How To Paint Your Car’s Interior? (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On July 23, 2021

Are you wondering how to paint your car's interior?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, you'll learn:

  • How to DIY paint a car interior
  • How much it costs to paint a car's interior
  • Supplies you'll need to paint a car's interior

And much more!

Painting A Car Interior

So, if you want to know how to paint a car's interior and interior panels, I recommend you read this quick blurb that gives you all the necessary tips.

What Do You Need To Know About How To Paint Car Interiors?

Painting your car interior isn't so hard, but there are some situations where you might want to hire a professional. Here are some examples of appropriate times for DIY, and some other examples where you might want to hire a pro for the job:

Hire A Pro vs. Do It Yourself

Should you hire a professional for your interior paint job? That depends on your skill level and confidence. If you are in the mood for a DIY interior paint job, be sure to do your research beforehand. 

DIY Jobs

For most older cars we recommend you do the job yourself because there aren't many electric parts on the inside of the trim to damage. 

Small trim pieces, carbon fiber/fiberglass piecesanything plastic, etc. on any type of car are generally easy to knock out by yourself.

You be the judge of whether or not DIY painting is a good idea...

Leave These Jobs To The Pros

Door panels, dashboards, upholstery, etc especially on newer cars are parts that you might want to leave up to a professional. 

Keep in mind that removing seats and door panels on newer cars requires advanced tools and the removal of airbag sensor connectors from car seats, etc that is best left to the professionals.

Besides, you don't want to be stuck with extra unexpected costs when unexpected accidents cause damage to the car.

If it's an expensive car and you don't have experience removing electrical connectors, etc. then let a pro paint the interior.

Read More >> How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car A Different Color?

How Much Does It Cost To Paint Your Car Interior?

The price for painting the interior of your car is influenced by a wide range of factors.

We'll say that painting trim pieces cost as little as $5 for a quick can of spray paint while performing a full detail and completely refurbishing the interior of the car will cost well up into the thousands. 

Before hiring a pro to paint your car's interior, it's a smart idea to call around and get prices from different body shops. 

Don't forget to check Google ratings and ratings on other websites like Yelp, Angie's List, and Craig's List for complete information about the company you are looking to hire.

Paint Safely

Painting is a relatively safe practice, but accidents do happen. Here are some good safety practices to consider when painting your car's interior:

Safety glasses

Protect your sight at all costs. Toxic paints and the air is blown from the air compressor can be damaging to your eyes.

Nitrile gloves

Nitrile gloves will protect your hands from dirt and chemicals. Consider using nitrile gloves for the duration of your project so that you can take your gloves off to clean your hands when it's time for dinner.

Cotton mask/respirator

We are all familiar with using a cotton mask every once in a while. Use a cotton mask to protect you from dust and harmful chemicals, and you should use a respirator when sanding fiberglass and carbon fiber to prevent breathing in its harmful dust.

Below is a step-by-step for painting car interiors beginning with a master list of supplies that could be useful in the process.

Read More >> How Much Does It Cost To Fix Sun-Damaged Car Paint?

What Supplies Will You Need For Painting Car Interiors?

Here is a list of supplies that the typical professional painter will use to paint car interiors.

Trim pullers

Trim puller tools are convenient for removing trim parts without breaking them. Log onto Amazon or visit your local auto parts store, and buy an inexpensive set of trim pullers.

Basic screwdriver/socket set

Car interiors typically use small bolts(10mm is a common size) and screws for fastening panels.

Expensive cars, like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, use 'star' and 'Torx' bits for fasting trim pieces, and the bolts are often hidden in precarious locations. 

Your Car's Service Manual

Car owners: Owning a copy of your car's service manual will save you time and money. Spend $20-$30 on a service manual to unlock the instructions on the removal of the engine and chassis parts. 

Professional technicians typically use a software program called 'ALLDATA' that has virtually any vehicle's service manual.

Masking Tape/Paint Masker

Professional painters use a paint masker on almost every job to cover up surfaces that won't be painted. 

Your Paint of Choice (Aerosol Spray Paint/Clear Coat/Base Coat/Spray Can)

Spray paint will work great for painting plastic interior pieces, and you can also use chalk paint to paint cover some upholstery surfaces.

There are plenty of different paint options for the interior. Anything from Rust-Oleum to Plasti Dip will do the trick---it's up to you how crazy you want to go, and how much money you want to spend tricking out your car.

Sand Paper

Sanding with high-grit sandpaper(anywhere from 200-grit to 2,000-grit will work great) will help the paint adhere to plastic and metal surfaces.

Tack Cloth/Microfiber 

Tack cloth is treated with a tacky material to ultra-clean surfaces in paint prep. Because cleaning the surface is essential for a professional-quality job, you should have supplies like tack cloth and microfiber to clean up.

Drop Cloth/Cardboard

Use a drop cloth or cardboard when painting trim pieces outside of the car. 

Adhesion Promoter

Some parts may require an adhesion promoter for the best results.

Vacuum

Detailing a car's interior requires a vacuum hose. You'll want to thoroughly clean carpets and seating before performing any type of paintwork.

You might even want to hire a professional to shampoo the seats and carpet before performing a color change like dying the carpets or painting the seats with chalk paint.

Solvent

Solvents like paint thinner are there to help clean overspray and dried paint in unwanted areas.

Clay Bar

Clay bar is more on the detailing side of things, but it is still nice to have a clay bar around for times when the masking tape stays on the windows.

Use some window cleaner and a clay bar to get windows crystal clear.

Lemon-Based Cleaner

There is nothing better than a lemon-based cleaner to clean up anything from window panels to seating.

Air Compressor w/Air Attachment

Air compressor is an essential tool for detailing. For example, if you clean the air vents, you'll need to clean the dust out of the cracks of the vents.

