Thread: Paint Clinic
11-10-06, 12:10 #1
Automotive Paint Repair Clinic
This is one of the most significant chapters in the book, and rightfully so. Healthy paint is the foundation of a good-looking, well-detailed car. Detailers struggle with paint-related problems more than all other surface issues combined.
BIRD BOMBS (THE STRAIGHT POOP!)Without a doubt, one of the most dreaded car care problems we face is the bird. Birds in the air are beautiful to watch fly, but vile to our car's finish. A bird's droppings can quickly cause damage to your paint.
Bird droppings are very acidic (pH 3.5 to 4.5). When bird droppings fall on your paint, the acid begins to burn and etch the paint's surface. The longer the bird droppings remain, the greater the damage.
I've had bird bomb incidents with my Speed Yellow Porsche 996 (the seagulls seem to think it's just a target) that have created damage as deep as 1 to 2 mils. To give you an idea of what that means, notebook paper is approximately 2 mils of thickness. Your car's paint is only 4 to 6 mils thick.
The result of bird dropping damage is a dimple in the paint's surface, often as large as an inch or more in diameter. This damage is permanent, but can easily be repaired.
This is a typical bird attack. It's not huge, but it doesn't need to be large to cause damage. Unfortunately, this mess sat on the car for a few days and created a dimple.
Repairing Bird Poop DamageThe only way to repair the damage caused by bird droppings is to polish the paint. You must use the polish to blend the surrounding paint, bringing it down to the same level as the damaged area. This may sound drastic, but it works very well. The only concern is that you're making the paint thinner, so you must be careful not to polish all the way through to the primer. Do so, and you'll have a more noticeable problem than the one the bird left behind.
Any good paint polish can be used to fix the damage with a fair amount of rubbing. I've found that it's better to start with a fine polishing compound (a scratch remover formula works well, too), followed by a good hand polish.
This diagram shows how the burn from a bird dropping looks on the paint surface. In most cases the burn won't be very deep, but you will see it on the surface of the paint. Polishing helps to level the surrounding paint so the etch mark no longer shows.
Preventing Bird Poop DamageWhile it's not really possible to keep birds from bombing your car with their dirty little surprises, you can take steps to limit the damage. The most obvious protection is a car cover (please, not while you're driving!). To limit the damage when you get hit, you need to remove the offending slime as quickly as possible. Don't wait. Get it off of your car.
I've found the best way to clean up after a bird is with a good detailing spray and a cotton terry cloth towel. As I'm a clean car fanatic, anyway, I keep a little detailing kit in the trunk of my car. It holds a spray bottle of quick detailing spray, a couple of towels, and my favorite rubber and vinyl dressing. That's all it takes for me to keep the car looking great. When a bird gets me, I spray the bird droppings with a few shots of detailing spray and wipe it off with the towel, turning the towel as necessary to keep a clean wipe on the car.
Another way to protect your paint from bird damage is to keep your car waxed. While wax offers limited protection against a juicy attack, it makes cleanup much easier. You still need to remove the mess as quickly as possible.
CLEANING TAR, SAP & BUGSSummer is tar, sap and bug season. In the summer months, bugs are at full population, trees produce more sap, and the heat softens the asphalt, producing tar balls on tires. While tar and tree sap can be difficult to remove, they do not present a threat to your paint's finish. Bug stains, like bird droppings, are very acidic and represent a significant danger to the beauty of your paint and trim.
Removing Road TarAs you drive, your car is bombarded with small specks of asphalt, tire rubber, grease and oils kicked up by the cars and trucks in front of you. Left on your car's finish, these petroleum-based contaminants will firmly affix themselves to every exterior surface. Soap-and-water washing will do little to remove these ugly black spots.
To remove road tar, you need a solvent or strong detergent. Most commercial tar removers contain kerosene, mineral spirits or another petroleum distillate combined with lubricants to surround and buffer the road tar from your paint. Of the petroleum distillate products I've tried, I like Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover the best. A more modern solution for tar removal is detailing clay. If the tar is extremely stubborn on your painted surfaces, you can also use a paint cleaning polish, like Sonus Paintwork Cleanser or Ultima Paint Prep Plus.
