Time to repaint or retouch? Here’s a basic primer on auto body paint.
While repainting your vehicle yourself is doable, it’s mighty challenging, even for experienced do-it-yourselfers. Minor touch ups are easier to tackle. Either way, understanding the steps involved in the auto body painting process can come in handy when choosing a professional paint and body shop.
Sooner or later, a pebble or some other debris from the road will chip your car’s paint. If the affected area is smaller than a pencil eraser, you can use car touch-up paint to repair the damage yourself. This is not something to rush through, however. For best results, give the process all the time it needs.
The key to matching your vehicle’s auto body paint color is to use the manufacturer’s color code. It can usually be found on the vehicle certification or service parts identification plate or sticker. Look on the driver-side or passenger-side door jamb, in the glove box, under the trunk lid or on the spare tire cover.3
Start by washing the car and letting it air dry. Next, apply wax remover to the chipped area. Finally, lightly sand the chip with 220-grit sandpaper so the paint will bond.
If the chip reaches down into bare metal apply a thin layer of primer, spreading it around the chip with a tiny brush. Primer is only needed for deep chips because regular car paint will not adhere to exposed bare metal.
Apply some of the car touch-up paint to an area on the car that isn't visible, such as the lip under a door. Make sure the paint you've purchased is compatible with your existing auto body paint and matches the original color to your satisfaction.
Shake the paint well, and then shake it some more. Using a tiny brush or matchstick, spread 2 to 3 layers of the car touch-up paint on the chipped area. When you’re finished, the touched-up spot should appear elevated above the rest of the paint. Wait at least 24 hours for the paint to cure before continuing the process.6: Finish the surface
Unless you have spray-painting experience and professional equipment, it’s best to leave this job to a paint and body shop. What follows is a brief overview to acquaint you with the steps involved in the auto painting process.
Step 1: Cleaning
- Remove any wax or grease
- Wash the exterior thoroughly with mild soap and water
Step 2: Sanding
- Use a tough-grit sandpaper on any rough surface areas
- Use a fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the entire surface
- Fill small dips or holes in the surface with putty
- When dry, sanding them level with the rest of the surface
- Wipe away any residue with a clean, lint-free cloth
Tip: Make sure the vehicle is 100% clean. Even a tiny amount of dust or road film left on the body can cause a flaw in the primer coat.
Step 3: Masking
- Make sure car is totally dry
- Use masking paper and tape to cover any sections that won’t be primed
Step 4: Priming
- Seal and protect the surface of the vehicle with primer
- Use a spray painter for even coating—work in long overlapping strokes
- Allow the primer paint to dry completely
- Sand primed area with fine sandpaper
- Wipe away any residue with a clean, lint-free clot
Tip: Always wear an air mask and goggles when spray painting. Also, cover any exposed skin.
Step 4: Applying the basecoat/clearcoat
- Apply the basecoat color with a spray painter and let dry
- Sand and apply a second coat of color with a spray painter and let dry
- Apply a coat of clearcoat with a spray painter and let dry
- Sand and apply a second coat of clearcoat with a spray painter and let dry
Step 5: Buffing
- Buff the repaired area or entire car with fine polish and buff pad to restore luster
Want to know more about auto body paint? Download “How to Paint Your Car – The Written Guide”. 6It’s a free, 85-page PDF that covers the entire painting process in detail.
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