10 Tips for Spray Painting Lexan Bodies

In the same way you want a clean start on race day, you want a clean start when painting. Clean your hands to remove as much oil as possible and then use a mild dish detergent soap and clean the inside of the body. Dry it and check it for lint. The reason you have to clean the body, which I’m sure looks crystal clear, is that molded parts such as Lexan bodies can have mold release residue. This mold release helps it not stick to the mold, but it can also prevent paint from sticking. Once a body is clean, avoid touching the inside. Pro-Line has a new gadget, the Body Grip Tool, to help hold a body while painting.

This is the number one tip (even though it’s number two in this list) when it comes to painting. Another racing analogy: in the same way races aren’t won on the first corner or even the first lap, Lexan bodies aren’t painted in one coat. The first coat is just a dusting. The second coat is just a dusting. The third coat is, you guessed it, just a dusting. Also, don’t hold the can too close. Start far away and only get close enough that you’re getting complete contact with the emitted spray. Too close and you’ll get too heavy of a coat. Bottom line is I really can’t stress enough how important it is too use light coats.

Want to save a lot of time? Use a hairdryer between coats. Go easy, however. First, I said hairdryer, not heat gun. Second, even a hairdryer can get too hot, so go easy. If the hairdryer has a low setting, use it. Either way, keep some distance from the body. All you want to do is change the shiny wet paint to dull flat. You’ll see it change as you apply some heat. Go easy–can’t stress that enough.

It’s not so much that spray paint works better when it’s warm, it’s more that it works awful when it’s cold. But, be warned, spray cans have contents under pressure. When temperatures increase, pressure increases. If the can is warm, the spray will be finer and spray better from farther away. So, keep your spray cans in a warm place, not out in the garage or shed. While we don’t recommend it for safety reasons, some people will place the can in a bowl of warm, almost hot (not boiling) water. This trick works great, but remember spray cans have contents under pressure, so this could be dangerous. Just making sure the spray paint is at indoor room temperature is enough.

If you’re painting a one-color paint job, the can is probably mostly used up and not worth saving when the job is done. However, some cans we’ll get multiple uses out of. This is great, but used nozzles are the number one reason for splatter. No one remembers to do this, but check the nozzle before painting. A quick cleaning is usually all it takes to get it spraying right. Always test blast it first. It should deliver a fine mist, not sputter and spit.

If you spray your hood white and then spray the rest of your body red, the white will not come out looking bright white. It won’t exactly turn pink, but it will be darker than you probably wanted. This is why we paint from darkest to lightest colors. To give an example, if I’m going patriotic, I’d paint blue first, then red and finish with white. If there were any black accents such as window molding, I’d paint those first. Black, blue, red and then white–darkest to lightest.

When you’re all done, back up your paint with white. This does two things. First, it will help your colors pop and be bright and true to color. You’ll get far better results doing two or three light coats and backing with white than doing three or four heavy coats that will just end up dark and dreary. Second, the backing layer adds some durability in terms of scratch protection. I prefer bright white, but silver works too. I just believe white gives the truest to color results.

If you’re using masking tape instead of liquid mask (my preference), it is strongly recommended that you never use the edge of the tape as a masked edge. Use only cut edges. And, use a fresh, brand new blade and do not press too deeply. Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of bodies split at paint lines because the painter actually scored the body when cutting the mask. Yes, I’ve done this.

I can share a few tricks for finding proper body post hole locations on a painted body, but if you’re doing the painting, just mark them while the body is clear. This will always yield the best results. If you just mark them on the outside, on the overspray film, remember that the marks will disappear when you rip that film off to see how great your paint job came out. Yes, I’ve done this, too. It’s best to not only mark them but to go ahead and use a reamer to open them up. If you want, you can cover the holes with masking tape. Since I do the body post holes first, I also mark the wheel wells on bodies that don’t have molded in trim lines. This is usually only the case for bodies such as oval and touring car bodies, I don’t cut these out yet, but I do try to remember to not just rip off the overspray film.

If you use Lexan specific paint, clean the body first and don’t go too heavy with each coat, the paint should stick. It should, but sometimes it doesn’t. If you’re having problems with paint flaking off, and I some know from going to the track that plenty of you are, you can try scuffing the body to help the paint “grip” the Lexan better. Use a kitchen sponge with a scrubber side. I use the green Scotch-Brite scrubbing sponges that have been around for years. Remember to avoid the windows completely. Just scrub the body until it gets lightly cloudy with swirls, but keep the windows clear. The swirls on the body will disappear when you paint, but if you scratch up the windows, you’ll be left with scratched windows. Also, if you’re using chrome paint, don’t do this trick where the chrome will go.

You can learn how to paint a multi-color paint job here.

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