Removing Tree SapRemoving tree sap from a car's finish is a bit more difficult than removing tar or bird droppings. Incorrectly removing hardened sap can scratch your paint. I've found that by hand rubbing the sap spots with mineral spirits, I'm able to easily remove the sap without damaging the finish. Mineral spirits acts as a solvent to break up and dissolve the sap.
If there is a large amount of sap on the car, or if the sap has been left on the finish for an extended period of time, it can be a lot of work to remove. For these cases, I discovered that going over the affected areas with a light-duty rubbing compound removes the hardened surface of the sap spots. Then I can hit the sap with the mineral spirits to remove it. The light-duty rubbing compound softens the sap so the mineral spirits can do its job. The goal is to use the least pressure possible, to reduce the risk of scratching the paint. After removing heavy sap, I always buff the treated areas with a good polish to clean up any marks created during hand rubbing with solvent. The treated area must also be re-waxed.
Removing Insects (Darn those little bugs!)What's the last thing that goes through a bug's head when it hits your windshield? His rear end, of course! All joking aside, the head-on collision of that juicy June bug on your car's beautiful paint and trim is far from one-sided. As the bug's exoskeleton explodes, acidic fluids are firmly embedded in the surface of your car's paint.
Did you know that shellac is a bug byproduct? Think of it, that beautiful old antique table you love is covered with dried bug juice (yuck!). Bug splats on your car amount to little more than shellac mixed with nasty bug parts. Any attempt to remove the calcified remains without the use of a special cleaning solution could result in scratched paint.
The secret to removing insect remains is to loosen and dissolve them with a solvent that will cut through the shellac.
Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover does a great job. For bugs with a little extra grip, agitate the paint with a paint-safe insect sponge.
Here I'm using a paint safe insect sponge and cleaner to remove tar and bug specks from the front of this Porsche Boxster.
If you have a particularly large bug mess, I have discovered a trick that seems to work pretty well. If you use a pre-wax cleaner, such as Sonus Paintwork Cleanser, apply a small dab to the offending bug splat. Next, cover the spot with a wadded-up tissue. Let it sit for a few minutes, then pinch up the mess and give it a soft wipe with the back side of the tissue. Voila! The bug mess is gone.
After Removing Tar, Sap & BugsAll of the chemicals used to remove the aforementioned road stains also remove your wax or sealants. After removing tar, sap or bugs, plan to spot wax or re-wax your vehicle. If you don't have time to wax right away, use a quick spray wax like Sonus Acrylic Glanz Spray Sealant. This products is great for touch-ups or a quick waxing after the weekly wash.
WATER SPOTS & SWIRL MARKSI get a lot of questions from people regarding water spots and swirl marks. Water spots and swirl marks are different problems, but most often the solution is the same: polish the paint. I'll address each problem separately.
Water Spots Will Ruin Car Paint!The same water you use to bathe your car can also damage your car's paint. The spots and damage are caused by the minerals in the water. When water evaporates off of your car's paint, it leaves behind the trace elements it contains. Calcium and metals are the most damaging ingredients found in your tap water. Rainwater may contain damaging acids from air pollutants.
Getting rid of water spots is easy if you chase after them. The best solution is to use a quick detailing spray after you wash, or as soon as you discover the spots (i.e., when your neighbor's sprinkler gets you).
If the spots are allowed to dry and bake on, they will attach to and harden on your paint. When this happens, you need to use a mild acid to get them loose. Believe it or not, the best acid is also the least expensive and most available: a gallon jug of distilled white vinegar.
Expert car detailers have known this secret for years. If you take your car to a pro, they will tell you about the "magic acid bath" and charge you $60 or more for the pleasure of smelling like a pickle. Save the $60. Put on some gloves and get to it.
To give your car the magic acid bath, first wash your car with your normal car shampoo, rinse, and then use the distilled vinegar. Just wipe it on with a sponge, and rub it in. Do one section at a time. Let it sit 30 to 60 seconds, and then rinse. When you're done, wash the car again with shampoo, and then rinse. By the way, vinegar will remove your wax, so be prepared to re-wax your car after the vinegar treatment.
Sprinklers showered this car with hard water. The car then sat in the sun for several days, causing the hard-water deposits to harden. Vinegar will remove the spots from the aluminum bumper, plastic taillights and rubber trim, but the paint will need to be polished and buffed with a buffer.
If water spots are allowed to stay for more than a week or so, the minerals will etch the paint. In this case, using vinegar will remove the mineral spots, but the paint will have etched spots (dimples). It is necessary to use a polish or mild polishing compound to restore the paint surface.
