Cars, Computers, & Random Thoughts
Prepping for Paint – TSi Stage 1
Prepping for Paint – TSi Stage 1

Prepping for Paint – TSi Stage 1

A buddy of mine, Nate, picked up a 91 Talon TSi last year. He got it at a decent price with some nice parts included; front mount intercooler, adjustable fuel pressure regulator, manual boost controller, and some other goodies. He had an issue with the transmission that required it’s replacement, but it’s back on the road now and ready for Spring. The only issue Nate still had was with the paint, which was experiencing the consequences of time and being parked in the sun.


Nate put the idea past me and mentioned he was going to start sanding it down to take care of the bulk of the work, less to pay the shop for. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to offer help, and so Saturday morning around 9:30 a beautiful 91′ TSi pulls into our driveway. Luckily, Nate and I had spent the week discussing what equipment we’d need so we were prepared and Nate removed what trim he could. Nate works at the shop that will be doing the painting and was able to get some supplies from them and some advice on how to prep the car. We had plenty of tape, sandpaper, a cheap Chicago Electric sander, and a nice spot on the hood, courtesy of the aforementioned shop, to give us an idea of what they wanted.
I do want to point out that you’ll want some safety equipment for this as well. I had my awesome safety goggles, my 3M paint mask, gloves, knee pads, and ear protection. I highly recommend all of them plus water to stay hydrated and sun screen to prevent the sunburns we got. You don’t realize until starting just how dirty everything is going to get and breathing in paint dust particles is probably a very bad idea.


We set to work taping the car up, identifying what we wanted to sand and what Nate wanted to get later or leave alone entirely. Some of the trim on these cars is rubberized aluminum, this rubber tends to crack and dry out in the sun so we decided to try taking that down to the metal beneath. The rear aero was left un-taped as Nate wants it painted, but we didn’t make it a priority in our work for the day. After all, sanding is time consuming and exhausting. It took maybe an hour of identifying and taping, with a good dose of catching up, to get ready for the real action. I also learned that the vents near the rear wheel well are actually functional, they do… something.


We attacked the car with 80 grit initially, but found it was taking off way to much material. Nate’s orbital sander is much more efficient than my Tool Shop palm sander (yea, I don’t think I had the correct tools for this one) and would take the paint down to metal in a second with 80 grit. So we switched to 150 instead, which made things much more manageable. We were both getting used to our respective tools and the process we wanted to use, so this was our longest stretch, lasting about 4 hours. We did take a break for lunch and some pizza before heading back out into the absolutely gorgeous weather. Sam and Ashley were in the area doing some work, so we got to chat with them and ask for Sams expert advice.


We still had an hour or so of work to get our first pass done. I nabbed Nate’s sander and he started doing a bit of the detail work that we either couldn’t reach with the sanders or didn’t want to risk collateral damage to, things like washer fluid nozzles and too-easy-to-break lower front bumper. This is where I learned the value of a cheap sander. This thing made my job much easier, and in this case the Harbor Freight piece was actually worth buying (I usually would not recommend anything from Harbor Freight). It was cheap and we only really needed it as a single use tool, so it was perfect for this work. Now I was moving much faster and we decided to do a second pass with 180 before moving to the final 220. Did I mention this is a really dirty job?


Though this didn’t take too long with the orbital sander, we were still hitting just about 4pm when we finished the 180 grit pass. Then it was on to the final 220 grit pass, which is what the shop wanted. This only took maybe an hour, I didn’t need to take off material with this pass so much as just smooth things out. I made sure to swap the sanding pads out often enough as we wanted this to be the smooth paint-ready surface and leaving the pad on too long results in paint build up and had caused some issue with our 150 grit pass.

Throughout the process we got a good feel for how the different paint layers showed when sanding. The clear coat comes off as a white color, the base coat is black and you can easily see the change when sanding, the primer is white so that was also easy to see when coming from the black paint. We did 150 until we got black paint, switch to 180 to try and get to the white primer coat, and then did 220 to smooth it all out.


After admiring our handi-work and taking a much needed break, we started taking the tape off and making sure we didn’t miss anything obvious. We didn’t find anything large, but there are definitely some spots that Nate still needs to handle before the car goes in for paint. We weren’t having any luck getting stickers off to begin with and had decided that if we could get the majority of the work done then we’d call it a success. So despite the amount of work left, I think we did pretty well. Well enough for amateur mechanics anyway!


Check out how dusty everything got! Look at the paint mask and you can clearly see how bad it got it, the white around the outside of the filter is the original color. Imagine that in your lungs, eesh.


So that was my Saturday! We probably did a heck of a lot more work than we needed, but we learned some things and didn’t even have a half-bad time. Plus we got Chinese take-out afterwards, so it was totally worth it.
I was hoping to get back to the Laser this week/weekend but I hear snow is heading our way so we’ll have to see about that. Until next time!

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