10 Best Automotive Primer in 2020 – Analysis By an Expert

Dings, dents, and scratches!

These three words are enough to keep a car owner awake at night. No matter how carefully you drive, they eventually find their way on to your vehicle. 

Fortunately, this issue can be fixed without having to go through expensive repairs!

Primers play an important role in restoring your vehicle's beauty. In the automotive world, primer is a substance that is applied to exposed metal surfaces before it is painted. They can cover any small surface imperfections and fill up light scratches.

Since there are a dozens of them in the market, it can be hard to know which will be the best automotive primer for your vehicle. But don’t worry, we have got you covered.

In this article, we have reviewed some of the finest primers available right now. We have covered everything you need to know about automotive primers.

What Is An Automotive Primer?

Automotive primers are a crucial part of the painting process. It is a paint-like substance that is applied to the metal surface after they are meticulously sanded.  Primers can be applied either by using a spray gun or a paintbrush. The surface that the primer is applied to usually requires a couple of coats to set in completely.

Primers are primarily used for body repairs. It can cover up severe scratches and can also be used for small touch-ups. As deep scratches tend to expose the bare metal of the vehicle, it needs to be sanded first and then coated with layers of primer. They allow the paint to completely bond with the surface of the vehicle.

What Are The Benefits Of Using It?

1. Allows The Paint To Stick On Bare Metal

Primer acts as a buffer and lets the paint coat adhere to the metal surface. It is a bonding agent that allows the paint to strongly stick to the vehicle’s body. Without the use of a primer, the paint will start to flake and eventually peel off. Rust will start to develop on the bare metal surface over time, turning your car into junk. 

2. It Is Versatile

By using the top-notch quality automotive primer, you can accomplish large paint jobs as well as small touch-ups. Automotive epoxy primer is great for refinishing large surface areas of your car. It is very easy to prepare and apply. Primers are an excellent choice for small touch-ups and repair work. It also negates the use of a car body filler such as putty.

3. Prevents The Buildup Of Rust

One of the most important benefits of using a primer is that it prevents rust from developing. Rust occurs when the bare metal surface of your vehicle contacts with moisture and oxygen. Once the rusting starts to form, it slowly degrades the surface and makes it weak. Primers add protective layers which prevents rusting. 

4. Serve As A Filler

Surface damage on your vehicle is quite a common occurrence. No matter how carefully you drive, minor collisions tend to occur at some point. This leaves your vehicle with dings, dents, and scratches which ruins your vehicle's appearance.

You can use a primer like a urethane surfacer as a filling to cover damaged areas instead of putty. It might not cover deep scratches or cracks, but it is very effective against small imperfections such as light scratches.

Top 10 Best Automotive Primer Reviews in 2020

1. VHT FP101 Gray 11 Ounce Scratch Sandable Filler/Primer

The first automotive primer we have comes from the brand Dupli Color which has stood the test of time for almost a century!

Since they began their journey in 1938, Dupli Color has involved themselves in various facets of automotive restorations, maintenance and similar tasks.

So it comes as no surprise that they also specialize in primers for your car!

The substance covers the surface evenly as you spray it so you don’t have to worry about blotched spots or dripped stains anymore.

Its hi-build automotive formulation can also cover up any deep scratch making the car look as good as new! You can rely on it to keep the automotive parts safe from rusting. This primer saves your time as well by drying up fast.

Once you apply the spray primer on the surface, the paint becomes lighter in color than the shade displayed on its cap. So you may not get exactly the color you wanted.

Remember to give the can a good shake before each use for maximum effect and coverage. Another way to get the most of it is to put the can in warm water for a while prior to application.

The spray will turn out to be more effective this way. If you are a 3D printing enthusiast, this is the top quality automotive primer for your finished plastic projects or parts!

This primer successfully covers up any unnecessary line left on the printed product. As a result, these smooth printed parts can work more flawlessly with other chunks of your project.

