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How Long Should Paint Cure Before Polishing?

Applying a new coat of paint on your car is one of those cool things you would love doing every other time. After all, it makes your vehicle look sleek. However, isn’t it tiring to wait for the car’s paint to cure before you start polishing it?

Painting the car using spray

A decent paint job should take approximately 24 hours to cure before polishing. However, the paint’s curing time is dependent on multiple factors that occur during the painting process and after the painting is complete.

The rest of the article will highlight the various factors determining how long it takes to cure paint before polishing.

Factors That Determine Paint’s Curing Time

Spray painting a part of the car

If you think about it, the curing time of various cars cannot be the same.

For example, the curing time for a small car cannot be similar to that of a big car. Furthermore, leaving your painted car outside to dry can impact its curing time since it is exposed to various weather conditions, which are different in every location.

Let’s see how different factors impact your paint job’s curing time.

Different Weather Elements

Various weather elements will impact your paint’s curing time. These include temperature, humidity, and ventilation. As such, you should consider these elements when using a paint spray booth.


The laws of physics are applicable in different situations, including painting. High temperature causes particles to move fast in the air, while low temperatures lead to slow-moving particles. So, how does this affect paint’s curing time?

Paint contains various particles that are affected by the current air temperature. As mentioned, high temperature increases the kinetic energy of the wet paint particles, causing them to move rapidly. Ultimately, it thins the coat, thus decreasing the paint’s curing time. However, extreme temperatures may cause the paint to have blisters after drying.

In contrast, a low temperature causes the paint particles to have low molecular energy, making them huddle because they are moving slowly. Eventually, this thickens the paint, increasing the paint’s curing time and may result in sagging of the paint.

The rule of thumb is that paint should cure between 65 and 70 degrees (18°C and 21°C) for best results.


Humidity is the existence of water vapor in the air; high humidity increases the quality of water in the paint. Ultimately, this water will take longer to evaporate, thus increasing the paint’s curing time.

Additionally, high humidity causes surfactant leaching, leading to brown streaks on the paint. This may also impact the paint’s protective qualities.

For those painting the car outside after the rains, low temperatures and high humidity can lead to a longer curing time than in a paint spray booth. The condensed rainwater also increases the paint’s solvent, which may damage the paint’s finishing.

To achieve the best curing time without damaging the paint, the humidity should be between 45% to 50%


You should place the car in an area with good ventilation. The airflow around the vehicle causes it to cure faster since it aids in eliminating the moisture in the paint. The best place to place the car for those painting outside would be under a shade.

However, those using a paint spray booth may need large fans to achieve the desired airflow.

Type of Paint Used

Let’s first differentiate between drying and curing paint.

Paint drying occurs when the paint’s solvents evaporate, and it may seem dry even though it is not completely dry. In contrast, paint curing occurs when the paint is hard, making it completely dry.

Thus, given that there are many paints on the market, the type used on your car determines its curing and drying time. Paint is classified into latex-based paints and oil-based paints.

  • Latex-based paints contain water and have a pigment and a binder. They have a slow curing time becas from the outside, thus taking longer to dry from the inside. However, they have a shorter drying time than oil-based paints.
  • Oil-based paints contain natural oils, such as linseed oil, a pigment, and a resin. These paints have a lower curing time than latex-based paints because the resin is within a solvent thinner, which evaporates to form a hard coating.

For instance, you may purchase acrylic paints like Rust-Oleum Automotive Acrylic Lacquer Spray. They are oil-based paints and dry in 20 minutes. They are also economical as they cover between 8-10 square feet (0.7-0.9 square meter) per can.

Type of Curing Method Used

The curing method used depends on your desired curing time and the quality of your final result. The two main curing methods used are convection curing and infrared curing.

From a scientific standpoint, convection occurs when air particles with more heat energy replace the particles with less energy. Let’s apply this scientific theory to paint curing.

A paint curing situation entails leaving the car in the paint spray booth and supplying hot air. The hot air will circulate in the booth, causing the paint chemicals to react, which increases the paint’s curing time.

However, infrared curing takes a shorter time than convection curing. The painted car is placed in the paint spray booth containing several infrared panels that use radiation energy. Radiation temperature is usually high, thus can reach the car’s tough surfaces.

The main benefit of radiation curing over convection curing is that it can be regulated to achieve the optimal temperature.

Paint Measurements and Mixtures

The paint’s mixture and thickness may affect its curing time. For instance, latex-based paints mixed with a lot of water take less time to cure because the water will evaporate, leaving it to form a hard coating.

In contrast, thick paints will take longer to cure than thin ones.


The amount of time it takes for paint to cure is not definitive. This is because it is dependent on various factors such as:

  • Weather elements
  • The paint used
  • The curing method applied
  • The paint’s measurements and mixtures

However, if these factors are maintained, the paint should take 24 hours to cure before polishing. It may seem impossible to consider these factors before commencing the paint job. However, a good paint spray booth may factor in these elements, thus ensuring your paint cures within the shortest time.

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CarCareReport dot com first published this article on Sep 16, 2022..

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