July 23, 2006 8:41 PM   Subscribe

How do I go about executing minimal, but adequate repairs to a damaged car paint job?

I made a clumsy driving decision, and scraped the side of my sister's 10-year-old truck something fierce, rubbing it along a yellow-painted cement barrier post. The post is fine, thanks for asking, but there's a fair amount of yellow paint left on the truck that I'd like to remove, and there's some paint scraped away that I'd like to repair in some fashion.

The colour is not a common one anymore, although it was in its time, and the truck itself is one of those small, fuel-efficient Japanese-made units that isnt really popular around the scrap yard scene. Moreover, all the damage is cosmetic, so I'd view a panel replacement as a bit out of line.

So, how do I clean the yellow paint off, and how do I touch up/repair the underlying paint job?
posted by ChrisR to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For the touch up, try paintscratch. They perfectly matched the paint on my 12 year old Volvo and claim to match almost ever other brand on earth as well. The touch up paint is a little expensive, something like $12 for a 2 ounce bottle if I remember, but worth it for the match.

I think car polish and vigorous rubbing is supposed to remove foreign paint, but do not use paint thinner whatever you do.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 8:50 PM on July 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well, as to getting off the offending paint, you are going to have to buff it out. This can be done by hand, but it is a huge pain in the ass. If memory serves, electric buffers can be gotten for fairly cheap from places like Wal-mart (but they are evil) and most auto-parts stores.

As to fixing the paint; If it doesn't have to match exactly and the damaged area isn't too big, try hitting some places that sell nail polish. The stuff works remarkable well and usually costs less than the auto paint equavilant. Depending on the brand, you may need to get a coat of clear coat to put over the top (also found in the nail polish section).

In a pinch, you can always try mixing the nail polish like paint to get the exact color, but when it dries it could shift a bit, so you may need to experement.

No matter what, if you dug deep enough to score the metal, make sure you put something on it or it will start to rust, and that is a problem you really don't want to have to deal with.
posted by quin at 9:59 PM on July 23, 2006

Response by poster: This "buffing" -- what exactly does that entail?
posted by ChrisR at 6:27 AM on July 24, 2006

Ask your sister what she wants to do. She may not care.
posted by electroboy at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, she most certainly does care.
posted by ChrisR at 6:31 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, and in response to quin, again, is there anything in particular I need to do prior to using the paint mentioned by Derive the Hamiltonian of... in order to ensure that the metal is protected?
posted by ChrisR at 7:54 AM on July 24, 2006

Best answer: You do this kind of repair in several, careful steps.

1) Wash the vehicle (at least the affected areas) thoroughly with a detergent and water solution (Dawn dish detergent) and a soft sponge/cloth. Rinse well. Dry completely with clean terry towels.

Your goal in doing this is to remove as mush of the yellow paint as will come of easily, along with any remnants of wax or polish that have been on the paint before the damage occurred. You want to dry the vehicle by hand, immediately, to inhibit, as much as you can. the start of rust formation in the scratch.

2) Go at the affected area (or the whole truck, if you're being a sport) with a clay bar. This might get 90% of the problem.

3) With a soft buffing cloth and very fine rubbing compound, gently work out as much of the remaining paint damage as possible. Note: Rubbing compound cuts paint by abrasion, and comes in various grades or coarseness, like sandpaper. You want only the finest grit for this. Very little force is needed to achieve your goal. Very little compound is needed. You are just looking to remove as much yellow paint as possible, along with any of the truck's oxidized, but otherwise sound paint and primer, immediately around those damaged areas. Don't expose bare metal! Don't rub out a big area; just the scratch, with tiny, even strokes. Will probably take you a couple of hours to do this, if the scratch is 6 feet long. Yeah, that level of attention to detail will make all the difference.

Clean the rubbed areas thoroughly with denatured rubbing alcohol (at least 90% solution, as those cheap 70% drug store solutions are 30% water, which will promote rust). Dry, dry, dry!

4) Apply stick or liquid touch up paint. The best technique for liquid paint is to use very little paint, only on the brush ends, and to dab it on as thinly as possible; doing 2 thing coats is far preferable to one thick daub. Other paint delivery mechanisms, like stick pens have their own tricks. You can get a feel for how it works, and some practice if you need it, by making a little scratch in the paint under the hood, and repairing that first. If the truck was originally painted with a two step finish involving clear coat, you're going to have trouble making the repair look good without using a 2 step repair paint system.

The two big keys to using touch up paint successfully are A) thorough surface preparation and B) applying the paint only in the specified temperature range and humidity conditions. For best results, you must paint only freshly prepared areas; don't rub out the damage on Friday, and try to paint it on Sunday. Don't paint in the sun, or in conditions of high humidity or temps over 80 degrees F. The paint won't set up right, and won't develop it's full finish appearance.
posted by paulsc at 10:33 AM on July 24, 2006 [2 favorites]

Just make sure that the metal is clean. Try to get any of the old paint from the post off, as DtHo.. said; vigorous rubbing is the key. Any auto parts store, and most gas stations will have buffing compound that will aid in this task.

Once you have painted it, let it dry for a few days and buff it again. This will help make sure that the smoothness of the coat is consistent.
posted by quin at 11:48 AM on July 24, 2006

Damn my spotty connection and failure to preview. Yeah, what paulsc said.
posted by quin at 11:50 AM on July 24, 2006

WD40 will harmlessly remove paint transfer (and rubber transfer, if you ever have a piece jump off the road and hit your car) with little elbow grease.

Others covered subsequent steps quite well.
posted by phearlez at 4:05 PM on July 24, 2006

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