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How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting Car? What Automotive Primer Should I Use Over Old Paint?

How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting Car? What Automotive Primer Should I Use Over Old Paint?

You’re ready to get your car painted or hey… you want to paint it yourself. From the “how-to” videos, to the support you have been given, you know you can do a great DIY job. But you have some questions about primer. In fact, you need an answer to the question, “how long should primer dry before painting a car?” We have the answer as well as additional information about primer you need for a successful car painting job! 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

What is Car Primer? Why is it Important? 

Car primers are the most ordinary yet important undercoats that are used when it comes time to refinish a car body. Primers are used to level and build up rough and unleveled surfaces. They further provide a nice, smooth and stellar surface for the paint. Car primers have some very unique characteristics. Some include:

  • Rust resistance– Your car primer can resist the formation of car rust. 
  • Drying speed– a good quality car primer can be ready in as little as 30-45 minutes. 
  • Ease when it comes time to sanding– primers can be sanded to a leveled and smooth finish with quickness and ease. 
  • Great adhesion– if you have a quality car primer on your hands, then you have a primer that will provide excellent bonding between the paint and the sheet metal. 
  • Stellar “build”– car primers are able to fill grinding and sanding marks in old paint, fillers and sheet metal. 
  • Great “hold out” car primers are important due to their ability to keep the paint from “soaking in”. If that pain does “seep in”, then your car can have a dull and lackluster finish.


What Are The Two Main Types of Car Primer? 

First, there is the primer lacquer and then there is the etch primer. Let’s take a closer look at both. 

Primer Lacquer 

Primer lacquer is generally made available to consumers as a “high-build’ primer, with a trio of main functions: 

  • To offer a thick and stable coating able to fill the smallest of sanding marks, nicks, scratches and other imperfections that are found underneath the car’s finish. 
  • To offer resistance from stones or stone chips. For example, if you are driving and you have a small rock or stone hit your car, then the primer can absorb the impact of that rock hitting your car. The primer will act as a buffer between the hit and the car. 
  • To provide a hard coating that is able to be sanded to a smooth base and finish- onto which a car color can be evenly sprayed.

Etch Primer 

Etch primer or self-etching primer is generally gray color, and will have a self-etching component in the paint. Typically, etch primers don’t need to be sanded. They can also be can also be used on metal that is galvanized, or on the top of existing primer – able to conceal any minor damage. 

How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting Car?

For the application of primer during your car painting job, experts recommend that you wait about 24 hours before putting your enamel-based paint or base coat. Experts also recommend that you wet sand your vehicle with a 1000 or 1200 grit piece of sandpaper. 

What Automotive Primer Should I Use Over Old Paint?

We did some research and found some auto primers that receive high marks across the board! Check them out below! 

Dupli-Color BSP100 Gray Paint Shop Finish System Primer

Dulpi-Color BSP 100 primer is known for its ability to provide a great finish for cars, trucks and even motorcycles. With its signature and high-quality lacquer finish, this primer offers a thick and durable coating with the ability to conceal and fill any and all imperfections on a vehicle’s surface. Click here to learn more


Rust-Oleum Automotive Sandable Primer Spray Paint, 12 oz, Black

Another car primer that gets high marks is the Rust-Oleum Automotive Sandable Primer Spray Paint, 12 oz. Deemed as a great choice due to its versatility, this primer is both a wet as well as a dry sandable primer. This means that as you paint your car, you can get a great and smooth finish that will allow your car to look clean, crisp and uniform once you apply the color coats. Additional features of this primer include, the ability to be sprayed on a variety of metal surfaces, a primer that provides a durable rust-resistant base coat, an inverted spray feature that provides more comfort during spraying and more. Click here to learn more


Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Automotive Primer Spray Paint, 12 oz, Flat Light Gray

Need another great choice of automotive primers? Then the Rust-Oleum 2081830 primer can be added to your list. As a great option for the preparation of car painting, this primer is known for delivering stellar performance for any heavy-duty base work. With this primer, you can count on complete rust and corrosion resistance. Additionally, when you spray this primer on your car, you can also count on stellar vehicle weatherproofing abilities. Click here to learn more


Speedokote SMR-210/211 – Automotive High Build 2K Urethane Primer

The Speedokote SMR-210/211 – Automotive High Build 2K Urethane Primer is a primer that is a “High Build Urethane Primer”, that is fast-drying, while offering stellar bonding and easy sanding properties. This primer is also specifically designed for mobile repair. You can count on it for a quality and smooth featheredge as well as a stellar topcoat holdout. Click here to learn more


What Should I Consider Before Buying Car Primer? 

Before choosing a car primer, there are several aspects that you should consider. Check out the checklist you should have, before purchasing car primer:  

The Ease of Use 

Repainting a car is a time-consuming task that requires skill, patience, and intense labor. So, you want to make sure that you choose a primer that doesn’t require too many steps in its preparation. You want a primer that is a quality primer and that also is easy to use, straightforward and easy. You may also consider buying a primer that is pre-reduced and pre-mixed so that you are not spending time measuring and mixing various solutions.


The Various Kinds of Primer 

When you buy a primer, you will notice that there are various primers for various kinds of surfaces. Even for metal surfaces, there are different kinds of primers on the market. There are epoxy, urethane and lacquer primers. Each of these has both drawbacks and benefits and drawbacks. Each also performs quite differently; so, you need to choose the one that is the most appropriate for your painting needs. 


Corrosion and Rust Resistant 

When choosing a primer, you want one that is corrosion and rust resistant. Your primer has to prevent corrosion from accumulating and developing on the surface that you apply it to.  When choosing a primer for your vehicle, be sure that you choose one that is highly successful in keeping corrosion and rust at bay.  


Spray or Paint Primer? 

Another aspect of your primer is the choice between a spray primer or a paint-on primer. Primers can be sold as spray primers and be in spray bottles. Primers can also come in paint buckets, like house paint. Generally, the primers sold in spray bottles are pre-mixed. While the pain bucket primers require mixing by the purchaser. Spray primers require just a pointing to the surface that needs to be painted, and the pressing of the spray nodule. But a primer in the bucket requires that you dip a paint brush int eh bucket and apply the primer on your brush.  Decide on your preference and purchase accordingly. 


Primer Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I Spray Epoxy Primer Over My Old Paint?

Although experts don’t recommend doing it, you can. 


What About Using White Paint As A Car Primer? 

We don’t recommend you using paint as a primer- regardless of its color. 


Can I Put Primer Over My Old Paint? 

If you notice that your current paint is falling, then yes, you can use your primer. Otherwise, there is no real need for you to do so. Just be sure that you have property and carefully sanded the car, before using your primer. Sanding is important! 


How Should Epoxy Primer Be Prepped?

You should spray your epoxy primer over a smooth media blasted surface. You can also spray it over a 180 – 400 grit-sanded area. This will give you great and proper bonding or adhesion.


Should I really take the time to even use primer on my car? Is it really necessary? 

Car primer is a bonding element. Quality primer enables a bonding or an adhesion between the paint that will be sprayed on top and the surface underneath. Perhaps you can get away without using primer, but as a good rule of thumb, primer is necessary for many car paint jobs. 


When is Primer Not Necessary? 

While many auto experts go back and forth with the importance of primer, auto primer is vital and quite valuable during the car painting process. But, if you have a very small repair on your car that requires just a bit of painting, then your primer may not be needed. For that very small area that needs to be painted, coats of primer may raise the area on the car, and make it difficult to blend the paint.  In this instance, you may want to take your car to an auto painting professional and get some insight as to the best course of action.