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Auto Body Tools and Supplies
Using professional grade Auto Body Tools and Supplies will only enhance the outcome of any auto body and paint project. Browse a selection of chemicals, body fillers and tools that are used for doing Auto Body Work.
- spray paint guns
- sanding equipment and tools
- hand sanding tools
- dent repair
- metal work
- auto body stands
- protective gear
- Paint booth alternative
- body fillers
- paints - primers - solvents
- spray gun alternative
- air compressors and accessories
Spray Paint Guns
There are a variety of spray guns due to many types of paint jobs and projects you may encounter. Below are some of my top pick for gravity, siphon, touch up and pressure feed spray guns. If you are not that experienced using spray guns, you will want to pay attention to cup sizes and tip sizes. A 1.4mm tip is most common and an all around great tip for doing base-coat clear coat jobs.
However you may need bigger tips for heavy primers or even doing a metal-flake job. You will also find touch up guns for doing small repairs, I have also included undercoating guns and remote sprayers. Remote sprayers are great if you are painting large vehicles or need to spray upside down.
You can learn more about using a spray gun and how to set it up, to spray the way you want. Discover it in my book, "Auto Body Repair Guide and Tips".
There are many ways to mask a vehicle off when you primer and paint. Below is a list of the most common supplies I use, as many other body shops use. There are many kinds of tapes, some that stick really well and others that stick less. Green tape is the best when it comes to doing auto body, because it doesn't leave a glue residue and works great for doing striping and two-tones.
The yellow tape is really more of a generic of the green and works just as well, and it is usually cheaper. Blue tape is usually more for doing house and carpentry work but you can use it in automotive. Just don't use it on final sprays and finishes. It really doesn't stick all that well but that can be useful at times.
The tan color tapes are great for quick primer jobs, better for spot repairs. It is best used for taping your masking papers together. You can use it like the other tapes, however, remove it after you have sprayed your primer. Solvents, heat, cold, water and sunlight effect the glue and it makes the tape hard to get off or allows the glue to stick to the vehicle. The rest are plastics and papers, along with the needed and helpful accessories.
Abrasives and Sandpapers
Body prep, shaping and block sanding rely heavily on abrasives. Metals have to be sanded or ground in order to prepare it for body fillers or to remove damages and or rust. Body fillers require an aggressive sandpaper to level them. Primers require to be sanded with various finer grit sandpapers. This is to level and smooth the surface, to prepare it for sealer and top coat.
Scuffy pads are a handy mild abrasive to replace using rigid aggressive sandpapers. Plus provides the ability to get into nooks and cranny's. Grinding stones and disc are used to dress metal and welds. Abrasive wheels and wire brushes are excellent for removing rust and corrosion debris.
The finer papers that are from 1000 grit and up are used to sand the paint before painting. This process is to create a more slick and mirror finish rather than just rubbing it or buffing. Color sanding also removes those little nibs of dust and dirt that can be common in a paint job.
Be sure to use the right abrasive for the job you are working on. One tip is to never use stones, disc or sandpapers that creates excessive cuts into the surface you plan on filling or priming. Deep cuts tend to cause fillers to shrink in them and show up in the finished product. For a better understanding, be sure to get a copy of my "Auto Body Repair Guide and Tips".
Sanding Equipment and Tools
Abrasives are required in auto body repair, however you often need tools to use them. Since auto body is a mix of art and procedure, you need the right kind of equipment to make the project much easier. Having a "Dual Action Sander" is a must. No matter if it is pneumatic or electric, sanding down an area or an entire car, this is the tool to use.
Using an "Air File" is perfect for when working a wide spread of body filler on a panel to completely level it wave-less. For bare metal prep and rust elimination, grinders big or small, makes the job professional and quick. You will learn quickly that auto body work is a lot of sanding. Either by hand or machine, tools make the sanding process much easier.
Hand Sanding Tools
Hand sanding is what makes any vehicle look slick. It is like being a sculptor, you carve the shape of your vehicle. You make the curves rounded, the flat areas wave-less and enhance the body lines. In the end, gives that vehicle a show job look.
In body work, you mostly start off using a sander to prepare the area you are working. However when you get closer to the finished product, you hand sand. Hand sanding allows you to perfect the surface to be true and level. It also removes any scratches left over by a machine. Using sanding blocks allows you do get all body lines, curves and shapes fine tuned to a better than factory look.
Having the right kind of sanding blocks and tools will make your job easier and more professional. You never want to sand with your bare hand as that can put uneven sand marks in the end finish.
You often hear the phrase, "Just Hammer It Out" when body work is mentioned. Sometimes you do hammer out dents but that isn't always the solution. I have seen people make dents many times worse when they get out their trusty carpentry hammer and start banging away.
