The automotive-paint industry is an ever-changing world. When the first cars rolled off the assembly line, they were painted with a brush. The first Corvettes, meanwhile, were finished with lacquer paint. This paint was easy to spray and match, and the results were stunning. Unfortunately, lacquers were also highly toxic, a trait that led the EPA to ban their use in most applications.

Today, many collision shops are transitioning from solvent-based to waterborne basecoat systems in anticipation of new air-quality regulations scheduled to go into effect in January 2009. Manufacturers are also expected to develop automotive coatings that meet California's strict regulations for VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions.

Although we had hoped to use a waterborne system for this phase of our project, none were available in our area at the time of the repair. Accordingly, we resorted to a traditional solvent-based finish to make our color dreams a reality.

When it comes to applying paint, remember this simple, three-word mantra: Practice, practice, practice. It's one thing to read about painting a car, quite another to successfully perform the job. Hone your technique by spraying every junk panel you can find. Eventually you'll build up the confidence to move on to the real thing.

3M Product List
* Trizact Hookit Clearcoat Sanding Disc - P1500 (PN 02088) or Trizact Hookit II Clearcoat Sanding Disc - P1500 (PN 02069)
* Trizact Hookit Foam Disc - P3000 (PN 02085) or Trizact Hookit II Foam Disc - P3000 (PN 02075)
* Perfect-It Rubbing Compound (PN 06085/06086)
* Perfect-It Machine Polish (PN 06064/06065)
* Perfect-It Ultrafine Machine Polish (PN 06068/06069)

The next stage of preparation begins with wet-sanding by hand using 600- or 800-grit sandpaper. Alternatively, you may use a dual-action sander with a 3M interface pad and a 1,000-grit sanding disk. It is strongly recommended that you sand the entire panel so that the application of paint and clearcoat forms a seamless repair.

Tape and paper off any areas where you don't want overspray. Be sure to "back tape"-that is, apply the tape to the masking paper and then fold it back so that half of the sticky side is on the car and the other half is folded back and facing up. Once this is done, use plastic sheeting to cover any areas that remain exposed.