How Long Does Car Paint Take to Dry? – Average Time

If you plan to repaint your vehicle anytime soon, you want to plan for dry time. It may not seem like the most important or fun step, but waiting for your paint to dry is just as necessary as every other step in the painting process.

You want your finished vehicle to look professional and hold up under wear and tear, so remember to be patient and avoid being tempted to skip proper dry time.

This is where we can help. To fully understand the importance of paint curing time, you must also understand the procedures involved with painting a car.

This includes outside factors that impact dry time and tips to get your paint to dry faster. At the bottom, we have included some of our most popular car paint frequently asked questions.


Procedures involved in car painting

Before you can move on to the paint drying process, you need to prepare the vehicle to be painted, select a car paint, prepare the paint, and finally apply the paint. Thorough preparation is essential. Here’s a breakdown of what we recommend to get started.

  • Select your car paint and choose a paint color. You can use many different types of quality auto paint products on your cars, such as Red Spot, Yenkin Majestic, FastDry, and Johnstone’s Brilliant White Quick Dry Gloss, to mention just a few. You will want to consider acrylic lacquer or acrylic enamel, urethane paint, a primer or base coat, hardener, and a coating mixture often called a clear coat. Choose the option or options that work best for you and your vehicle.
  • Prepare your vehicle to be painted.
    • Remove the trim from the vehicle, such as lights, reflectors, license plates, wheels, etc.
    • Cover those parts that are not removable, for example, windshields, windows, mirrors, etc. We recommend using…
    • Use soap and grease removal products as needed
    • Remove car decals etc.
    • Remove large dents and damage using products such as Bondo Body Filler
  • Prepare your paint. Follow all manufacturer’s directions and timelines for maximum benefits.
  • Paint your vehicle with a paint sprayer or brush.

Car Paint Dry time

Outside factors impacting paint dry time

Once you successfully apply the paint to your car, you must resist the urge to take it out for a spin on the road right away. Driving your car too soon can lead to paint imperfections, fading, decreased durability, and other defects. You don’t want to damage the vehicle’s surface or create more work for yourself.

To estimate the proper curing time consider the following factors.

Car size

While waiting for your car to dry, note that the size of the car can determine how soon you will get the expected result. For instance,  it will take a shorter time for a smaller car to dry than a larger car.


Weather can significantly impact the curing time for your new paint job, even if the car is being painted inside a covered area. Humidity, precipitation, air circulation, and sunlight determine how quickly or slowly your paint will dry. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for optimal conditions and locations before you begin painting. This is where it is essential to listen to the experts. They know their product better than anyone.

Measurements and mixtures

While applying your paint, you should be conscious of its thickness and consistency as it determines the amount of time it will take to dry. It is no secret that a thick layer of paint will take longer to dry than a thin one. It is best to learn how to prepare to mix your particular paint directly from the manufacturer’s instructions. These should be included with the paint upon purchase and will serve as a guide as you paint your vehicle. Mix specifically as directed.

Appropriate Technique

Getting the correct mixture and using the manufacturer’s recommended application method will save you time and avoid unnecessary hassles. These techniques recommended by the professionals have been tested and shown to work on many cars. This includes not only the painting technique but also any sanding. So don’t waste your energy looking for a new or faster way. Go with the pros on this one. It will make all the difference.

Additional Materials

Getting the right materials before you begin painting will lead to less stress and a quicker time to finish this paint job. Incorrect materials will slow down the process. Here are the materials you should get for accurate and fast results:

  • A dry & wet sandpaper
  • Smoother
  • Masking tape
  • Car Paint Gun or Car Paint Sprayer
  • Small container
  • Paint clothes
  • Rags

Time to dry Car Paint

Average Dry Time

It isn’t easy to give an exact time for your car paint to dry because it depends on many previous factors. It generally takes 24 -48 hours for a car paint to dry naturally. However, it can take several additional weeks to cure paint lacquer completely. We recommend keeping your car away from everything until the curing is complete.

Pro-tip: Wait at least 2 weeks before taking your car to the carwash or washing by hand. Avoid the use of a brush or soap while doing the first washing. A soft cloth and water are recommended to keep the paint in premium condition. After a month of washing with water and a soft cloth, you can then consider entering the car wash and applying your favorite soap to the car.

The same is true for wax. Avoid waxing or using polish on your car for one month.

If at all possible, keep your car clean and free from unnecessary debris during this first month. Parking your car in a protected area such as a garage is best. Avoid the harsh elements as much as possible if you can keep your car out of the rain. Circumstances for each car and each car owner will vary, but this is essential to the curing process and long-term paint durability.

This may seem like a very long process, but remain patient, and it will save you from unnecessary maintenance and heartache down the road.

Tips to get your car paint dry faster 

It can sometimes be frustrating to wait for each layer of newly applied paint to rest and dry. So, what can you do? There are ways to speed up the drying process. Consider the following.

  • Run a heater across the surface of the car body you painted. If you use a hairdryer or any other heat equipment for this, ensure that you maintain a reasonable distance so that you won’t melt the body while applying the heat.
  • Reduce the thickness of the paint and use the fastest spraying equipment available. Thin coat application helps in the reduction of the time it takes your car paint to dry.
  • Ensure enough ventilation, or keep the fan blowing around the painted parts.
  • Get a paint that has good drying properties. The paint you select can determine how fast your car will take to dry.
  • Finally, our advice is to allow your car dry naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long after a car is painted can you drive it? The choice is yours, but we recommend waiting at least 24-48 hours. Driving your car introduces it to the elements and small particles in the air. All of which can get stuck in wet paint if you take your car out too soon.

It will rain hurt a freshly painted car? Yes and no. Rain can be a problem for your new paint job if it comes down hard and there’s a lot of it. Keep a soft rag on hand to wipe off any areas as needed. Keep your car parked in a covered area for a few weeks to allow your paint to rest and cure. A small amount of soft rain may not impact your paint job. However, keep your newly painted vehicle out of any harsh weather when in doubt.

What if my paint doesn’t come with manufacturer instructions? We recommend going online if your paint doesn’t include detailed instructions or a technical data sheet (TDS). Search by the paint manufacturer and specific product or product line.

Does paint color affect dry time? No, paint color should have no impact on dry time. The most significant factor for drying and curing paint is the type of paint used, and the thickness of each layer applied.

How long does a clear coat last? Most factory clear coats can last 10-15 years if the car is well maintained and cleaned regularly. This includes washing and waxing. To learn more, visit How Long Does Clear Coat Last?

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