Working metal to remove dents takes some thought and patience. You can't always get behind a panel to knock it out. Luckily they make tools for pulling the metal out without having to drill holes in it.
There are also methods for removing dents without hurting the paint. This means you can fix the dent without having to repaint. As the old saying goes, "the right tools for the right job".
Metal Working Tools
There are those that are intimidated by sheet metal on a car. Maybe not so much to replacing a part that unbolts but replacing a quarter panel, door skin or replacing a top. Quarter panels seem less of a scare as cutting out a section and installing a patch panel isn't so scary. But to look for every spot weld to drill out for removal of a whole section can be a challenge.
Fortunately, they make tools for these kinds of task and all it takes is just to get in there and do it. Anything in body work takes time and patience, and is not a job you rush at. Just think of a welded in panel as a bolted in panel. The only difference is that you cut the welds out instead of unscrewing a bolt.
Watch my YouTube video on removing a radiator support. I am always asked in the comments if they get it cut out, can they use bolts to put it back in. Often it is because they don't have a welder, others are just afraid of trying to weld. I most cases, bolts can be used, but welding is still going to be your best option. But the point to that is referencing, spot welds are like another version of bolts.
Get the correct tools, and auto body metal works is not that hard. Always work at you own pace and take your time. If you get stuck, reach out and ask someone.
Auto Body Stands
When painting an entire car, you usually leave the car all in one piece. There are some people that like to take the older cars upon a restoration and paint each part separately. I am not a big fan of that process, especially if you are painting with a metallic or pearl topcoat. Even some solid colors will show a slight difference in color matching if painted separately.
When restoring, repairing or even prepping a new body part with primer, having it apart and doing that separately is fine. Although there are many opportunities to paint just parts, especially bumper covers. Having stands or tools that hold and lock these parts still while you work them, prime and paint them is a must. Trying to work any body part on the floor or leaned up against a wall just sucks.
To do the job right, you want to ensure that all the edges have been scuffed, sanded and primed. Many times you need to prep, prime or paint both sides at the same time. Having stands is just a must for any type of restoration or where you are going to be pulling the car all apart for body work, priming and painting.
Protective Apparel and Gear
When doing auto body work, safety should be your first concern. Grinding and using hammers and chisels can be dangerous. Not only from metal flakes going into your eyes, but just using the equipment as well. However all the dust that comes from grinding. Sanding body fillers and painting can cause all sorts of issues inside your body.
You should always wear chemical resistant gloves whenever you are mixing any type of primers or paints. Even when you are cleaning your gun, you need to be wearing gloves. Be in a well ventilated area and wearing a mask. Most cleaning solvents have toluene. this chemical can shrink your brain, cause neurological problems, kidney issues or create lung cancers. Paints with activators are even worse, so always wear breathing filters around these type of materials.
You also want to wear at least a Tyvek suit when painting and a full mask or goggles. The reason for covering your body as much as you can when painting. The chemicals that can harm you can penetrate through your skin and eyes. Better to be safe than sorry...
Paint Booth Alternative
Having a real professional paint booth for a body and paint man would be a dream come true. You can control your over-spray from your surrounding area and practically paint and let it go without buffing.
Unfortunately paint booths are expensive and hard to justify if you are only going to paint one or two cars. The other issue is having a place to put it. However if you are going to spend the time and money in painting a car, which isn't cheap. You will want the best conditions to spray it. There are alternatives for paint booths. I painted in a basement garage for years turning out high quality show jobs on valuable cars.
I built plastic roll down walls and used wood to secure the plastic to the floor. Sprayed the walls with booth tack, setup air intake filtered vents and a variable speed exhaust fan. Even had a filtration system on my exhaust so I didn't get paint residue on my house or my neighbor's property.
I have also painted in portable garages, where my customers paid me to paint at their location. We setup portable garages like a paint booth and it worked really well. On the next page, you will find most of what you need to setup your own booth. For those that are wanting to get into automotive painting more professionally, I have provided resources for real professional paint booth as well. Read full details of setting up a booth and how they work from my book, "Auto Body Repair Guide and Tips".
Paint detailing can make the difference of an OK paint job to a show car look. Even when your paint job comes out like a million dollars right out of the booth, it needs detailing. As you are spraying, the booth fogs up and that fog of over-spray lands right back into wet paint. Most blends back in but often still needs to be rubbed out.
I prefer color sanding the paint by hand. Using palm sanders can leave micro scratch marks that can be found in the right lighting. Hand sanding takes longer but you get such a nice finish. I use the 3M three part compound system for buffing and I love the results. Still being old school, I like to use a wool buffing pad first with the heavier compound. Then I sponge the rest of it out as I go along. The end results can be seen HERE.
