How to match auto body paint?
April 15, 2014 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I have to replace an 8 yr old Subaru fender. A standard color. The new piece comes primed, w/out paint. My understanding is the shop gets the color code, and attempts a match, knowing the color has faded. Question- good shop will be able to vary the mix, try a few samples on an unobtrusive spot, and we pick one? It sounds easy. What should I look for in a shop? What to be wary of? How many coats?
posted by ebesan to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had my rear fender/step panel replaced and was very pleased with the quality of the shop (and have since recommended it to others needing paint work done). Mine was one of the local repair shops affiliated with my insurance company (although they had a non-insurance business side too, with a separate office).

I didn't see examples and pick; they just did all of it themselves. Dropped off the vehicle, picked it up looking brand new. They'll do it up to the spec of the manufacturer, i.e. if it had X clearcoats new, it'll have that same number when you get it back.

Note: They'll probably warn you, but they often recommend you not get the car washed for a week or so to let the paint finish curing.

Also, if you provide your location, someone may be able to recommend places in your area.
posted by bookdragoness at 3:11 PM on April 15, 2014

If you have a smartphone you can probably get a color matching app for free. You take a pic of the color and the app outputs various codes like the Pantone number/name. You take that to a paint shop and it should be an exact match.
posted by Splunge at 3:54 PM on April 15, 2014

A smartphone color matching app will not be accurate enough. Things like white balance (the color temperature of the light you photograph it in) will make the color look different.
The paint code next to your vin number of the vehicle will contain the correct color code to match to. I don't know about fading, but when they fixed my car the paint shop feathered out the new paint into the old paint so there was a gradual change not a distinct line so I couldn't tell where the new paint ended and it wasn't obviously shinier where the new paint ended.
posted by photoexplorer at 5:45 PM on April 15, 2014

Response by poster: in nyc
posted by ebesan at 6:39 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: My understanding is the shop gets the color code, and attempts a match, knowing the color has faded.

Proper paint shops have a 'gun' which scans the paint and produces a mix code that matches what is actually on the car. A smartphone would be only useful to tell you the paint code (maybe). It won't have a hope in hell of matching the paint in any useful way to account for fade. Most reputable shops have something of this kind so the 'skill and experience' is taken out of somewhat which means it is easier for the customer to find a shop they know will do it properly.

Any reputable paint shop will either have this technology, or will have some crusty old guy that can look at the car for five minutes and blend it in. Matching paint is really not that hard if you're not trying to scrimp on the cost of the respray.

They'll prep the car, scan the paint and mix according to the code and spray the car. They'll blend it in to the existing panels on the car to hide any transition to a degree varying to how good the shop is.

good shop will be able to vary the mix, try a few samples on an unobtrusive spot, and we pick one?... .how many coats?

You seem to think you need to be involved in this process much more than you actually need to be. Number of coats will depend entirely on the paint type used and will be something the individual sprayer may change his mind on. He will put enough paint on that the job is completed to their quality standards - that is all you need to know, really. If a paint shop started asking me which paint they should use I would see that as a MAJOR red flag.

Go by reviews and reputation. Ask them outright if they will be able to blend it in so that is not visible as a painted panel to the casual observer - see what they say. And/or when you call for a quote, just ask casually "How do you guys even match paint that has faded in the sun? It seems such a random factor" and then see if they tell you about their fancy paint matching gun.

It's not as complicated as you are worried about. Reputation should be enough to give you what you need.
posted by Brockles at 5:47 AM on April 16, 2014

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