Highlighted Features:

  • Hi-build automotive formulation.
  • The spray can primer dries up fast and sands easily.
  • Smooth, even and rust-resistant coating.
  • Covers up deep scratches and lines.
  • Comes at an affordable price.

2. Speedokote SMR-210/211 - Automotive High Build 2K Urethane Primer

Speedokote specializes in products meant for the repair and refinishing of mobile devices. Being founded by experts in professional research and development, this brand consults with experienced technicians to get their product right.

That is why this primer can be used for multiple purposes, including automobiles without compromising the quality.

This particular primer we have chosen for you to consider is made of urethane. It is very easy to spray and sand with this thick high-build primer. You will need to wait about a day before going for the sanding.

If the coating seems too thick, you can also thin it out without compromising the overall quality. It is better to use this primer on another base primer since urethane cannot provide enough resistance against corrosion alone.

Besides, it can give out an unpleasant smell. So keep a reliable respirator around. With every can of Speedokote primer, you will receive the activator which will help the paint to harden up. 

This can protect the base and primer from adverse weather conditions, harsh chemicals, fading, bubbling and similar troublesome factors.

Each can contains one gallon or about four liters of the primer. It comes with a bottle of multi-use activator which contains 32 fluid ounces or about a liter of the content.

Compared to many of its competitors, Speedokote brings a good amount of this high-build primer at an affordable price point.

Highlighted Features:

  • High build urethane primer.
  • Dries up within a day.
  • Sands easily with great topcoat holdout.
  • Comes with multi-use activator.
  • Affordable price point.

3. Rust-Oleum 2081830 Stops Rust Automotive Primer Spray Paint

Rust-Oleum is one of the oldest players in this industry. It started about a century ago in 1921 and is still going strong with an impressive collection of original products.

From their inception till present days, Rust-Oleum has been all about manufacturing long-lasting high-quality paint.

Now it has plenty of options for you among primers including high heat, universal bonding, adhesion promoter, 2-in-1, engine, cold galvanizing and more.

Besides, they all come in three or more colors! From such an extensive range of primers, this model of the Stops Rust series is meant specifically for automobiles.

As the name implies, its main job is to keep the rust away from your beloved car. It is built with a formula based on oil. This premium formula guarantees high durability by resisting corrosion as long as possible.

Like an ideal primer, this paint serves as a strong heavy-duty base paint so that the coating on top of it can shine.

Once you have put it on the car, you don’t have to wait for a whole day or even an hour before taking the next step.

It will dry up within just 15 minutes!

Then you can begin wet sanding or applying the next coating. Since it is a spray can primer, the resulting coating is not as thick as the Dupli Color one.

You can get this primer in three colors - flat red, light gray and dark gray. Each can contains 12 ounces of the product.

But don’t let the size or amount fool you! Each of these cans can easily cover as much as 12 square feet! So you can save a lot of money by investing in these primers.

Highlighted Features:

  • Three shades of gray and red available.
  • Oil-based formula protects again rust.
  • Dries very fast within 15 minutes.
  • One can cover up to 12 square feet.
  • Wet sandable and durable. 

4. Evercoat 713 Gray Feather Fill G2 Primer

Compared to the previous brands, Evercoat is relatively newer to the arena of automotive primers. Since 1953, they have been developing automotive coatings like fillers and primers with their own formula.

The feather fill primers is one of the best automotive primer for car lovers. The high-solids high-build formulation of this primer involves polyester. Such primers are well-known for their ability to fill up the small scratches efficiently.

They seem to be the most capable variation among all spray primers for such jobs.  It can protect the applied coat from shrinking as well.

Evercoat developed this line specifically to go with 1K and 2K etch primers. You will find it very easy to spray smoothly, level the layers and then sand the primer within a short time period.

It is also in compliance with the VOC regulations of California National Rule.

A possible drawback can be the short window of usage after you have mixed the readymade material for attaining better viscosity. This window is usually called the pot life.

Since Feather Fill has a pot life of about 30 minutes, you need to use up the amount you have already mixed as fast as possible.