Use the lemon-based cleaner in a spray bottle to wet the inside of cracks, and then spray the dust and dirt out with the air attachment 

Leather Conditioner

Sure, leather conditioner isn't necessary for painting the car interior, but if you are performing work for a high-profile client, you will earn some brownie points for applying a leather conditioner on their seats before you send it to the wash.

Step Ladder

Painting the interior of a sedan might not require a step ladder, but some commercial vans will. Detailers and paint shops always have a step ladder lying around for situations where the job is just out of reach.

Did you know: It can cost anywhere from $150 to $1500 to fix a car's paint job depending on where you go. Just another great reason to learn to DIY it!

How To Paint Car Interiors (5-Step Guide)

Now that you know what supplies you'll need to get the job done, let's dive into the steps you'll need to take to paint your car's interior.

(Psst! You can click on any of the links below to jump straight to that step.)

  1. Identify/remove the part from interior
  2. Clean and lightly sand (if necessary)
  3. Mask surfaces (if necessary)
  4. Apply the paint
  5. Inspect results

Step 1 - Identify/Remove the Part From the Interior

First, you'll need to identify which parts will be painted and remove them from the car.

Removing some automotive interior parts is hard without the service manual for the vehicle. Purchase the service manual specific to your car, and use the instructions for interior trim removal to avoid breaking plastic parts. 

Use your trim remover tools, screwdrivers, socket set, Torx and star sets, etc. to remove the trim pieces, door panels, seats, and dashboard of your car by referring to the service manual specific to your model.  

Some plastic parts are difficult to remove, and it’s all about finding that force in between breaking the plastic and successfully removing the part. The important part is knowing how the part is fastened. Some old parts have clips that will inevitably break when removed, and you’ll have to get creative when re-installing 

Remember, the parts specialist at your local car dealership or parts store knows more than you about locating the right part for your car.

You might also be able to find tutorials on how to remove trim pieces on Youtube.  

Step 2 - Clean and Lightly Sand (if necessary) 

Lightly sand the surface of metal and plastic parts for the best paint adherence. You can use something like 200-grit to rough up surfaces, and it shouldn't take more than a quick pass on most parts.

While we're on the topic of cleaning, you might want to detail the whole interior before starting a paint project. Paying for interior detail is a great way to keep your car spotless. A professional detail will cost anywhere from $100-$300, but it's worth the money if the car is completely dirty.

Cleaning the interior of your car is a lengthy process. If you want to maintain the value of your car, you'll either invest in the tools and products necessary for detailing or you'll pay for a full automotive detail regularly.

Step 3 - Mask Surfaces if Necessary

You don't want to get paint on surfaces that won't be painted. Use a paint masker and masking tape or film to cover up areas close by. If you are painting outside of the car, you might want to throw down a drop cloth, or simply use cardboard to place the parts on.

Use blue or green masking tape on the windows to avoid sticky adhesives. Windows are typically masked with tape and paper on the edges and then masking film in the middle of larger areas like the windshield and rear window. 

This is also a good time to apply adhesion promoters.

Step 4 - Apply the Paint

Applying the paint will differ depending on the project. For example, if you are painting plastic trim pieces, you might want to start with a base coat, and then finish with a clearcoat. Chalk painting fabric seating will involve carefully and evenly applying the chalk paint to the surface of the fabric. 

It doesn't matter what paint you use for the interior. Shoot, you could even use oil paints from an art set to give the dashboard a textured artistic look. The only thing that matters is that you choose the right paint for the surface. For example, if you paint metal, then use a paint compatible with metal, for plastic use plastic paint, etc. 

A quick Google will tell you everything thing to know about which paint to use on your specific, and Amazon has plenty of options. Spraying the paint on with an airbrush also isn't a bad idea.

Step 5 - Inspect the Results & Lightly Sand/Polish

Now that you have everything painted, take a step back and check your results. This step is especially important if you are performing work for a customer because customers sometimes return questionable work.

There are plenty of different products designed to polish interior parts. A great tool for polishing painted wooden panels is polishing compound with a hand applicator.

Be sure to use a flashlight on your project to expose it to direct lighting before calling it done because sometimes you can't see light spots when they are under the shade of the car's roof.

Other Valuable Resources On How To Paint Car Interiors

Are You Reupholstering Your Seats? 

Painting your fabric upholstery with chalk paint could work, but we recommend reupholstering if you are looking to maintain the value of your car.

Dye Your Carpets 

Have you considered dying your carpets a different color? This is a great idea for refreshing the look of an older car.

Explore All of Your Options 

Are you updating the look of your car? There are so many different resources for improving your car. Aftermarket companies make tons of accessories for your car, including engine performance chips that enhance the horsepower of turbocharged engines.

What Kind of Paint Will You Use?

Use the ideal paint for the job. Do your research to find the best paint for the material you are painting. Good resources are talking to your local dealership, searching the internet using the VIN of your vehicle.

Broken Trim Pieces

Visit your local junkyard to win trim pieces off of other cars. 

Going to the junkyard is simple. Give your car's VIN to the employee upfront, and they will direct you to a row of cars that look like yours.

What About Your Car's Exterior?

Keeping up on the exterior detail of your car will make you look great, and it will also help you maintain the value of your investment.

You can really bring out the beauty of even older cars' paint jobs by using an electric buffer to apply correction compound/rubbing compound

Use the marketplace and classifieds section to your advantage

Don't forget to go searching on your local classifieds section for tools and supplies. You'll be able to find things like paint maskers, masking tape, and film from online sellers.

Any questions? 

Don't forget to use our online tools and forum to get a quick answer to all your paint-related questions.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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