A full paint job will fix your car’s blemishes, but it comes at a hefty price. Here’s how a little hand-detailing can restore your ride to showroom appearance.
Chunks of grit and gravel may help your car hold onto the road in the middle of winter, but for the rest of the year they turn into a nuisance by pockmarking your precious ride. Chips can lead to rust spots breaking out, which is why getting on repairs promptly is a good idea.
If you’re patient and somewhat meticulous, doing the repair isn’t difficult. Understand that you’ll be dealing with three layers: the steel body, the paint itself, and a varnish-like top layer called clear-coat.
Wet sandpapering alone will often repair minor scuffs to the latter, provided the paint is still in place. And so-called touch-up pens will help prevent corrosion, but they seldom blend well enough with the old paint to satisfy finicky car buffs.
For the best touch-ups, use your car’s exact paint match, small cans of which are available at the appropriate dealership. Begin by roughing up the area immediately on and around the chip.
A good trick is gluing a small circle of very fine sandpaper to the eraser of a new pencil and gently working it with a spinning motion. Try to sand out any irregularities, but make sure you don’t go deeper than the chip itself.
Then, cover the general vicinity of the chip with a thick layer of carnauba wax and repeat the process with the pencil. Paint won’t stick to a waxed surface, so this coating ensures that paint only goes where it’s needed—immediately on and around the original chip.
Apply the paint in a dabbing motion with a toothpick. Don’t overapply. Wait a day for it to dry, then lightly sand just enough to remove irregularities in the paint surface. It will probably take a couple coats, so patience is important.
Finally, apply clear coat over the repair. When that dries, wet some sandpaper and gently buff the paint to a high shine.
If that seems too fussy, some do-it-yourself car care people have a trick: They mix the paint with the clear-coat and take one step out of the process.