Guide To Choosing The Correct Grit Size For Sanding Car Paint

Sanding car paint is an important step in the process of painting or refinishing a car. It is necessary to remove old paint, imperfections, and scratches before applying a new coat of paint. However, selecting the correct sandpaper grit size for sanding car paint is crucial to ensure that you don’t damage the underlying surface or create unnecessary grooves in the paint. In this article, we will discuss how to select the correct grit size for sanding car paint.



What is grit size?

Before we delve into the topic of selecting the right grit size for sanding car paint, let’s first understand what grit size is. Grit size refers to the size of abrasive particles in sandpaper or other abrasive materials. The grit size is denoted by a number, which indicates the number of abrasive particles per square inch of the sandpaper. The higher the number, the finer the grit size.

The grit size of sandpaper ranges from coarse to fine. Coarse grits have larger abrasive particles and are used for heavy-duty sanding, such as removing rust or paint. Fine grits have smaller abrasive particles and are used for sanding surfaces that require a smooth finish, such as car paint.


Usage of different sandpaper grit sizes in automative

Grit sizes range from very coarse to very fine. Coarse grits remove material quickly, but they can also leave deep scratches in the surface. Fine grits remove material slowly, but they leave a smoother finish.

Here are the most common grit sizes used for sanding car paint:

  • 40 to 80 grit: Very coarse grits used for removing heavy paint and rust. These grits are too aggressive for use on car paint and can leave deep scratches.
  • 100 to 150 grit: Coarse grits used for sanding the body filler and removing minor imperfections. These grits are suitable for initial sanding but are still too aggressive for use on car paint.
  • 180 to 220 grit: Medium grits used for smoothing out scratches and removing paint runs. These grits are suitable for sanding car paint, but they may leave visible scratches in the surface.
  • 240 to 320 grit: Fine grits used for sanding car paint between coats. These grits are suitable for removing minor imperfections and leaving a smooth surface.
  • 400 to 600 grit: Very fine grits used for final sanding before buffing or polishing. These grits are suitable for removing very fine scratches and leaving a glossy finish.


How to select the correct grit size for sanding car paint

Now that we understand the different grit sizes let’s discuss how to select the correct grit size for sanding car paint.

The first step is to determine the condition of the paint. If the paint is in good condition and only needs minor imperfections removed, then a finer grit size can be used. If the paint has deep scratches or paint runs, then a coarser grit size will be needed.

It is essential to start with a coarser grit size and progressively move to finer grits to achieve a smooth finish. Starting with a fine grit can result in clogging the sandpaper, and it won’t remove enough material to fix the problem.

For example, if you need to remove deep scratches, you would start with a 180-grit sandpaper and then move to a 240-grit sandpaper. After that, you would use a 320-grit sandpaper and finish with a 400-grit sandpaper.

It is also important to note that the grit size you use may vary depending on the type of paint you are sanding. For example, older cars with single-stage paint may require a coarser grit size, while modern cars with clear coat paint may require a finer grit size.

It is also vital to consider the type of sandpaper you are using. Some sandpapers are designed to be used wet, while others are designed to be used dry. Wet sandpapers are typically used with water or a lubricant to prevent clogging and to provide a smoother finish. Dry sandpapers, on the other hand, can be used without any additional lubrication.

Another factor to consider is the type of surface you are sanding. If you are sanding a flat surface, such as a hood or a door panel, you can use a larger sanding block to achieve a consistent sanding pattern. If you are sanding a curved surface, such as a fender or a bumper, you may need to use a smaller sanding block or even sand by hand to achieve the desired finish.


Tips for sanding car paint


Here are some additional tips for sanding car paint:

  1. Always use a sanding block to ensure a consistent sanding pattern and to prevent creating uneven grooves in the surface.
  2. Keep the sandpaper clean by wiping it with a clean cloth or by blowing it with compressed air.
  3. Use a light touch when sanding to avoid damaging the underlying surface or creating deep scratches.
  4. Work in a well-ventilated area and wear a respirator to avoid breathing in dust particles.
  5. Always follow the sandpaper manufacturer‘s instructions when using sandpaper or other abrasive products.
  6. Check your progress frequently to ensure that you are achieving the desired finish.



Selecting the correct sandpaper grit size for sanding car paint is an essential step in the painting or refinishing process. It is important to start with a coarser grit and progressively move to finer grits to achieve a smooth finish. The type of paint, surface, and sandpaper you use can also affect the grit size you need. By following these tips and selecting the correct grit size, you can achieve a professional-looking finish on your car paint.