We suggest mixing a pint of it at a time to ensure maximum utilization of the whole can. Each container comes with one gallon of the primer.

It is available in four shades ranging between gray and black. So you can choose a vibrant primer as the base for your top coating or a lighter one to highlight the next layer.

Highlighted Features:

  • High-build premium polyester primer.
  • Compliant with VOC regulations.
  • Specially made for 1K and 2K etch.
  • Formula resists shrinking effectively.
  • Comes in four colors of gray and black shades.

5. Custom Shop - Black Epoxy Primer/Sealer 2.1 VOC

Custom Shop brings you this epoxy primer which works on multiple materials in addition to metal. So you can use it for many other projects along with your automobile coating.

With this duo of primer and hardener, you can get the finest of both worlds at once! It has been developed to be a high-performance automotive epoxy primer for bare metal surfaces.

The formula contains a good amount of anti-corrosive additives blended exquisitely so that it can fight against the rust formation diligently.

There is an advanced resin technology in this primer from the KEP series. Because of it, the paint settles on the surface with superior adhesion. It is free of elements like lead and chromate.

Moreover, it can keep your automobile surface safe from salt spray. If you were looking for the best automotive epoxy primer for you four wheeled friend, you got it!

Besides metal, you can apply this primer on other materials like bare aluminum, steel, fiberglass, rigid plastics and Gelcoat. It can be sanded easily after a short drying period.

For the finest results, combine the primer and the hardener in equal parts. The combo can also be used as a sealer by changing the mix ratios. However, for that, you will need a reducer. Blend the primer, hardener and reducer in the ratio of 2: 2: 1 or 1: 1: ½ to use it as a sealer.

You will find this in the shades of black, gray and white. They are available in four distinct sizes of 1 quart, ½ gallon, 1 gallon and 2 gallons. Compared to many similar brands, these come at incredibly affordable price points. So you can invest in them for ensuring maximum value at the same cost.

Highlighted Features:

  • Available in three colors and four sizes.
  • Fights against rust and corrosion.
  • Comes with a pint of hardener.
  • Works great on metal surfaces.
  • Compatible with most paint brands.

6. Raptor Gray 4:1 Anti-Corrosive Epoxy Primer Kit

The Australian brand of U-POL has gained global popularity by delivering products based on automotive refinishing. Their primer kits display their exceptional research and skills accumulated over 70 years in the business.

This particular one from the Raptor series is one of their most widely used items. Raptor epoxy primers promise to provide with a tough protective coating on your vehicle surface so that it can withstand rough situations with ease.

It will be more prepared to survive the tricky trails like off-road and marine uses. Its advanced resin technology improves both layer adhesion and intercoat performance.

Like the previous primer, this one too complies fully with the VOC regulations. It is free from chemicals like lead and chromate whose presence can put human health in jeopardy. The primer can be applied directly onto wet surfaces and even the rust developed on it.

You can apply it easily on the surface before putting the topcoat to enhance its gloss. This primer is developed with a formula that can keep the surface safe from rust and corrosion.

As a result, the longevity of your automobile will improve. It also has great resistance against salt spray which was tested for over 1000 hours!

In addition to just a primer, you may also use it as a filler to complete the refinishing project. Each can comes at a little higher price point than others and contains about 800mL of the product. One liter of this primer can cover up to 60 square feet at a thickness of 3 MIL.

Highlighted Features:

  • Advanced resin technology provides better adhesion.
  • Lasts a long time due to better intercoat performance.
  • Protects the surface from corrosion and rust.
  • 1 liter covers about 60 square feet.
  • Price point is higher than most.

7. Dupli-Color EBPR00310 Gray Perfect Match Scratch Filler Primer

With the Dupli-Color scratch filler primer, you can cover up any scratches in no time!

Dings and scratches are some of the things you have to deal with if you own a vehicle. They ruin your car's appearance and if not repaired, the scratched surface may weaken over time. With the Dupli-Color scratch filler primer, you can easily fix the scratches in your garage and avoid expensive repair work.

