Can you use car paint in an airbrush?

So can you airbrush car paint?

Working with Baz the Mechanic today I can tell you the answer is…

Sure can! Automotive paint works just fine in an airbrush provided you do a few things first.

Baz the mechanic father in law text me this very question last week and I figured provided it was thinned down there shouldn’t be a problem and shot that back as a reply. Straight away the phone beeped in reply:

“Great. I have a job for you.”

So this morning I packed up my mini kit of bits and pieces, got the family in the wagon and drove round to the in laws for a lunch of roast lamb and an afternoon of working on his Holden HR Wagon. He figured we’d try to airbrush car paint for a couple of reasons.

  1. In areas such as the door jambs there were wear marks and paint rubbed/flaked off in parts (from rust repair to just age, this wagon is 50 years old) that were too small to break out a HVLP (high volume low pressure) paint gun that would waste paint on the marked off areas. The airbrush would use less paint on a much smaller area and would be ideal for tiny little areas that needed a touch up.
  2. He’d never seen one in action and figured today would be a good day to see how it worked.

The airbrush that I use is a Neo CN gravity feed dual action airbrush by Iwata. Not the most expensive unit on the market but it far exceeds cheap eBay rubbish and is fairly easy to troubleshoot when the paint stops flowing. As an entry level brush I’ve had great fun using it to apply coats to model cars and other projects and even used it to shoot floor polish as an extra shine for finished jobs.

Flakier than a fish and chip shop

Flakier than a fish and chip shop

Patched up for now until Baz decides to smooth things out.

Patched up for now until Baz decides to smooth things out.

And after working the wagon all afternoon, I can now add another string to the Neo Cn’s bow in being able to airbrush car paint. But here’s a few tips to help you out doing the same:

  1. The mixture is key. Usually I mix my paint and thinners at a 50/50 consistency like milk mix but the car paint Baz was using was a bit thicker and at equal levels it provided a lot of splatters and gummed up the Neo Cn pretty damn quickly. After a couple of disassemble and cleans, I adjusted the mix to 60-65% thinners which made things flow smoother and blended in better.
  2. Things would got well for a while but then paint flow would stop even with half the paint feeder still full. Baz discovered the problem here by wondering out loud why the lid to the feeder didn’t have a hole to let in oxygen. Well it turns out it does but it’s microscopic and was completely blocked up. Working without the lid gave the paint plenty of breathing space and stopped the spray limitations.
  3. Make sure you have all the correct couplings for your gear. While my airbrush connects to my compressor in the shed without a drama, Baz’s compressor is probably older than the Holden we were working on and had some interesting connectors. It took a bit of a rummage around but we got the job sorted with three different connectors and a huge length of hose.
  4. For little patches here or there it’s perfect but you wouldn’t want to try and do a full panel with it…you’d be there all week.
  5. It’s not going to blend in perfectly but still does a ripper job in covering up things you didn’t want seen (like a couple of sanded welds Baz had performed earlier..)
Close up of the sanding and 50 years of door frame abuse

Close up of the sanding and 50 years of door frame abuse

Needs another coat but not a bad job at all!

Not a bad cover up job at all!

So yes, after a few hours in the shed I can tell you that you can airbrush car paint with a bit of work. Smoother result than a rattle can and great if you’re working on a car body…be it model size or life size 🙂

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