How to deal with car paint?
May 27, 2007 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Over the weekend, a weekend in which my father was away on vacation, some car damage happened to occur. Problem? The car is my father's.

Last night, I was backing up out of a space and failed to notice a black truck parked behind me. While there was no damage to the truck, I dinged the back bumper (paint issues mostly) of my father's white car. I feel horrible about this.

Pictures can be found here, here and here. He returns Tuesday. I would prefer he not find out about this. What's the most affordable and quick way to make things right? (home remedies preferred)
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This Calvin and Hobbes strip was in my RSS feed this morning and it seems appropriate to post here.

Regarding actual assistance, you need to a solvent to clean things up (Goo Gone if you went under the truck's bumper), then a buff and wax should fix it up if it the damage isn't too bad. If teh scratches are deep, then things are going to be a little more complicated.
posted by ajr at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2007

Try 409 or Fantastik (household cleaners) on the bumper, first. If the scuffs are transfer from plastic trim on the truck, then that remedy will work. More stubborn transfers can be removed with a cleaner wax or worst case, a clay bar (both avail at auto parts stores). You can't damage the car's paint with anything but the clay bar, to give you an idea of the leveling involved.

You could also take the car to a detailers; they specialize in removing exactly this type of scuff.
posted by jamaro at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2007

That's really not going to "buff out" with a do-it-yourself product. You're through the surface coat on your bumper trim, and the spot is going to be readily apparent in various light, unless you have the spot feathered and repainted, or better yet, replace the bumper cover. Either of those options are going to set you back 3 figures, minimum, and if it's a holiday weekend where you are (California license plate?), I'm guessing no shop is going to get to it before Tuesday.

You could try using a clay bar to gently clean the area, completely, and then try to use some rubbing compound and/or scratch removers to try to blend the area, yourself. But count on him seeing the damage, if not immediately, then soon as the light hits it.
posted by paulsc at 10:57 AM on May 27, 2007

When I was 19 I was backing up my father's truck while looking at a girl in a bikini washing her car and damaged the truck.

I did the same thing and tried to cover it up. That was worse than damaging the bumper.

Tell your father.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2007

Another good cleaner is gasoline. Just a little bit on a rag, rub hard. Takes care of it. Careful with the rag afterwards though.

If you can get it clean, then no harm done, but if there is still visible damage, man up, then fix it (or get it fixed) properly, on your dime. Real life has no punishments, just consequences.
posted by defcom1 at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2007

That doesn't look as bad as I thought from your description. I agree you should be an adult and tell your dad, but other than that, I think that washing and waxing the car, with high-quality wax, would go a long way to making it look better. If you wash the car and the black marks don't come off, then goo-gone or similar should remove the marks as long as they're rubbery and not actually paint-transfer. If they're paint-transfer, buffing might get it off, but I'm not sure. The scratches are, as above, probably going to be apparent in any case. Your call as to whether it will be sooner (ie, so he'll know for sure it was you) or later (when he could attribute it to some jerk in the grocery store parking lot).

If there is a body shop near you, or hell, just look one up in the phone book, you might have luck calling and explaining your issue, and asking for product recommendations. My dad did body work when I was a kid, and there is a difference in the quality of the product consumer-grade vs professional grade (as I recall, I'm sure someone else has a different opinion).

Anyway, I think if you clean it up in a resonable fashion and own up, it will be better than both hiding it (cleaning up and not confessing) or confessing and not cleaning up. (Unless you think your dad would want to make an insurance claim, but most people wouldn't for just a bumper - and you've documented it already, anyway.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:05 AM on May 27, 2007

this was the first result of a google search for lexus bumper paint... it has a bunch of good suggestions.

Did you have permission to take the car out, or were you not supposed to be driving it? If you had your permission to take it out, your father might actually quite respect the idea of you owning up to your mistake and being honest with him, then telling him you'll pay for the damage.

If you weren't supposed to have the car... time to start looking at suggestions!

Someone in the thread I linked quoted roughly $250 as a price to repaint the bumper...
posted by twiggy at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2007

This looks the kind of thing an auto detailer can take care of in about 5 minutes with a whiz wheel for less than $50.
posted by 517 at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2007

>> Someone in the thread I linked quoted roughly $250 as a price to repaint the bumper...

Repainting the bumper will only make it more obvious, especially at a place that only charges $250. My SO drives a 626 with a re-painted rear bumper and it's obviously not OEM. While it matched after picking it up from the shop, age and wear change the different paints at different rates and ruin the illusion. Additionally, $250 sounds like a tape-and-spray job which raises giant red flags should he want to trade in the vehicle.

My point is that any attempt to fix a non-superficial car wound - touch-up paint, whiz wheel, re-spraying - will be identifiable to a trained eye. If your father loves his car he will notice it, and you will be in 2x the hot water for attempting to conceal the truth from him. Just own up to it and offer to pay for whatever needs to be done to fix the car. You'll be out the same amount of money and won't have to live with the guilt and fear of discovery.
posted by datacenter refugee at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2007

tell your father the truth - the lie will only compound your problems
posted by Flood at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2007

When I was 16 my parents went out of town for the weekend and left me alone for the 1st time (and probably the last time). I went across the field to our barn where Dad had locked in the truck. I took the truck, drove it (I did not have permission and I did not have a driver's license) across the muddy field and went to pick up my girlfriends who had told their parents they were staying the night with my family.

