A quick summary of how to get different types of car paint damage fixed.
Pealing paint: All too often the clear coat on a car will weaken and start to peal off. This happens when a car is kept outside much of the time, or if a car is poorly resprayed. It seems to be more frequent on darker colored cars, especially Hondas. I’m guessing that it’s the fact that they get hotter in the sun, and then cool off at night – i.e. the constant and radical change in temperature. The only way to fix this is to have the area sanded down and resprayed. Although I strongly suggest that you don’t bother. By the time this happens on a car, it’s probably aged to the point that its not a good financial decision. I know it’s unsightly, but you probably should either save your money for a new car, or spend money on mechanical issues instead.
Key scratch: This is probably the hardest thing on a car owner, but if you’re reading this, you already know. Sorry. As far as fixing it like it was new, it can be really expensive. Each panel that is damaged will need to be sanded down and respray painted. The usual cost is between $250-$350 per panel, so if the scratch is only a foot long but goes from the back door to the front door, the price to fix can double. If the scratch is on a vertical surface it can be done by a mobile repair guy (a bumper guy). If it’s on a horizontal surface like a hood, you’ll need a body shop. The difference is that dust settles in the wet paint on a horizontal surface and will need a clean room to prevent that.
If you want a cheaper fix – a skilled touch-up guy can hide the scratch a little. The darker the color your car, the more effective. A bright silver car is probably not worth the effort. Please never use the touch-up kit from a car dealer for this – it’s going to look much worse. I promise.
Curb scrapes: With today’s push for MPG the front of most cars are very close to the road to improve aerodynamics. This makes a great target for curbs – it’s a battle with your cars paint right in the middle. Paint touch-up is pretty effective here. It’s not going to look new, but unless you get down on your knees to look at your car, you’re probably not going to see it anymore. Although I really don’t like touch-up kits, you can probably do a decent job here.
Dents: There’s hundreds of dent guys out in the world nowadays. If you can’t find one, call your local car dealership and ask the Used Car Manager for his. Don’t go through the dealership to get the work done. They’ll double the price – and you’ll have to go to the dealership. Dent guys are mobile, so he’ll come to your house and charge half of what the dealership will charge. Usually $75 per panel. Not per dent. So if you have three dents in your front door and one in the back door, it’s $150.
If your dent has the metal creased, or it’s on a crease in the design of your car, it’s exponentially more difficult for a dent guy. Always make sure a dent guy has at least 10 years experience. And don’t use someone that works at a car wash. If he’s working there, he’s probably not good enough to go out on his own.
Dings: I’ve been doing this for years and worked on well over 20,000 cars, and I don’t know what constitutes a ‘ding’. lol. I’m guessing it’s a dent with the paint marred – usually caused by shopping carts, and people flinging their car doors open and hitting your car. If it’s dented – handle as above and ask him if he can buff out the marred paint. If the paint is missing, many dent guys have some touchup paint. He’s just going to put a little blob of paint on it, but what can you expect from a dent guy.
Light scratches: First determine if your paint is scratched or if there is ‘transfer’ on your car. Transfer simply means whatever rubbed up against your car, transferred some of its color on to your car. Many times I’ll work on a car that a customer swears the paint is missing. I’ll find bright red scratches on a black car. I instantly know they rubbed up against a red curb or red fire hydrant and its simply the paint from that curb or hydrant. A light rubbing compound or a soapy sponge will take it off. Never ever, EVER, use a Scotch Bright pad. In other words, NEVER! Or a wet paper towel. If its really stubborn you can use acetone, but use very little – just a few drops, with a tshirt cloth. Be patient. As you rub, the acetone will loosen the transfer slowly, and then it’ll come off all at once. If the acetone mars the paint, buff out with a tshirt cloth and car wax.
If it’s not transfer and they are indeed light scratches – use a very gentle rubbing compound, or even car wax if you don’t have anything else and a tshirt cloth, and simply rub out the scratches. You can use a lot of pressure. You might inadvertently mar the finish. Simply polish is out with less pressure, and car wax. Meguires Scratch X works great, and can found at most retail stores like Target and Walmart.
Door edge paint chips: Really easy to fix. You can get decent results with most touch-up kits, but I much prefer Dr.Colorchip from drcolorchip.com
Paint chips from rocks: Dr.Colorchip is far far and away the best for this. This is exclusively what I use. I’ve worked on some of the most expensive cars in the world. I work for most of the Porsche clubs in my area and travel with them to their larger events. I use Dr.Colorchip and I WOW crowds all over the western U.S.
But again, if you’d like it to look new, you’ll need to have it resprayed. See above for general costs and where to go for which part of your car.
Scrapes from hitting a pole, the side of your garage, etc: I get a lot of these. With the Dr.Colorchip paint I can usually make about an 80-95% difference for very little money. But the above applies if there is severe damage to the plastic of a bumper, or the metal of a car. On that note, if a plastic bumper is cracked or severe misshapen, it’ll need to be replaced, not just resprayed.
Scratches from garage door closing on your car, or back lid opening too high and hitting the garage door: This, for all intents and purposes, is the same as a key scratch. For dark color cars, it can be hidden, but for it to go away completely it needs to be resprayed. If there’s manufacturer emblems on that panel, the cost to fix will go up. They’ll need to be removed before painting, and reapplied when the paint is dry. A mobile tech won’t do that type of work.
NOTE: To keep your garage door from closing on the car, I’d suggest simply raising the safety sensors that are near the floor of your garage and the rail the garage door slides on. Raise them to the level of your bumper.
Headlight fogged: There a lot of products out there. I’ve never tried any. I get great results from using a terri-cloth towel, with a dollop of rubbing compound and squirt of acetone, and rub like crazy. The acetone will eat away at the aged plastic. It might look worse when you first start – but see it through to the end.
Dull finish: Wash your car. While I’m thinking about it – I should mention that dust is slightly acidic. When a car is dry and dusty, it’s fine, but add a little moisture from a dewy morning or a drizzly rain, and it’ll start to eat away at your finish. If you have to leave your car outside, simply squirting it with a hose once in awhile will help.
Cracked paint: Two causes – a gentle impact, not enough to damage a bumper, but enough to crack the paint of a bumper, or sun damage. For sun damage, try not to look at it anymore. If this is happening to your car, stick it out. It’s not cost effective to fix and your car is probably getting too old to spend money on such things. I see this happening most frequently on black Hondas
If it’s cracked on the bumper, it’s probably from a very gentle ‘bump’. Again, the best solution, try not to look at it. You’ll either need to have it resprayed, or the bumper replaced. Ugh.
your fingernail to pick off anomalies on your car
Scotch Bright pads on your car or paper towels
a touch-up kit from the dealer. They are awful!!!
and don’t lick your finger and then rub out a spot on your car. It might work, but it’s gross.
Don’t spend money on aesthetics if…
your car has more than 75,000 miles
there are mechanical issues – tires, brakes, etc.
or if you’re hurting for money
If you’d like more specific info, please email a pic of your car to email@example.com or text it to me at 949/463-7690. Please don’t call. I don’t answer my phone very often. It’s too hard to get anything done if I do.
If you’re in southern California, I can do the work for you.
Please also see my reviews one Yelp.com. Just search Quinn The Eskimo.
And be well and happy.