Are You Scared To Sand Automotive Paint?

As automotive paint is sanded, its surface becomes dull and non-reflective.  This can strike terror into the minds of even the most experienced paint polishers among us.  After all, these guys realize how difficult it can be to eliminate scratches, etch marks, and other below surface defects.  Why would anyone in their right mind want to create more scratches atop the paint surface?!

More often than not, sanding is done to remove scratches or blemishes that cannot be removed via machine compounding.  Sanding is also done to match paint textures from panel to panel (after spot repairs or repaints), or to eliminate some or all of the texture from a paint surface.  Doing so creates a very smooth and level surface, which increases the accuracy of reflection and improves gloss, once fully polished.  By using progressively finer grades of sanding sheets or discs, restoring gloss via machine polishing can be relatively easy to accomplish.

Restorative paint polishing can be done by hand, but rotary and orbital-action polishing machines take the “grunt & groan” out of the process.  If you plan to sand large sections of paint (or entire paint jobs), it’s almost a necessity that you know how to operate a machine in order to completely remove sanding scratches.  Interestingly (and contradictory to that last statement), one of the nicest paint jobs I’ve ever seen was sanded and polished completely by hand.  The paint was a basecoat/clearcoat catalyzed job, so it couldn’t have been an easy thing to do.  Come to think of it, the guy responsible for the rub-out also painted the car (This was his first paint job, to boot!).

Most people that take pride in their cars appearance don’t even know how to eliminate fine fingernail scratches from under their car’s door handles!  This is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, because normal people don’t spend hours upon hours reading car detailing forums and blogs (no offense to those of  you that happen to be reading this post, of course).  Note to self:  Don’t insult your readers!

The funny thing is… with the wide variety of discs available today, a person with no experience sanding or polishing automotive paint could feasibly eliminate fine scratches via hand sanding and polishing more safely than they ever could using a rotary buffer, a cutting pad, and a compound.  I’m not recommending either process be used by a beginner until they’ve had some sort of formal training, or at least practiced sanding or polishing on junk or test panels.

If you are new to sanding, fear not!  Meguiar’s has created the Unigrit Sanding System for automotive paint.  It features three different types of Unigrit Sanding Discs.  The finest grade of disc they offer is 3000 grade, foam faced.  If you are a beginner, start with this disc first, as it is the least aggressive.  Most importantly- click the link to learn all about the various types of disc Meguiar’s has to offer.

We welcome your questions and comments, and thanks for reading!

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5 Responses to Are You Scared To Sand Automotive Paint?

  1. Jason Rose says:

    Good read Kevin! Excellent comments. I especially like your view on sanding vs rotary polishing. It will be counter intuitive to most, but the reality is that sanding can actually be easier and less invasive (less risky) on paint than rotary polishing.

    You went dark on the forums for a while. Welcome back. I’m really enjoying your voice on the web. You have a lot to contribute to detailers and detailing enthusiasts. Your Buff Daddy Blog is awesome. Every time I read, I look forward to the next one. Keep em coming.

  2. Kevin Brown says:

    Thanks, Jason. I will try to write posts that only take a few minutes to read, yet offer something new to the reader.

    Yes, I was spread thin on my computer time, as I spent hundreds of hours learning how to build my site, and then hundreds more hours writing content, creating artwork, and building product pages. There are still some kinks to work out, but nothing I can do. Now it’s up to the code guys!

  3. Barr Theal says:


    Another outstanding read once again.

  4. Chadd W. Lackey says:

    Awesome article. The timing is perfect as I am currently confronting a paint job that is severely oxidized and etched. Having never considered sanding, your article is very insightful and has me considering sanding rather than rubbing my way to a great finish. Thanks.

  5. Lou Spellos says:

    Great article!!!!! Terrific blog!!!!

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