The high-quality filler primer us incredibly easy to use. The aerosol can give you full control over the surface being painted so that you can coat the material evenly.

It features an EZ touch 360 nozzle which is adjustable. The nozzle allows you to apply the coat in vertical and horizontal directions. Once applied, the acrylic lacquer dries of rapidly, allowing you to apply additional coats in quick intervals.

The product features an EZ touch 360 nozzle. It is a universal nozzle that lets you spray the paint in both vertical and horizontal patterns giving you a smooth and consistent coating.

The product is designed to fill scratches. To use the product, you must first sand down the affected area using a sanding paper. After that, feather the surface and then apply the primer. When the coat is dried apply paint over it.

Highlighted Features:

  • Features a 360-degree nozzle which makes application easy.
  • Effective at covering light scratches.
  • It comes as a convenient spray primer.
  • Coats dry off quickly after application.
  • It can be used for small touch-ups.

8. Custom Coat 1K High Build Primer

Another offering from Custom Coat is this high-build primer surfacer made of urethane. As a result, it is the least likely to be a victim of cracking, shrinkage, loss of gloss over time and common issues like these.

That is why urethane primer is known as the best-quality automotive primer for cars for its impressive durability. Besides, such primers are not damaged by UV rays too much. So they can be an ideal choice for outdoor use which makes them a great automotive primer.

However, the most attractive feature of this product is the spray nozzle. It comes with high atomization properties which enable you with large fan pattern and make excellent coverage possible.

Being a product meant for automobile refinishing, this primer works great on metal surfaces.

However, it can also be sprayed to prime parts made of steel, fiberglass, aluminum and SMC. It works with the same vigor and superior adhesion on both rigid and flexible substrates.

To use it, just spray the content directly to the surface. There is no need for mixing or similar preparation stages before applying it.

The primer surfacer can be sanded easily as well. You can put the topcoat using any automotive paint since it is compatible with most of them.

Each bottle of Custom Coat DTM primer surfacer contains 16 oz. or 1 lb. of the product which is significantly less than most other options shared here.

While the cost per unit is more affordable for this, you will be getting almost half the amount at the same price compared to others.

Additionally, if corrosion resistance is your topmost priority, a urethane primer surfacer like this will not be the ideal solution.

Highlighted Features:

  • Flexible high-build urethane primer surfacer.
  • Compatible with multiple substrates.
  • Excellent filling and superior adhesion.
  • Good coverage with high atomization nozzle.
  • Cost is much higher than most.

9. U-POL High Solids High Build Urethane Primer Kit

U-POL makes another appearance on our list with this urethane primer kit. This set of primer and hardener belongs to their System 20 series.

Its film building capability is as good as polyester. You can apply it on bare metal because of its DTM approach. For finest results, mix it in a 4:1 ratio. If you are planning to include a reducer in the process, combine the three elements in 4:1:1 proportion and use the blend as an effective sealer.

Even though it is developed to be a high build primer, you can also use it as a sealer by thinning the coating. You can sand it easily on any surface, even the wet ones since it does not absorb any moisture. After 24 hours have passed since its application, you will not see any shrinkage.

Once you have applied this primer, you can wait for a long time before putting on the topcoat. It dries up very hard and maintains excellent adhesion properties. The urethane primer successfully hides cracks with its incredible opacity.

The standard hardener is made of isocyanate and works great with the 2K coating. If there is a larger area on your vehicle to repair than others, use this high-quality hardener to amplify the resilience of the primer.

Initially, this may seem like an expensive product since its cost is higher than most primers on this list. However, this is actually one of the most affordable 2K primers in the market! Nevertheless, its performance level is as impressive and durable as its high-end contemporaries.

Highlighted Features:

  • High-build multi-function urethane primer.
  • Provides excellent opacity for hiding cracks.
  • Impressive surface leveling properties.
  • Comes with a standard temperature hardener.
  • More affordable than most 2K primers.

