There are essentially three ways to strip paint from metal. It can be done by mechanical methods, chemical methods, or media blasting. The amount of paint removal will be dictated by the condition of the existing paint, the amount of bodywork needed, and the quality of job you are looking for. This article should help you decide which method is best for you. For the purpose of this article we will assume you are taking the paint down to bare metal.
Chemical stripping is just as it sounds. Using a chemical to remove the paint. Chemical paint stripper is commonly found at auto parts stores and hardware stores. There are different products for different methods of application. In all cases, after you apply the stripper to the paint surface you will have to wait for the paint to begin to lift. Once the old material has lifted, you can use a putty knife or razor to begin removing the paint. Although this is the mildest method of paint removal, it is also the messiest. After you remove most of the old material, you can use a stripping disc attached to a drill or high speed sander to remove the remaining material.
Mechanical paint stripping is done by using an abrasive, which can be either attached to a machine or done by hand. Sandpaper is the most common form of abrasive, but is also a very tedious task. A high-speed sander with a coarse grit disc will remove paint quickly. If using this method, be careful not to focus on one spot too long. Excessive heat caused by the sanding can warp sheet metal.
Media Blasting is more commonly used on bodies that have been completely disassembled. Although media blasting can remove paint and rust quickly and thoroughly, you must follow some basic cautions. Only use media (e.g. special automotive sand) which is recommended for the material you are blasting. Observe the recommended pressure settings for your gun and material. The high pressure sand can easily ruin glass and exterior trim. Make sure your car is completely stripped of all items you don’t want blasted. Also make sure to clear the debris from all nooks and crannies.
This is only a basic article on paint removal methods. For specific questions, visit our forums and post a question.