How To Repair Paint Scratches – Paint repair options range from simple tinted waxes and As-Seen-On-TV miracle pens to multi-step treatments that match your car’s exact color. As someone who can wield a wrench, I went with the latter and tested the Automotive Touchup kit on my pocket-sized 1993 Ford Bronco. It costs about $50 depending on what supplies you need, compared to $5,000 for a professional repaint all in one. This collection of aerosol cans and sandpaper is as close as you can get to an appointment at the paint booth. Here’s how it works, and whether it’s worth it.
Unless the car you are repairing is over 20 years old or has been specially painted, the paint is almost certainly clear enamel with a catalyst. Artificially hardened by toxic chemicals, it is stable within hours of factory application.
How To Repair Paint Scratches
On the other hand, the paint you use, whether it’s a primer, color or clear, is a lacquer. Lacquers dry because the solvent evaporates, leaving the solids behind. Although they may feel hard and be sandable within a few minutes, they will continue to shrink for a while. Allow lacquers to dry at least overnight so they can shrink before adding another coat. If you need multiple coats to build up the paint film to full thickness for a repair, one coat per day is best. Of course, be safe. The amounts of solvents used are small, but they work in a well-ventilated area. Make sure you degrease the area with solvent before starting.
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The factory paint code should be somewhere on your car, probably on a sticker or metal plaque under the hood or in the door sill. This will really help to find the right touch.
If you can’t match the color at the touch up paint display at the auto parts store, your next step, although expensive, is the parts counter at the auto dealer, at least if you have a car that’s less than 10 to 15 years. old
If you’re in the mood, a car paint dealer can mix a pint for you; take a sample, such as the gas cap or the mirror. I’ve also had great games from expresspaint.com and from their motorcycle counterpart, color-rite.com, where you can order pens and touch up bottles, aerosol or quartz cans or more cans of matching paint.
Small scratches, ones that don’t go through the clear coat to the color, or areas of low gloss texture or orange peel can often be buffed out with compound. Yes, this removes some of the clear coat, so polish the minimum area needed or you’ll have to re-spray some of that protective top coat. Clean the panel thoroughly when you are finished to remove the abrasive compound.
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You will need to get some matching paint. This same procedure can be used to repair primer coat scratches by first brushing on a layer of primer, then sanding the overrun until it just covers the bottom of the scratch. Don’t skip that step: You’ll have poor adhesion and/or rust.
As with any serious touch kit, there are a lot of materials. The box for my black Bronco (color code M1724A) contains prep solvent, rubbing compound, sandpaper of various grits, rubber gloves, tack cloth to pick up dust, pre-taped plastic to prevent messy overspray (like blue painter’s tape for your car), and cans of primer, base coat, and clear coat.
It all suggests a lot of work, which turns out to be correct. I watch one of the Automotive Touchup how-to videos and print out the instructions. I bring everything outside, then pick out the ugliest scratches and a rust spot on the hood. I wipe them down with the solvent and rag, then perimeter tape to secure my beloved Eddie Bauer fender badge.
It feels really wrong to lean into your fender with a bent piece of 180-grit, but it’s what you have to do. You are making the scratch much, much worse before healing it. I am getting large and horrible white blotches on the fender, door, hood and rear quarter panel of the Bronco’s. But it’s cathartic, in a way, to grind it down to bare metal in the name of making your car beautiful again.
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On to the syringes. First is the black colored sandable primer. It fills in the sandpaper scores with something resembling the original black, immediately putting my mind at ease.
I add three coats to all the metal, waiting five to ten minutes for each to dry before applying the next. This is an ongoing theme of touch work: Spend two minutes painting and then ten minutes waiting to do another two minutes of painting.
In this way, a man could theoretically consume several Founders All Day IPAs during a job.
Primer gives way to base coat, which means more aerosol cans. Each application seals in the pigment and protective layers underneath. Between sprays, you sand with finer paper.
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By the end, you’re wet sanding with 1,500-grit, which feels smoother than a piece of construction paper. At each break, you get closer to a factory finish gloss. The final clear coat finishes your work with a glossy finish.
The clear coat dries overnight, and I hit my handiwork with the rubbing compound to bring out the shine. And it shines, which brings me to an unexpected dilemma: The touch-up looks better than the original paint.
Nine coats of new paint inevitably looks better than decades-old factory black. For the job in general, I say, success. Indeed, too much success. The instructions say that whole wax will help it blend. Last step: Give it hell with the orbital buffer and hope it fuses.
Of course, if you’re not going to prepare and paint an entire part of your car, you can try a scratch removal product like Meguiar’s ScratchX 2.0.
Car Scratch Fever
Check out two parts of a Ford tailgate that have been thoroughly scratched. The right was treated with Scratch X, the left is how the whole thing looked before. It can’t tackle the deeper chips and scratches, but the light stuff is removed and returned to glossy black.
To fix a deep scratch without delving into a full repaint, you can also try a paint pen. This corner of my Bronco looks like it was buffed with an angle grinder, so I bought a Dupli-Color Paint Pen to try and improve the situation.
The paint head comes with an abrasive tip so you can rough up the surface to receive paint. Depending on your car, you may be able to match your exact paint code. But I figured with 26 year old paint, it didn’t exactly match itself anyway, so I went with Universal Black.
My brushwork may leave something to be desired (you can use either a pen tip for finer scratches, or a brush for large gouges) but this section looks 100 percent better than it was. the front. Give it a few coats and some wax and it will definitely improve the look – and protect the metal.
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Senior editor and columnist. He is now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are independent of each other.
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What’s The Best Way To Repair Your Car’s Paint?
Many things can cause scratches to appear in your car’s paintwork, whether it’s from a careless driver, loose pebbles chipping away at your paintwork or even some rogue keying here and there. If not treated quickly, deep scratches and chips that expose your car’s bare metal can rust within days and cause serious headaches. Thankfully, Holts has the answer.
Our guide to repairing scratches and chips in car paint can help you carry out a professional repair with just a few tools and the right preparation. Even if rust is already present, we will show you how to deal with the problem and repair the area to a flawless standard.
Many people worry about the cost of repairing scratches like this, but the Holts Paint Match Pro range means you can avoid costly trips to the repair shop. As well as a huge range of over 8,000 compatible car spray paints, we also offer specialist primers and clear coats that are perfect for use on vehicles.
When doing any work on your car’s paintwork, preparation is the key to great results. Here are some helpful tips on how to clean and prepare your car before repairing a scratch or chip.
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Start by washing your car with car shampoo and a sponge or microfiber cloth. Then make sure it is completely dry before you move on to any other preparation work.
You can now assess the depth of the scratch. If you are lucky the damage
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