HOW TO FIX AUTOMOBILE PAINT SCRATCHES
I wrote the following instructions a few years ago for my book, How To Sell Your Car Fast.
Let’s face it, no matter where you drive, chips and scratches happen. Rocks and road debris can hit the hood and areas behind the wheels creating unsightly marks that turn into rust. Your kid cruises by with his/her bike in the garage and well… you know.
Whether you are fixing a scratch or chips, the task of purchasing touch up paint and other tools is the same.
Step One – Get touch-up paint
If you need to fill in stone chips along the hood or around the fender (or anywhere else you find them), you will need to get touch-up paint that exactly matches the color of your car.
Make sure you get the correct color because there are thousands of them and they look very similar until you put one on your car. Then UH OH! To be sure you get the right stuff you need the paint code. A paint code is a number assigned by the factory to the particular color paint on your car. This paint code is on a tag attached somewhere on the body of the car. Sometimes it is inside the doorjamb or in the glove box, or inside the engine compartment, or in the trunk under the carpet near the spare tire. If you can’t find it go to your auto parts store where you should find a book near the touch up paint display that shows a picture of where you’re cars paint code tag is located.
If you call the parts department of a new car dealer that sells your make of automobile and give them your VIN# (vehicle identification number), they will be able to order the paint for you even if you cannot find the paint code yourself.
At a dealer’s parts department, touch up paint is $8.50 or greater. If your car is 10 years old or more they will probably have to order the paint, so plan on waiting about a week or more to get it. Auto parts stores carry plenty of touch-up paints (usually from Dupli-Color or plastikote), and they usually carry colors for older cars. The cost is around $6.00.
Step Two – Purchase a sanding block and paper
A small sanding block wrapped with 1500 or 2000 grit sandpaper is used to smooth out the touch-up paint after you have filled the stone chips. This is an optional step. Sanding blocks can be found at your local hardware store for about $3.50. A small block of wood will do also. Wet-or-dry sandpaper is about $2.00.
Step 3 - Fix the scratch
It’s possible your car’s finish has some scratches that are just too deep to fix without the help of a body shop, but there are a few things that you can do to lessen how visible they are. A surface prep/polish can help reduce the visibility of fine, hairline surface scratches, especially on dark colors. Both Scratch-X and Scratch-Out do a great job of hiding these imper-fections in your paint surface. The polish will restore oils to the damaged paint and help reduce the optical refraction that makes scratches noticeable.
1. Going AGAINST the grain of the scratch (perpendicular to the scratch), use a back and forth movement with the compound. Don't use so much that you can't see the surface of the paint, because you will need to be keeping a close eye on things. As soon as the scratches begin to fade, you'll need to decide whether you need to continue with the compound, or start the polish.
2. When you have finished with the compounding, use polish to bring the gloss back to the paint. This step may take several applications. When finished, go to the wax step discussed later in this book.
3. For greater swirl-mark reduction, apply several coats of polish. Then, follow up with a coat of wax. This process can handle most minor defects, but if you can catch your fingernail on the scratch, you’re in trouble. If it is a deep scratch, the best you can do is try to fill it using the chip fill techniques described here or bring the car to a professional for repair.
Also see How to fix paint chips the old way