Tutorial: How to Wet Sand

Wet sanding is a method of sanding that can be used to make rough surfaces have a smooth mirror-like shine. In this case it is paint on your car.

This method can be used if you’ve recently repaired damage to your paint, put clear coat on or simply want to remove that ugly factory orange peal.

**For this tutorial I used a bumper cover with an extremely low quality and thin paint job. It is not the factory paint/clear coat which is much thicker. This will allow me to demonstrate some error, since I plan on re-painting the bumper cover anyway.

Reasons you may wet sand:

  1. Repair deep scratches
  2. Remove factory orange peal
  3. Smooth recent paint or clear coat

Things you will need:

  • Sand paper 320 (optional), and wet sandable 800, 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit
  • Rubbing compound
  • Meguiars Scratch X (optional) or Scratch X 2.0 (optional)
  • Car Polish
  • Good quality wax
  • Large bucket

WARNING: This process removes some of your car’s clear coat. If you’re doing this process to your factory paint it will be extra important to keep wax on your car to help protect your diminished clear coat. If you are uncomfortable undertaking this process than it is not recommended.

Step 1:

This step is optional, only perform this step if there is severe damage or defect to the paint. Using 320 grit sand paper will rapidly remove clear coat and paint, but also rapidly smooth any uneven spots. If this is not the case for you, skip to step 2.

WARNING: Always use a dust mask which meets the NIOSH N95 standard when dry sanding any material.

If you have a surface which looks like the below picture you may consider starting your project with 320 grit sand paper.

(Figure 1: Before Sanding)

Begin sanding, in a circular motion, until the majority of the surface defects are removed. The pictures show straight sanding which works pretty well, but ciruclar is better.

(Figure 2: Dry sanded with 320 grit)

As you can see your paint looks considerably worse than when you started. This can be rather intimidating, but don’t be to scared. Besides, it is to late now to go back .

Step 2:

Next fill your bucket with water, you will need a fair amount of water to complete the process depending on the size of the area you are sanding. Thoroughly wet your sanding surface and your wet sandable type 800 grit sand paper. If this is your first step begin sanding your work area in a circular direction (unlike pictures). If you performed step 1, than begin sanding your previous work, but expand slightly beyond the previous section to ensure you remove any of the previous scratches.

Do not sand to quickly, you will only tire yourself out and put friction burns in your paint creating more work for yourself. Also do not use to much pressure. Make sure your work surface stays very wet, this will help lubricate your sanding, prevent friction burns to the paint, and keep dust out of the air.

WARNING: Be very careful around raised areas, edges of fascia and lips. These areas are prone to rapid wearing and you will more quickly sand through clear coat or paint. In the next image I have purposefully done this as demonstration. You can see some primer beginning to show on the center ridge of the bumper cover.

(Figure 3: Wet sanded with 800 grit)

Step 3:

Begin wet sanding your work area with 1000 grit wet sandable paper. Expand the work area slightly to ensure you remove all scratches from the previous grade paper. Use plenty of water, and take your time.

(Figure 4: Wet sanded with 1000 grit)

Step 4:

Continue the process of the previous two steps with 1500 grit, and then 2000 grit paper until scratches from previous grade papers are removed. Sanding with anything over 2000 grit is pointless.

Your surface will look considerably smoother, but will still look rather hazy and unappealing.

(Figure 5: Wet sanded with 1500 and 2000 grit paper)

Step 5:

This is the final portion of the process which will give you a perfect shine. Use a fair amount of rubbing compound on your work area, don’t be afraid to use to much, after-all you did just use sandpaper on your paint… I followed the rubbing compound with Meguiars Scratch X, but you don’t have to, then polish and Meguiars Gold Class wax.

If you did everything correctly there should be no orange peel, no scratches and a perfectly smooth mirror like finish.

(Figure 6: Completed portion)

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