It’s a fact of life; through everyday wear and tear your car’s paintwork will accumulate anything from little chips to big scratches. Having them professionally fixed can cost a small fortune, so why not do it yourself? It’s simpler than you might think and can save you significant amounts of time and money. Start off by trying your hand at a small, not too deep chip or scratch and then move on to any larger patches when you’ve got the hang of it. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.
Assess the Damage
Before you break out your touchup tools, figure out what you’re dealing with. If the scratch appears thin and white, it probably hasn’t penetrated through the clear coat. If it is body-colored or shows metal, you’ve got a deeper problem. Never try to touch up paint unless the temperature in your work area is warm enough that you can happily wear a t-shirt or thin shirt. If it’s too cold the paint won’t adhere or dry properly. You’ll also need to be in a protected area out of the wind and sun, ideally inside a garage if you have one. Unless the car you’re repairing is vintage and over 20 years old the paint is almost certainly a clear-coated catalyzed enamel. On the other hand, the fresh paint you’re going to be applying will be a lacquer. Where clear-coat enamel will dry almost instantly, you should allow a lacquer to dry at least overnight. If you need multiple coats to build up the paint film to full thickness for a repair, one coat a day is best.
Get the Right Materials
You want your handiwork to be as invisible as possible, so have a look for the manufacturers’ paint code somewhere on your car. Often this will be on a sticker either under the bonnet or just inside the driver’s door. This will help a great deal in finding the correct touchup. It’s amazing how many similar colors there are in any car manufacturer’s palette in a single model year. If you can’t match the color in the selection of pre-mixed pots at the shop, your next step is the parts department of the manufacturer. If you’re really stuck an auto paint dealer can mix you a custom tin. If you’re dealing with large area damage or are more experienced at repairing paint damage, it might be wise to invest in your own air compressor to give a truly professional finish. SGS Engineering have a great range.
Repair the Damage
Minor scratches that don’t go through the clear coat into the color can often simply be polished out with compound. However be aware that this will remove some of the clear coat, so polish only the area necessary or you’ll have to respray some of that protective top layer. If you’re dealing with a deeper scratch the process is a little more intricate. Start by cleaning the panel with solvent to remove any oils, wax and dirt. Grab a fine paintbrush and paint over the scratched area with primer or paint and leave to dry overnight. Then with a sponge or rubber block as a backing, wet sand the area with 600 or 1000 grit sandpaper until any paint standing proud of the surface is gone. Work slowly, stopping often to clean the area and check your progress. Apply more paint, and repeat until the scratch is filled and level. A final compounding should restore the finish’s shiny factory gloss, and there you have it!