10. Speedokote Automotive 2.1 Low VOC 2K Urethane Primer Kit

Say welcome to Speedokote again since it comes with another urethane primer kit to save the day! It has minimal volatile organic compounds or VOCs which are basically chemicals that can vaporize easily.

Keeping the good name of Speedokote alive, this primer kit also delivers good performance both in terms of quality and efficiency. It dries up fast and makes room for easy sanding. Once applied, the primer maintains the color and shine for a long time, even after dealing with adverse situations.

The superior adhesion will make the topcoat painting job easier for you! It is advised to combine this primer and the universal activator in a ratio of 4:1. So remember to combine only one part of the provided activator with four parts of the primer.

VOCs are well-known for their harmful emissions which can damage human organs and even cause cancer! Complementing the low VOC primer, its accompanying activator comes with zero VOC.

As a result, this combination helps you to maintain healthy surroundings and contribute to the environmental health of our planet.

It is available in two widely used colors of black and medium gray. Each can contains 1 gallon of the primer and the activator bottle has 32 fluid ounces of content. Compared to other 2K urethane primer kits, this one comes at a pretty affordable price.

Highlighted Features:

  • High-build 2K urethane primer.
  • Low VOC with great adhesion.
  • Comes with a universal activator.
  • Impressive color and gloss holdout.
  • Dries up fast and sands easily.

How To Choose The Best Automotive Primer?

With tons of brands to choose from, it can be a bit frustrating to find the primer that fits your needs. We have listed some of the major factors that you need to take into consideration before purchasing a primer.

Should Be Easy To Use

Applying primer should be easy and straightforward. You don’t have to go through tons of steps to prepare the car before the product is applied. Also, you will find that there are primers that need to be mixed with different solutions and others come in aerosol spray cans. Purchase the primer that works for you.

Resistant To Corrosion

One of the major benefits of a primer for car is that it prevents rust from developing on the surface it is applied to. When purchasing a primer, select the one that has excellent corrosion resistant capabilities. They will stop rust from forming even if your vehicle is around wet surfaces.

Application

Primers can be used in a wide range of surfaces. Aside from metal, they can be applied to fiberglass, aluminum, and more. It is important to know that some primers are used for special surfaces. Applying a primer on an incompatible surface will result in the product not adhering properly.

Priced Reasonably

Primers are usually inexpensive, however, there are some that aren't.  When purchasing a primer, it is important that they check all the boxes. Primers must perfectly adhere to the car body and should be corrosion resistant. Look for primers that offer all these qualities at a considerable price.

Epoxy Primer vs Urethane Primer: Which One You Should Choose?

Epoxy Primer

An epoxy primer is a sealer that provides a non-porous finish when applied. It is the first coat that is applied on the surface of the metal followed by paint and topcoat. Epoxy coats can be used on a wide variety of surfaces ranging from fiberglass, plastic, etc.

The substance is well known for its strong adhesive properties. They also provide good resistance in wet and humid environments and prevents rusting. The bonding capacity of epoxy provides an excellent surface finish, which serves as a base for topcoats such as paint.

Urethane Primer

Primers such as urethane are identical to epoxy in many ways. They both have excellent adhesive properties and are robust sealers. However, urethane primers perform better with topcoats. They dry faster compared to epoxy primers which allows you to apply the topcoat much faster.

Which One Is Better?

Compared to urethane, epoxy primers are much more resilient to UV rays. They don't fade when exposed to direct sunlight for a long period of time. The problem with urethane primer is that it doesn't contain any constituents that prevent rusting. Over time, you might find traces of rust popping up eventually.

To get the finest of both worlds, you can use both of them together. Simply apply a coat of automotive epoxy primer and then put the urethane primer over it. This way you will get the hard finish of a urethane primer and the exceptional rust resisting qualities of an epoxy primer. 

Caution For Using Primer On Your Automotive Goods

Now that you have some idea about automotive primers, let’s get into the action. Application is as important as purchasing the right primer, if not, more.

