Having the right tools for a job can make it a lot easier.
However, in the world of auto body repairs, having the right tools is crucial to getting the job done correctly.
Every panel on a car is different. They’re different shapes, different sizes and even have different lines & contours.
Using a combination of the tools below, you’ll be able to repair and restore any panel back to its factory condition.
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Types Of Auto Body Sanding Tools
When it comes to sanding tools, they’re all very similar. Most of them are flat blocks, however there are some differences between them.
The sanding tools you’ll see most in a modern body shop is the Dual Action Sander, Abranet Sanding Block & the Belt Sander.
Below is a list of every auto body sanding tool I can think of, and the uses for each of them.
I’m getting this one out of the way early one because it’s the “odd one out”.
A belt sander is used for sanding, trimming and levelling rough surfaces. In the body shop it’s mostly used for grinding welds and cleaning panels.
To do these tasks, you’ll need 40, 60 or 80 grit sanding belts.
The belts and belt sanders come in all different widths, however, you’ll probably be working between with ones between 8 & 20mm.
Air belt sanders are available at all different price points, however, a good one could set you back nearly $200. Such as this 3M one.
Dual Action Sander / Random Orbital Sander
The Dual Action or Random Oribital Sander is probably the most used sanding tool in the workshop.
Both the painters and the panel technicians use this tool, however they obviously use them very differently.
Panel technicians will use a dual action sander to remove paint, repair bumpers and remove excess filler. Whereas painters will often use a “DA” to speed up the prep process.
DA sanders are great when used properly, but when used incorrectly can cause a whole host of problems.
For panel technicians, the DA can heat up and stretch the panel, making for a much harder repair.
For painters, DA’ing a repair could mean that you cut through edges, bodylines and even end up with a “ripple” effect in the repair.
A good DA sander from a reputable company such as Mirka or 3M will set you back $150-300.
A sanding board is considered to be one of the most important tools in auto body repair.
Without a sanding board, you’re not going to be able to rub down that body filler you just applied to a panel.
Sanding boards come in all different shapes and sizes and are used to shape repairs. All you need to do is attach the correct sandpaper and rub away.
Nowadays, you should refrain from using the traditional boards & blocks because they don’t have extraction.
The traditional sanding boards are cheaper to buy, however, they can prove to be costly in the long term.
Body filler is cancer genic so you should use tools with extraction whenever possible. If you’re a professional in the trade that’s constantly rubbing down body filler this is even more important!
Sanding boards are not expensive at all. You can pick up Eastwood ones for under $50.
Foam Sanding Block
Foam & rubber sanding blocks are very similar to sanding boards, but they’re often smaller and because of the material, are much cheaper.
In the industry these blocks are used much less. However, they’re pretty useful for contoured areas.
You’ll also find painters using these blocks with high grit sandpaper when rubbing down edges to prevent burning through edges and bodylines.
The main downside of these blocks are that while compact, they’re not solid. They’re also cheap and don’t tend to last long with regular use.
Most importantly, they don’t have extraction either.
Foam & Rubber blocks are super cheap. You can get them for as little as $5, or you could pay a little more and get this Dura-Block 6 piece set.
Abranet Sanding Block
These are pretty much the exact same thing as a sanding board, however, there’s one key difference.
With Abranet, the brand Mirka created a new series of sanding blocks that allow for dust free repairs.
The abranet blocks have thousands of holes in them to provide maximum dust extraction.
Using abranet the dust is removed between the abrasives in the paper and cuts the surface much more efficiently.
With the dust being extracted through every moment of the repair, it’ll keep your workplace clean, keep your respiratory system safe and extends the longevity of your abrasive.
Abranet blocks are a must have in a modern bodyshop. There’s no excuse not to have them.
The main barrier is the cost. To use an abranet block, you’ll need an extraction system, a hose, the block itself and the “net” abrasives.
If you want to read more about Mirka and the Abranet system click here.
If you’re already sold on it, you can buy many different types of abranet blocks on amazon.
Pneumatic Sanding Block
Similar to the other types of sanding boards & abranet blocks but this time, pneumatic.
These are great for professional technicians that perform huge repairs on quarter panels, doors and even sill sections.
When using these, you need to be really skilled and also really aware of what you’re doing.
If you use the block on a certain area for too long and rub through the body filler, you’ll have to skim again. For those at home, it’s not a huge deal, but for professionals trying to make bonus, it’s the last thing you want to do.
When you’re using this tool, try your best not to get carried away.
Make sure to constantly rub and feel the panel to make sure your repair is the shape that it needs to be.
The other thing about these sanding blocks, is the fact that it’s hard to find them in stock and when you do, they’re pretty damn costly.
Cheesegrater / Rasp
The “cheese grater” is a tool that you don’t see used much today.
If you skim a repair properly, using the right amount of filler while cleaning up your edges, you’ll never need to use one of these.
However, if you throw an incredible amount of filler onto the repair and forget to clean your edges, the cheese grater can help to trim it down.
For a cheesegrater to be effective, you need to cut the body filler at the right time. Ideally, the filler is solid, but still very tacky (similar to cheese).
What’s great about these tools is the fact that they’re so cheap and can get you out of unnecessary amounts of sanding.
That said, they can also rip & tear the body filler, resulting in you having to wait for it to completely dry and then re-skim.
This tool should be used as a get out of jail free card more than anything. If you have to rely on this tool day in day out, try to get better at applying filler.
You can get “cheesegraters” for under $10 on Amazon.