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Car Enthusiasts Don’t Hibernate: Cold Weather Car Painting Tips

Whether you want to increase the value of your vehicle so you can sell it, you want to repair surface blemishes, or you just want to take more pleasure and pride in your car, painting is a great solution.

Doing it yourself is not an easy job, but it is one well worth the time and effort. Not only will you save money over taking it to a pro, you’ll get a new dose of accomplishment every time you look at the results.

If you’ve got the itch to paint a vehicle, it can be a long, hard winter between you and a smooth, professional paint job. Painting a car is always a meticulous process, but cold weather adds a few challenges of its own.

Winter is hard on vehicles, whether they’re being painted or not. Salt, subfreezing temperatures, snow, and ice take their toll on cars and trucks. Painting is made more difficult because you don’t want to be out in the cold for hours sanding and painting!

Potential Problems from Painting in Cold Weather

  • • The paint’s film thickness can become very high. If the paint film is too   thin, it decreases the durability and quality of the paint job. If it is too   high, it can cause other problems, including:
  • • Tiny bumps in the coat, caused by solvents evaporating.
  • • Orange peeling: the paint can peel and start to resemble and feel like an orange peel.
  • • Problems with your spray gun and clogging.
  • • Much longer dry times.
  • • Drips and runs while the car is drying.

These are serious challenges, and this is where the professionals do have a key advantage: they typically have very effective, very expensive temperature-controlled spray booths. It’s always a nice 70˚ to 75˚F in there, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will affect the job.

Find a Heated Garage to Control Temperature and Humidity

For the DIYer, a heated, insulated, and ventilated garage is a must. You have to keep it between 60˚ and 76˚, and it is a good idea to have a homemade or inexpensive paint booth in your garage to keep dust and debris from marring your paint job. If your garage is not as warm as it should be, you could experiment with using a safe space heater to get your work area up to temp.

Another suggestion would be to add a humidifier. You need a slightly humid environment in which to work, and as a bonus, humid air makes for warmer air.

Dealing with Condensation

When you have a warm garage, there is another problem you can encounter. When you take your car in, you’ll get a layer of condensation as the cold air and warm air mix. This can damage your paint. To prevent this, bring your car into the garage for several hours before painting. As always when painting a vehicle, make sure to thoroughly clean and dry your surfaces.

Properly Storing Car Paint During Winter Months

Make sure to store your paints, primers, and other products in a warm, dry place. Again, cold affects their viscosity, and this can lead to a host of problems with your paint process and results.

Allowing Paint to Dry in Cold Weather

After your car has dried (which, remember, will take longer if your garage is closer to the 60˚ end of the spectrum), let it sit in your garage for several days. It will slowly cool to room temperature, and then you can bring it outside to brave the cold, if you choose.

If you don’t have a garage, or if you are unable to heat it to at least 60˚ (at the very least), then you should wait until spring. We know it’s hard to put off the job, but if you attack it in the winter under less than optimal conditions, you’ll probably have to redo it in the spring anyway.

Even in perfect weather, painting a car requires a lot of patience; in winter, you’ll have to multiply that patience! It can be done; it just needs to be done as safely and warmly as possible. Good luck!

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