No matter how safely you drive, eventually your car paint gets chipped. Whether from flying debris or the fault of another driver, unsightly paint chips leave your car looking banged up. Whether big or small, paint chips can reduce the resale value of your car and lead to rust damage to the car’s body. Luckily, you can remedy this through a variety of easy fixes.
Determine paint color and shade
Before making any repainting attempts, you need to match the new paint to the color and shade of your car. Most 1983-model-year cars and later list this information within the door jamb on a sticker. On the sticker you can find the paint code. Fading paint as your car ages represents the biggest problem with this approach as it won’t match exactly.
Another approach is asking an auto body repair shop for help finding the perfect match for your car’s paint through the use of special equipment. In addition, paint companies also create alternate formulas for standard paint colors to help match common paint variations.
Prepare the area for painting
Once you have your paint, you need to prepare the area for repair. First, clean the area with soap and water. If you notice any buildup, clean that as well using a paint cleaner. You also need to remove any debris or rust in the area in and around the chip.
Use 1000-grit sandpaper to sand the area in and around the chip, making sure to keep any sanding outside the area of the chip to a minimum. Remove debris using a pair of tweezers. Once you’re done preparing the area, you need to apply the paint. See the following sections to learn how to apply paint to small, medium, and large chips.
Using a paint pen for small chips
A paint pen helps repair small chips. Keep in mind that paint shrinks as it dries, so overfill the chipped area slightly to account for this. You also need to avoid dripping the paint, because drips tend to stand out. If you get too much paint in the area, make sure to wipe any excess paint off immediately.
To determine if the paint is dry, touch the area lightly. A tacky or sticky feeling to the paint means it needs to dry further.
Using touch-up paint for medium chips
When repainting a medium-sized chip, take extra care and remove any debris from the area first. Once thoroughly clean, apply a degreaser, such as rubbing alcohol, Prepsol, or enamel reducer to remove any grease or oil from the area. Next, apply primer to the area, keeping it confined to the area of the chip as much as possible.
After allowing the primer to dry, apply the appropriately colored touch-up paint from a car body repair shop. Be careful not to apply too much paint as it can drip or bubble. Once dry, wash and wax the car.
Repairing larger chips
You can still repair paint chips up to a few inches in diameter. Anything larger than that probably requires the attention of a car body repair shop. To repair a large paint chip yourself, follow these steps:
Step 1: Remove debris and rust. Just like with a medium-sized chip, clean the area of the large chip of any debris.
In addition, many larger chips extend past the upper paint, exposing the metal underneath to moisture and leading to the formation of rust.
You must remove this rust first before repainting using rust remover, also known as CLR, and a Q-tip.
Step 2: Wash the area. After removing the rust and smoothing the edges of the damaged area, wash the area again prior to applying primer.
Step 3: Apply primer. Apply the primer to the area, making sure to only apply a little at a time.
Read the label on the primer to determine how long you need to allow it to dry. Make sure not to apply too much primer to prevent drips and bubbling.
Wet-sand the primer using a garden hose and 2000-grit sandpaper until the primer has a completely flat and even finish.
Wash the area again before proceeding.
Step 4: Apply paint. Apply the touch-up paint as outlined above for a medium-sized chip.
Keep in mind, you might need to apply more than one coat of paint. Just make sure to avoid drips.
Once completely dry, wet-sand the area again to make the repainted section completely flat.
Apply a thin layer of clear coat paint before washing and waxing the area.
You can keep the body of your car looking great by repairing paint chips yourself. The method you need to use depends in part on the size of the chip. Keep in mind that a chip larger than a few inches or one that penetrates the metal probably requires the attention of a car body repair shop.