Body Fillers and Accessories
Body fillers are really supposed to be used for minor imperfections and waves. However, there are people that think that this is the media to use for sculpting. I don't know how many older cars I go to work on and find the body filler over an inch thick in places. Even worse, is to see people cover up rusted areas with fillers. Fillers should never be any more than 1/4 inch thick. That is why you work the metal first. You do your best to get the metal back to where it was originally. Use fillers to level the waves, mild scratches and imperfections. Then you use glazing putty to ensure that the filler has no waves.
There are many types of fillers. Fiberglass with short and long strands. Aluminum based fillers that work best on metal surfaces. There are lightweight fillers, which is most commonly used. Then there is glazing putties. Fiberglass and metal to metal are great to apply over welded areas. Lightweight fillers are best to spread over a wider area. most of it will be sanded off and leave you with a wave-less surface. Glazing putty is great to double up on eliminating mild waves. It is also great for filling little pinholes and really mild scratches.
Whenever applying fillers, if it is a thick layer, you may want to use tools like a cheese grater made for body fillers. You can shave off the excess before the filler hardens. A newer method of installing patch panels is to use panel bonding epoxies. View the list of products mentioned.
Paints, Primers and Solvents
It is always important to wipe your surfaces down before applying any kind of coating to it. Grease, waxes and dirt's can keep primers, sealer and paints from bonding to the surfaces. Enamel reducers are great for removing these types of contamination's. You should always wipe your finished primer surfaces down before applying sealers and top-coats. This ensures good adhesion and a long lasting job.
The best primers to use today are urethane. They build up great and resist shrinking as the old lacquers use to do. With sealers, you want to use a urethane base and color shading. Color shading just means to use black, gray or white sealers. This aids in maximizing coverage of your top-coat.
Everyone has their own opinion on what is the best brand paint, even people that have never painted before. Most paints today are pretty good but here is a tip on knowing bad paint. If it has long flash times or a long dry time, not so great of a paint. A good paint or clear will flash quickly and dry quickly. Also, you will know when you go to color sand your top-coat. If it is like concrete and sanding and buffing are difficult, you know you got you some bad paint. I have listed some great products, which I have used all at one time or another.
Spray Gun Alternative
There are many type of small to minor auto body repair jobs. If you are a DIY type person and just want to accomplish a one or two time repair. You may not want to invest in all the equipment a professional body shop would have. Spray guns and air compressors are common to use when doing Auto Body and Paint. However, this type of equipment can run more money than the actual small auto body repair cost. It wouldn't make sense to spend a lot of money in equipment for a one time repair.
I have already listed alternative sanding equipment to air sanders. Electric sanders are becoming more popular and not that expensive. However, to spray primer and paint, require more than just a spray gun, you also have to have a compressor. Both a gun and compressor can be expensive.
Automotive Touchup has grown to become the nation’s leading provider of specialty automotive aerosol spray paint cans, touch up bottles, pens and more. They have excellent color matching and offer great clears for a better than factory look.
What ATU Offers
Aerosols are a great alternative to using a spray gun. Today's spray can paints are leaps and bounds above what they used to be. Spray can paint formulas are better, in fact it is the same paint you would put in a spray gun. Aerosol clears are fantastic, they even offer a 2K urethane clear which is the exact same as what you put in a spray gun. The best part is they spray almost as well as a spray gun, so you have control over how to apply the paint.
Automotive Touchup offers a complete line of paint and body supplies. Primer, base-coats, clears, touch up bottles, touch up paint pens, abrasives, applicators, guns, spray can guns, how to videos and more.
All is required of you is to supply your paint code and they will mix a perfect match and place it in an aerosol. It really can't get any easier than that. If you are not sure where your paint code is, they can help you to locate it as well.
Automotive Touchup offers everything you need to make small repairs, to a complete full paint job.
Recommendation: For the best long lasting finish, always use the 2K Urethane Clear. No matter using Aerosol or Spray Gun. Regular air dry clears are fine for short term repairs or shooting door jambs and such. Activated clears, (2K), are far superior to resisting UV Rays and the natural elements.
Air Compressors and Accessories
Every shop no matter auto body or auto mechanics, needs an Air Compressor. Many of your tools will be pneumatic and there are just too many times you need compressed air for other things.
When it comes to automotive air compressor needs, "size does matter". If you are doing home projects, like working on your car from time to time. Or if the jobs are minor to medium repairs, a smaller compressor should be all you need. However, the more volume of work you turn out a day, or the type of work you do, will determine how big a compressor you'll need.
If you are doing body work and painting many cars a week, you will want at least a 7.5 hp and 80 gallon compressor. You would need to have an even larger compressor, if you work on heavy equipment. Lesson learned for myself, don't start off with too small a compressor trying to save a penny. I did that and destroyed my fist compressor. I was turning out 15 cars a week, all on my own in my shop. That killed my 3hp 30 gallon compressor in the first month.