Car paint repair is not as terrifying a task as you might think, and minor damage can be put right quickly and easily.
There was a time when practically everyone did a little home maintenance on their cars, and for those growing up in the 1970s, the sight of Dad tinkering under the bonnet at the weekend was as much a part of everyday life as the Bay City Rollers or George and Mildred.
However, there was one area of car maintenance that was left to the professionals, and that was auto paint repair. The thought of trying to do it at home caused a sucking in of air through teeth and vague comments about needing “the right equipment.”
Today, advanced vehicle technology means that there is little the home mechanic can do without the right computer software. Those who really enjoy car maintenance typically switch on their eight-track and get into the world of classic cars. But even here, you will find enthusiasts who think nothing of welding in replacement sills or stripping and rebuilding a gearbox, but will go faint at the thought of tackling paintwork. Perhaps we really do all turn into our fathers!
Major and minor repairs
For a major paint job, the naysayers have a point. Anyone applying cellulose or acrylic paint needs to know what they are doing and have all the right technical and safety equipment. Cut corners here, and you could end up with the car looking like a disaster zone and yourself in hospital.
But what about those minor imperfections, where some evil car park fairy has scuffed the bumper, or an errant gate post has reached out to scrape your innocent wheel arch as it went by? Too often, owners feel the damage is not serious enough to warrant calling in the experts, meaning it gets left unattended. This makes the car look rough round the edges, and potentially allows the ingress of water and salt. Modern cars are far less prone to rust than those from years gone by, but penetrate that protective coating, and damage can still spread.
The biggest question on whether damage can be easily tackled at home is how serious it is. Car paint consists of multiple layers, consisting of the primer, the colour layer and the lacquer. Run your fingernail over the scratch – if it doesn’t run deep, it might only be “surface damage” to the lacquer, which is a relatively simple fix.
Light scratches can be “polished out” using a product such as T-Cut. This is a cutting compound that literally cuts through the damage to “polish out” the scratch.
If the damage has penetrated through to the primer, you will need some touch up paint. Your local supply shop can provide what you need via the paint code on your vehicle’s chassis plate, but be aware that this might not be a perfect match, particularly if your car is a few years old and has spent long hours in the sun.
In each case, preparation is the key to a good result. Ensure the surface is absolutely clean before you begin, and work in a clean, dry environment. You also need to take your time. Each process typically needs to be allowed to dry before you move on to the next step, so don’t hurry.