How to Mask a Car Like a Pro: Tips and Tricks

If you’re a seasoned car mechanic or auto body worker, chances are, you have experienced masking a car in the past. Car masking is not a complicated process and but it’s a crucial step for car painting and car detailing because it ensures that paint and overspray do not get on the wrong spots. Car masking like a pro is not easy but practice makes perfect and it will be a great addition to your list of skill once you actually master it.

Here are the steps to mask a car like a pro:

Clean the car thoroughly

The first step in car masking is to clean the car with soap and water. The car should be squeaky clean, especially the parts where you will be backmasking because even tiny dirt particles can compromise the effectiveness of the masking products. After washing, wipe the car with wax and grease remover and make sure that other contaminants such as silicones and oil are removed. Tapes won’t stick well on areas with contaminants and you wouldn’t want the tape or masking paper to come loose while you’re in the middle of spraying primer-surfacer or, even worse, while spraying the final paint.

If you clean the car well prior to masking, the paint job will be good and the paint will last longer.

Find the right tools

The next step is finding the right tools. To ensure that you don’t waste hours of work and tons of expensive products, you will need to find the most suitable type of masking tape, masking paper or masking film.

The tapes and film should be pressure-sensitive, easy-to-tear and can be easily released. Messy paint jobs are usually a result of tapes that don’t stick well, so find quality products that will not jeopardize the quality of car painting nor will leave residues.

In some instances, you’d be needing foam masking tapes that perfectly fit the gaps of the vehicles and leave no space for the paint to get through. Foam masking tapes are used when painting near doors, jambs, boot and bonnet gaps, sunroofs, headlights or taillights. If you’re masking rubber trims, you can use trim masking tape.

Apply masking tape and masking paper

Now, you’re ready to do backmasking. Backmasking provides a clean job so a lot of mechanics prefer to use this technique. Backmasking involves the application of masking paper, tapes or films in areas and gaps where you wouldn’t want the paint to get to or penetrate.

The key here is to really take the time to determine what actually needs to be masked and what needs to be left open before you apply any adhesives. When doing the backmasking technique, you need to unwind the tape and apply it under the edges of the area you need to paint. Remember to leave half of the adhesive surface and let it stick out of the edge, preparing it for the next process which involves the application of masking paper.

Assuming that you will need to repaint the whole car for primer-surfacer application, you will need to cover the half of the front and back door with masking paper. Additional masking will be necessary when topcoat paint is about to be applied.

The tape should also be attached to the bottom edge of the car from the inside and use masking paper as a skirt to prevent overspray from being on any of the underneath sides of the vehicle.

Small openings such as those you can find on the door handle and gas filler door also need to be masked from the inside, because the outside surface and the underneath of the door handles need to be coated with primer surfacer and paint. Some mechanics are very particular about removing the interior door panels and masking the openings from the inside, so the paint will not get into the interior of the vehicle. Some may opt to leave the interior door panel in place and use it to prevent paint from getting inside, but this may trigger unwanted paint sprays, so better do it the right way than spend time removing the paint from the door panels afterward.

When masking off the windows, the masking paper should be aligned with the lower edge of the window only and allow it to drape over the window, instead of masking only the glass area.

Now, you’re all set to paint the car. Before painting the car, remember to find the right paint code by VIN. The last thing you’d want is to redo the paint job because the color doesn’t match the original color of the car. While a lot of mechanics are not prone to making mistakes regarding paint codes, it is still one of the most important things all mechanics should do when painting a car. We go by the saying “check twice, paint once”.

Other valuable tips and tricks for masking a car:

  1. Use foam earplugs for small holes. Foam earplugs work well in filling holes because they have the ability to expand.
  2. Never use cheap tapes. Only use quality products from reputable brands.
  3. Liquid masking and vinyl masking are also widely used.
  4. Make sure to lay the tape flat to prevent paint bleeds.
  5. Do not use newspaper as masking paper because its inks can transfer to glass and metal, making a mess. Cheap paper, on the other hand, can stick to the surface of the car.
  6. Make sure that there are no holes in the masking tape and paper that will allow overspray to get through.

Last words

While there are a lot of masking mediums available and the processes of applying them may vary, mechanics should always go for the medium that they are most comfortable with and provide them the best results. It’s also worth investing time to master this skill because no matter what kind of painting you have to carry out on the vehicle, the masking process will always be the same.