Now that the car is down to what is actually being painted, it is time to strip the paint off the car. Again, I probably should have just sanded down the paint past the maaco crap, and sprayed the new paint, but I was curious to see what body issues the car has, clear up any rust, fix some problem spots of my own, and it should take about as much time to chemically strip the car, and with way less work. (note from future self: wrong!)
After reading around, it seems that the strippers all function similarly in testing. (some of the aerosols lay on thicker and so perform better, but that is too expensive) You should go to your paint shop, or local auto parts store, and buy a gallon of the Aircraft Grade chemical stripper. Mine has the base ingredient of Methylene Chloride. I bought the Mar-Hyde Tal Strip II brand at Schucks/O'Reilly for $36 a gallon. (Mar-Hyde is owned by Bondo)
This stuff is completely nasty. It will start to burn skin on contact, and though it smells pretty good, (kind of sweet, almost) the fumes cannot be good for you. As the books I mentioned earlier, I recommend being pretty conservative here, safety wise. I wore disposable shoes that I could throw away when done, jeans I planned on trashing, and a long sleeve shirt I could trash. (It's summer here. the long sleeves and pants are to cover all skin.) For safety, I bought a pair of nice thick Chemical-Resistant Nitrile gloves ($7), and a 3M respirator mask that is graded for filtering organic chemicals (it specifically lists Methyleve Chloride on the box, $40) I'm pretty sure all the pink ones are Organic Compound compliant.
The gloves you could maybe scrimp on, since you can feel your skin burning when you get this stuff on you, and you just have to run to the hose and hose it off, neutralizing the acid burn. But I would not recommend scrimping on the mask. You can get them at Home Depot, with replaceable filters. Make sure it is not just one for dust and debris. when it is on, you shouldn't be able to even smell any chemicals if they are right in front of the mask. Just be safe. this stuff drips everywhere, and then you accidentally kneel in it, and it gets on your gloves, and you wipe your hair out of your eyes, and it burns everything. It can even melt though gloves and burn your hands (if you don't rinse it quickly off.) (FWIW - my green gloves didn't seem as robust as my buddies orange gloves.)
Also, aside from burning you, you don't want this stuff dripping into your car anywhere. You have to mask off everything. I decided to just mask of anywhere the stripper could drip. All holes, all seams, all gaps, all window edges, etc. Also note: Everything I've read recommends you go to your paint store and buy a roll of nice masking paper for your windows, etc. I bought a roll of 12" masking paper ($5), that is 55 meters long and barely used any of it for the first mask. You can see here how the car is looking all taped up:
I also taped up the holes from the side strip delete that I haven't patched yet. Don't forget to tape in the sunroof drainage holes just in case. I sprang for the nice 3M tape from the paint store ($4), and the 18mm roll was just the size to cover the gaps of the doors and hood enough to keep stuff out, but to maximize the paint on the surfaces being stripped. I also bought a pair of cheapo 3" brushes for applying the stripper ($1.50 each). I initially bought a bunch, assuming that they would break down in the stripper, but they lasted great over several days. One brush per person will do. Applying:
I've read that you should brush the stripper on and then cover it with plastic so it doesn't evaporate. I couldn't find a good effective way to manage that without making more of a mess, and on some side by side tests, I didn't see that much of a difference. It was about 90* outside, and the stripper was evaporating more quickly than I'd have liked, but where it went on thick, it did the job. Here's what it looks like after 5 minutes, and 15 minutes:
After brushing a ton of this stuff on, here is what worked best. Scoop up a bunch of it with your brush, and glop it down onto your panel, trying not to drip. Smear it onto the panel, trying not to push hard with the brush at all, pulling your brush along the panel almost parallel, instead of the regular 45* brushing angle. It is almost like smearing on a thick layer of bondo. You want to only brush once, maybe twice. Any more than that, and you just end up thinning out the layer, which is bad. You want the stuff to go on thick. After about 1 min, it will start to bubble the paint up. You can look back and see spots where you left it thin. Go back and glop on a bunch more before getting to the next panel.
I did this around the whole car, and then let the thing sit overnight. I think that letting it dry completely and have maximum time to work is easiest, and is WAY cleaner. The paint just flakes right off instead of scraping off stripper that is still working and getting a mess of active stripper in wet clumps on the ground to step on and track around. (ask me how I found this out.) Here's what it looked like the next morning; You can see where it went on thick and bubbled, and where it went on think and just evaporated, not stripping anything. Even this was still too thinly applied:
Here is what it looked like after the stripper was lightly scraped off. The bright silver you see under the lifted paint isn't sheet-metal, it is the factory paint finally showing up:
It took just over half of the gallon to go over the whole car really thin. (I started out way too thin). With it being so hot, it had totally dried in about 2 hours, and we were able to go back and scrape all of the paint off. It was mostly the maaco paint and some of the first layer of factory clear that came up. We tried using scotchbrite pads to scrape off the stripped paint (bad idea, clogged too fast), putty knives of all sizes (OK, but they need to be sharp and the angles weren't the best), big plastic bondo spreaders (5" x 4", worked ok for big chunks, but didn't catch smaller stuff and didn't scrpe at all.), and then the Bahco Tiangular Scraper. This Bahco scraper was by FAR the best tool for the job. Not only did it pull off the stripped paint easily, but with a little extra pressure, it ate into the next layer of paint, giving the next coat of stripper a head start. Genius tool. You might even have a carpenters glue scraper you could use too.
This is the hood starting to get a second coat:
Jesse and I worked out way down the car realizing we'd put the stripper on too thin, and it didn't pull up as much paint as we'd hoped. I in particular was hoping that one gallon of stripper would do the job, and realized I'd be lucky to do it in two. We both ended up scraping pretty agressively instead of letting the stripper do its job, partly because I didn't want to have to buy more. We used what more of the stripper we had left, slathering it on extra thick (covering just the front third of the car) and let it sit overnight. Here you can see the quick work the scraper did on the paint after the first round of stripper came off. We were hoping leaving 'grooves' like this would let the stripper soak in better on round 2. In this photo, the matte Maaco paint is gone after the first strip, the metallic color is factory paint, the whitish color is a basecoat or primer, the black (which was only on the headlights) was maybe an etch primer, then you can barely see a sliver of bare aluminum on the right side. you can also see the tape held up pretty well to the stripper:
Here is the second coat of stripper after it has bubbled for 15 minutes. We left it overnight:
Time spent today: (10 hours = 2 guys x 5 hours)
Stripping supplies: $39
Masking supplies: $9
Safety Gear: $47