How to wet sand orange peel in car paint

One of the biggest obstacles to a perfect paint job is orange peel, bumps in the paint that give it the texture of the surface of an orange. In this video, Ammo NYC founder and car-detailing fanatic Larry Kosilla explains how to eliminate orange peel.

The car used for this demonstration is a 1980 Porsche 911 from the Audrain Auto Museum in Newport, Rhode Island. Kosilla also teams up with Jason Rose of Rupes USA, a manufacturer of car-detailing products.

Orange peel occurs when new paint settles on a surface. Rose explained. As the paint dries and the solvent carrier evaporates, the solid paint can settle unevenly, leaving a texture, rather than smooth, surface. To get the best finish, you need to get rid of the bumps left by that uneven settling process. That’s where sanding comes into play.

First off, it’s worth noting that sanding requires skill, and is not for the faint of heart (this job took two days of work). If you mess up, you can seriously damage your car’s paint.

Ammo NYC orange peel video screenshot

After washing the car, removing badges, and taping up any remaining trim, the first step of the actual orange-peel-removal process is to sand with a grit appropriate fo the paint job. It could be between 800 and 2,000 grit, and in this case the guys use 1,500-grit discs to dry sand the texture of the paint. Wet sanding discs could also be used. These discs are designed to remove layers of paint, so Kosilla advises being conservative in the grit chosen. You don’t want to start with a heavier grit and leave the paint too thin. Measuring the thickness of the paint with a paint gauge will tell you how much paint you have to work with. Most new cars have between 3 and 6 mils of paint. This car has more than 20 mils in some areas.

Unless the car is a concours-quality restoration, it’s also a good idea to leave “thumbnail-size” areas around door and hood edges unsanded, which can save days of extra work, Kosilla says. You’ll need to follow up with foam-backed discs of a higher-grit, here 2,000 grit, to further even out the paint either way.

The next step is compounding, which involves using a rotary polisher to remove the haze left on the surface from sanding, which should leave a smooth surface. You’ll know the orange peel is gone if you can see clear reflections in the surface.

Check out the full video for more detail on the process and to see the excellent results Kosilla and his crew achieve.

While any kind of sanding to correct paint imperfections is a major undertaking, there are simpler steps you can take to make your car look better. We have complete guides to detailing and washing your car like a pro that can show you how.

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