Understanding What Will Ruin Car Paint and How to Fix It

January 27, 2012

Damages such as oxidation or scratches can ruin car paint, and need to be repaired quickly in order to avoid a much more expensive paint job. Car paint damage can usually be repaired easily and inexpensively if it is done before the problem grows out of control. Repairing most types of paint problems and can be done in just a few hours.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • 80, 150, 300, 1,000 and 2,000 grit dry/wet sandpaper
  • Rubber or wooden sanding block
  • Bucket of water
  • Dry cloth
  • Prep solvent
  • Touch up paint to match that on your car
  • Wax and dry towels
  • Buffer machine (optional but recommended)

Step 1 - Determine the Type of Damage

Deep scratches will require the use of lower grit sandpaper to smooth away rough edges. Very minor scratches or car paint oxidation may only require wet sanding in order to remove the minor imperfections. Once you determine the extent of the damage to the paint, locate and purchase the appropriate grit types of sandpaper.

Step 2 - Remove Wax

Use a quality prep solvent that you can purchase a local auto parts store to remove wax finishes. In most cases, you simply need to dampen a dry towel with the solvent and then rub the vehicle thoroughly to remove the wax from the surface.

Step 3 - Sand the Damage

Use your sanding block and sandpaper to begin sending out the imperfections in the paint. Start with the 80 grit sandpaper and lightly sand away the clear coat finish and damaged paint. After you use the 80 grit sandpaper, there will still be some scratches that are quite noticeable. Use the 300 and 400 grit sandpaper to remove the majority of the scratches. Wet sand with 1,000 and 2,000 grit sandpaper to prepare the damaged area for touch up paint. When wet sanding, always ensure that the sandpaper never becomes dry; this may force paint particles back into the bare metal surface of the vehicle. Allow the surface to dry and dust off with a dry towel.

Step 4 - Touch up the Paint

Follow the instructions on the bottle or can of touch up paint for applying it to the vehicle. Most of the time, the touch up paint will come with an applicator brush. If it doesn't, you can use a paper matchstick to carefully apply the paint to the scratched or damaged area.

Step 5 - Allow to Dry

Allow the touch up paint to completely dry before continuing. In most cases, you should allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours. For the best results, allow the paint to dry a full 48 hours.

Step 6 - Apply Wax

Once the touch up paint has completely cured and dried, you can go about waxing your vehicle as you normally would. Optionally, you can use a high-speed buffer machine to buff out any very slight imperfections and better blend the touched up area with the rest of the car.