We mixed rum and coke in some mugs and cruised around town, flirting with boys and generally thinking and acting like we were the hottest and funnest babes to ever hit town.

Eventually we decided to get some eats at Taco Bell. We turned down the street, missed the turn into the Bell and backed up. Big Bang! Crunch! Panic! The cops would arrest us! Our parents would kill us!

We couldn't see what we hit. Nothing moved. So we slowly pulled up and stopped. We waited, and waited, the fear slowly building to gigantic proportions. We argued about just taking off. We argued about getting out to see what had happened. We drank the rest of the rum and coke.

Then we see it... a tiny midget car pulling up from behind us to the side of Dad's giant truck. I roll down my window. A face and a hand emerge from the window of midget car. "Heyyy girls, want a toke?", the face said.

A couple days later Dad asked me why in the hell there were tire tracks across the field?! I fessed up to taking the truck, fessed up to attending a religious revival in town with my friends, fessed up to some unknown car in the parking lot hitting the back end of Dad's truck. Oddly, or perhaps not, I wasn't punished. Not punished by the father who once told a friend, who then told the entire school, "If Lady ever comes home late again, I will break the arm of the boy she was out with." He was creative that way.

My point being... just fess up. You aren't the first to damage your Dad's car, and won't be the last. He probably damaged his own father's car.

Last night we watched an old episode of "Dog, the Bounty Hunter" with our 9yo son. One bail fugitive turned himself in and Dog had him write under his Wanted poster: "Surrendered like a real man."

Our son asked what surrendered meant. My husband explained that it means (in this context) that when you make a mistake or do wrong it's most honorable and manly to fess up, to tell the truth, to be responsible and face your consequences. To run, to hide, to lie, to try to get away or escape your responsibility is to be a coward.
posted by LadyBonita at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Tell the truth. He may try to sell the car one day and a trained mechanic will be able to see the repair. In fact, next time he brings the car in, his regular mechanic might notice. Or a neighbor may comment, etc.
posted by about_time at 1:08 PM on May 27, 2007

I would try taking it to the dealership (*not* one that knows your dad), tell them what's up, and ask (beg) what they recommend to fix it.

Don't try to go cheap - you might just make it worse. If you do anything yourself, go slow and careful.

In my experience, telling my dad about stuff like this was not anywhere near as bad as the time spent anticipating telling him about it.
posted by KAS at 1:13 PM on May 27, 2007

tell your father the truth - the lie will only compound your problems

Uh, he is not even contemplating lying. He's contemplating not telling his dad. Not telling something is not a lie.

He's asking, "What's the most affordable and quick way to make things right?" By making right, I assume he means repair. If it's made right, there's nothing to tell dad.
posted by jayder at 1:33 PM on May 27, 2007

"some car damage happened to occur."

That's really funny. Before you tell him, teach yourself to say "I backed into a parked car" instead of this kind of crap. He's going to figure out anyway, you know, that it's your fault. It won't even take him long. Taking ownership of your mistakes is part of growing up.

With the holiday weekend you're probably not going to be able to get it professionally fixed before Tuesday, and like others said, I recommend you don't do anything else. It's probably best to just get ready to tell him about it.
posted by putril at 1:34 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not telling something is not a lie.

Unless you believe in the idea of a lie by omission.

I would not do anything with the car until your father returns, and tell him the truth. Let him decide if/how the car should be repaired, and accept whatever consequences that would entail.
posted by Lucinda at 1:45 PM on May 27, 2007

If it's any worse than what a good waxing will take out, the next step is Meguire's Scratch-X, available in the waxes and cleaners section of just about any auto parts store. If you use that, bear in mind that you need to rub the hell out of the affected area very vigorously. The heat generated from the friction helps to smooth out the scratches in the clear coat.
posted by Doohickie at 1:54 PM on May 27, 2007

(Oh, and Scratch-X will take out stuff that a clay bar won't..... it can even repair scratches that removed part of the clear coat.)
posted by Doohickie at 1:56 PM on May 27, 2007

Paulsc: He's from North Carolina. That's wheat in the bottom. :-)
posted by disillusioned at 2:09 PM on May 27, 2007

Own up to it. The damage is minor. It will be expensive, it being a Lexus and all, but you WILL pay for it, and he will be impressed (even if he yells, he will be impressed). Do not find a cheap solution. This is not a do-it-yourselfer. Trust me, you dad expected you to have a wreck some day, and this one was fairly painless. Nothing was broken that can't be fixed - including you.
posted by clarkstonian at 2:48 PM on May 27, 2007

There's probably no need to tell your father. Clean it and take it to a detailer asap - it's a very small job.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 2:51 PM on May 27, 2007

Well...I have a Lexus, and a driving-age daughter. If this happened while I was away, I would much prefer her to tell me instead of doing any do-it-yourself jobs. It's a safe bet that most Lexus owners are pretty particular about the appearance of their cars.

I don't know how your Dad reacts to these things, but that damage is not a big deal. I would ask you to pay for it, or work it off. Then I'd say "please be more careful next time, dear."
posted by Flakypastry at 4:17 PM on May 27, 2007

Does anybody else here occasionally pine for the days when bumper bars were expected to take the occasional knock and not cost three or four figures to fix?

They're called bumper bars for a reason, dang blastit.
posted by flabdablet at 11:41 PM on May 27, 2007

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