It is not uncommon that there will be minor scratches or chipped paint on your car. Pebbles and rocks can ricochet on the side of the car. Adverse weather conditions can create surface imperfections on the hood. Let us face it. Accidents can happen at any time. If the affected area is not larger than a pencil eraser, then there is no need for a professional paint job. All you need is to learn how to apply touch up paint to the damaged area. Here’s how:

Preparation for painting

Get the Correct Touch Up Paint for the Color of Your Car

Get a touch up paint that matches the exact same color of your car before you start preparing your vehicle. This is very important. You do not want to use paint that has a lighter or darker shade than the one on your car. They have to match. The best automotive touch up paint should always be the same as the color of the car that it is going to be applied to.

Look for the color code of your car in certain sections of the vehicle. You should see a metal plate or a sticker on the door jamb of the driver’s side. Some vehicles have their color code on a sticker on the firewall. You can also check the glove box, the sun visor on the passenger side, the spare tire well or cover, and the trunk lid or floor. Sometimes the color code is present near the VIN of the car. This is a sticker you can see in the bottom right windshield.

If you cannot locate the color code, check the VIN of your car. Use this information to search for the color code of your car via online resources. Make sure you enter the exact brand, model, make, trim, and year model of your car in the search parameters of these online tools. This will help provide a more accurate color code for your car.

Bring this information to your auto parts store. Get the correct touch up paint for your car. Do not get a paint that does not have the same color code as your car.

Prepare the Area You Are Going to Touch Up

Before you start with the process of how to touch up car paint, you will need to prepare the affected surface first. Wash your car with a car wash soap and water. It would be best to wash the whole car so you can identify other areas that need touching up. This can also help minimize, if not eliminate, the risk of getting grime and dirt in the new paint. Make sure to dry the area very well. Paint will not stick to a wet or moist surface.

Remove any rust on the surface. Use sandpaper to remove rusted areas. It is important to remove rusted areas to help minimize developing corrosion under the paint.

The outer surface of the car often has wax on it. You should remove this with a grease and wax remover. This will help provide a surface that touch up paint can adhere to. Use a 220-grit sandpaper to create a surface that will make it easy for paint primer to stick. This will also help remove any loose paint.

Wash the area with water and allow it to dry completely. This will help provide a cleaner, debris-free surface for the next step of learning how to use touch up paint.

Touch up paint applying

Apply the Primer

A paint primer can help protect a metal surface from rusting. It also provides a surface to which the touch up paint can adhere. Having said that, it is not necessary to apply paint primer if the scratch does not go deep down to the bare metal of the car. If the scratch is only superficial, then you can skip the priming of the surface. You should always apply a primer if the area has an exposed metal surface.

There are vehicle owners who apply a coat of rust arrestor before they apply the primer. This will work, too. Rust arrestors are perfect for surfaces that have rusted. Washing and sanding the area will remove the rust. However, there is no guarantee that the surrounding areas are not yet affected by the existing rust. A rust arrestor will help prevent corrosion from spreading. If you wish to apply a rust arrestor or rust inhibitor, be sure to apply it before the primer.

In applying the primer, it is best to use a very small brush with pointed bristle head. Some people use a matchstick to help apply as little primer as possible. In most cases, a single drop of primer is enough to cover the affected area. Be very careful not to get the primer into the car’s original paint. If this happens, wipe off the primer at once. Allow the primer to dry before proceeding to the next step on how to apply touch up paint.

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Apply the Touch Up Paint

It is often necessary to test the touch up paint on a hidden section of the car. You want to be sure that the color of the touch up paint is a perfect match to the color of your car. It is important to remember that some touch up paint manufacturers will not provide the best possible quality of product. There are cases when you may have the right color code, yet the paint reacts with the original paint.

It is for this reason that making a trial touch up of the paint is crucial. Try applying a small amount of the touch up paint on the lip under the car door. Make sure to clean the surface first so that dirt, dust, and grime will not get into the paint brush. This will also allow you to make a more accurate assessment of the paint application. If you’re satisfied with the results, you can then proceed to the application of the touch up paint on the affected area.

Use a very small brush with a pointed bristle. Apply a single drop of the touch up paint and spread it throughout the surface of the affected area. This will help avoid runoffs, which can ruin the finish of your car.

In this step of the process of how to touch up car paint, you will need to apply about 2 to 3 layers of the base coat. Wait at least an hour for the touch up paint to dry before applying the next layer. Check the paint manufacturer for the recommended waiting period in between applications. Drying one layer at a time can help prevent smearing when the next layer gets applied.

It is okay if the paint will be raised higher than its surroundings. You will still be sanding it off in the latter stages of the touch up process.

Once you have applied the touch up paint, leave your car for not less than 24 hours. This will help make sure that the base coat cures in the correct way.

Man polishing a car

Finish the Surface

The last step in the process of how to use touch up paint involves smoothening the area and the application of a clear coat.

We mentioned above that it is okay for the touch up painted area to be raised relative to its surroundings. You will be sanding this off so that it gets flush with the rest of the surface. You will need three grit sizes of sandpaper for this job. You will start with a 1000-grit sandpaper to help smoothen out as much of the painted surface as possible. Do it in a gentle and slow manner. Do not apply too much pressure as you can also sand the surrounding sections.

Once the surface is almost at level with its surroundings, use a 2000-grit sandpaper to continue with the sanding process. Finish this up with the 3000-grit sandpaper. This will create a very smooth surface but with enough microscopic ‘pores’ for the clear coat to adhere to. Make sure that the sanding process will make the painted area on an even level with the rest of the car. Wipe the surface to remove any dust from the sanding process.

Apply the clear coat using a small paint brush. Use uniform brush strokes to apply the clear coat. It is better to apply several layers of thin clear coats than having a single thick clear coat. Make sure to wait about 30 minutes in between application of the clear coat. Check the recommendations of the clear coat manufacturer. Some will recommend the application of several layers. Others will recommend that once is enough.

Smoothen the surface again using a 3000-grit sandpaper. This will help blend the clear coat with the rest of the clear coat of your car. It also ensures you have a smooth surface. Wipe down the surface and apply wax. Buff it well and you should be able to give your car that brand-new look.

Applying touch up paint is almost similar to painting your car. It involves preparing the car, applying a primer, applying the paint, and finishing it off with a clear coat. The only difference is that you are working on a very small area.

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