It doesn’t matter if have an expensive or the finest primer for car. If you can’t apply it properly, the paint won’t adhere to the surface and start to chip off.

There are some specific things you need to focus on while applying a primer. Here are some of the important considerations: 

Prepare The Vehicle

This is the first and one of the most important steps of priming your vehicle. You need to get the surface of the vehicle ready for priming. You can use compressed air to get rid of the dust and dirt particles from the surface or clean the car thoroughly before the priming procedure.

If you are working indoors, make sure that you keep the surroundings as clean as possible. Also, make sure you have plenty of space to move around as obstacles will only make the task more difficult.

Cover The Areas That Doesn’t Need To Be Coated

One of the most important steps is to cover any areas that you do not want a primer on. Before applying the primer, cover the mirrors, windows, and the areas surrounding the scratch. You can use large paper sheets or old newspapers and tape down the edges with some tape.

Primers that come in aerosol cans can spread over a large surface area during the coating process. Covering the surrounding areas will ensure that you don't get any of the primers on unintended surfaces.

Sand The Surface Properly

It is important to sand the surface before the primer is applied. Sanding the surface makes the area rough, which allows the primer to stick to the surface firmly. If you are working with an orbital sander, use slow circular motions to remove the coats. Use a grit paper to sand the difficult spots by hand.

If there are any holes or dents on the surface, cover them with a filler and then sand it down. Sanding the area will help you achieve smooth and even coats.

Always Allow The Primer To Cure

Make sure you allow the primer to set in between coats. Depending on the type of primer used, the curing time will vary between the primer types. If the primer is not cured properly, it will lead to poor paint jobs. If you are not sure about the curing time, allow some extra time before it dries off completely.

Coat The Surface Evenly

When applying the primer, make sure it covers the entire surface area evenly. If the coat pattern is too wide, the spot at the center will be thin. Similarly, if the pattern is narrow, the coat will appear as a tight band.  Make sure every inch of the surface has the same amount of coating.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Long Does Primer Take To Dry Off Completely?

The drying time of a primer varies depending on the manufacturer. However, most primers take about 20 minutes to 1 hour to dry off completely. Cooler temperatures and high humidity will increase the drying time.  After that, the surface can be recoated or wet sanded immediately.

2. How Long Will The Paint Primer Last?

The longevity of the paint is dependent on how you maintain your vehicle and care for it. It also depends on the condition in which the vehicle is driven, and also the environmental factors.

The best primer for bare metal surfaces is designed to last for long periods of time. It will allow the paint to set smoothly.  You can considerably increase the life of the paint further by washing and waxing your vehicle on a regular basis.

The paint application also matters. Paint applied on a properly sanded surface will adhere easily and will not chip off.

3. Do You Have To Clean The Car Before Priming?

Cleaning your car before you apply a primer is extremely important. The surface should be cleaned and sanded properly. This will lead to a great finish. Clean the surface with a mild detergent and some lukewarm water. If possible, apply a wax and grease remover to clean the surface.

4. What Is Sanding? Why Is It Important?

Sanding is a crucial step in paint preparation. It removes the top layers of paint removing any light scratches and levels the surface. Sanding can be done either by using sandpaper or an orbital sander. It is an important step that needs to be completed before a primer is applied.

5. How Many Coats Of Primer Do You Need To Paint A Vehicle?

Normally it takes about 2 to 3 coats to evenly cover the surface. If there are thin spots in the middle, you can always apply additional coats. After each run, make sure to give sufficient time for the coats to cure. The drying process usually takes around 20 minutes to an hour to complete.

Final Word

Deciding on which automotive primer to purchase can be a bit overwhelming at times. To make things simpler, start by determining what your vehicle needs. Is rust prevention the top priority? Do you want a product that has excellent adhesive properties?

Priming the surface is a crucial step in the painting process. By applying the best automotive primer, you can achieve a smooth and professional-looking paint job that will last for years.

The products we reviewed in this article doesn’t fall short in terms of quality. We hope our article made it easier for you to make an informed decision. Good luck!

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