an orange. Ideally, you would want several coats of clear on top of your color so that you have paint to sand off!

It is called wet sanding because water or a solution is used to keep the area wet. The water washes away the sanded particles and stops the sandpaper from gumming up. The water also provides a feedback as the paint gets smoother. At first, the paint will be difficult to sand then as it gets smoother, the surface will become quite slippery.

Here's pictures of my friend Ron wet sanding my 54 Pontiac from my DIY home paint job that was done in my home garage. The paint was even with 4 coats clear and 4 to 5 coats of color. The paint is a 3 part epoxy and was painted about a year earlier. It had a lot of orange peel and was okay from about 6 feet before Ron wet sanded it.

This is Ron's home garage! He's spent about 3 days already on my 54 Pontiac

He started with 600 grit sandpaper and worked his way up - there was a lot of orange peel!

Concentration or what?

After wet sanding, he uses several buffing compounds than I finisheds with carnuba wax. the tape is to protect the ridgeline.
Notice the roof - it hadn't been buffed yet - dull!

The result of wet sanding is amazing. My paint went from just a daily driver that few looked at in show-n-shines to one where the car is noticed. The paint isn't perfect but there is even a great reflection in the whites! All in all, it took him a week to do the car in his spare time.

While the reflection in the blue is fantastic, look at the reflection in the white - AMAZING!

Here's two videos that cover the basics of wet sanding and buffing. The first one goes into great detail on the tools and compounds that are needed and how to use them. It covers the details like cleaning the buffing pads.

The next video shows more of the technique to wet sanding and buffing a paint surface:

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Copyright December 2011 Eugene Blanchard