How-to Remove Swirl MarksSwirl marks are nothing more than micro marring in the paint surface. Under a microscope, they appear to be scratches; however, you can't feel these scratches with your fingers or finger nail.
The reason swirl marks and other micro marring show up so prominently on black and other dark colors is because the sides of the marring reflect light. When you polish, the edges are rounded and reduce reflection.This diagram shows what severe micro marring might look like in a cross section of paint.
A buffer in the hands of a pro can do wonders on a car that has heavy oxidation or minor scratches. Most body shops can use a buffer to blend touch-ups to perfection. Unfortunately, many detail shops and buffer owners don't know how to use the tool, or they use the wrong buffing pads or compounds.
Incorrect use of a buffer or polisher is not the only cause of swirl marks. Every time you wash or wipe down your car, you create micro marring. The severity of the micro marring depends on your tools and the contaminants present. Here are the ten most frequent causes of micro marring (swirl marks):
- Polishers/buffers with the incorrect pad or an untrained operator.
- Harsh polishing compounds and paint cleaners.
- Towels and applicators containing polyester threads.
- A dirty chamois or a chamois that has not been properly maintained.
- Wiping down a dusty or dirty car with a dry towel.
- A dirty car duster or a car duster used on a car with too much dirt on the surface.
- Not keeping your wash mitt or sponge properly rinsed.
- Automated car washes with brushes and other wipers.
- Not rinsing your car completely before washing, or not washing your car thoroughly before drying.
- Using a car cover when the car or the cover is not clean.
This picture, taken by Scott Borders prior to detailing, clearly shows buffing marks and other micro marring created by an inexperienced dealership detailer with a buffer. No doubt the Ford truck looked great when the owner took it home, because most buffer jockeys use a high-gloss wax that temporarily fills the buffing marks and other minor scratches.
After buffing and polishing, the swirl marks and hazing are no longer visible, and the paint surface has a deep, wet look. Scott did a great job, and the truck owner is very pleased.
Swirl marks can be removed by polishing. Polishing out swirl marks without a buffer is a lot of work. I recommend polishing your car one small section at a time so you can see the progress.
To remove swirl marks, use a good polish or "swirl remover." Many polish manufacturers market a special polish for removing swirls. Swirl remover polish formulas typically contain fillers and oils to help hide swirl marks. With regular polishing, over time, swirl marks will diminish. It's very difficult to completely remove swirl marks. Even the best towels and wash tools cause some micro-marring.
Polishing to Remove Water Spots & Swirl MarksIf your water spots or swirl marks are severe, I recommend using a product like Sonus Restore (SFX-1) to knock them down. Follow the application of SFX-1 (or any other cutting polish) with a gloss-enhancing polish, such as Sonus Enhance (SFX-2). In all cases, use a good foam applicator pad to apply compounds and polishes. Use the least abrasive pad necessary to get the job done. For hand polishing, the Sonus SFX Professional Applicator work very well.
REMOVING PAINT OXIDATIONLeft unprotected and out in the elements, your car's paint will quickly oxidize. You won't notice the damage over a period of a month or two, but it's there. After a year in the elements without protection, your paint will be noticeably dull and rough.
Paint oxidation is not the kiss of death. Light oxidation is easily removed through regular paint cleaning and polishing. Moderate oxidation can also be repaired, but may require a cutting polish, like Sonus SFX-1 Restore. Heavy oxidation, recognizable by a completely dull, chalky surface, is likely beyond complete restoration. However, even heavily oxidized paint can be polished to bring back shine.
Not long ago I saw my neighbor washing her Mazda Miata. I looked at the trunk and was horrified to see the level of oxidation that had set in since I had last looked at her car. As you can see, the paint was very dull (not yet chalky) and covered with water spot stains. I invited her over to my place for a quick lesson in polishing.
I pulled a old can of polish and an applicator off the shelf, and spent about five minutes polishing away the oxidation on the trunk lid. I then switched to a foam applicator for a second pass. The result is what you see above. The heavy polish I used removed all of the stains, water spots and oxidation. A quick hand buffing with Klasse All-In-One restored full shine and brought back some depth.
As with any form of paint damage, use the least abrasive polish necessary to get results. Even moderate paint oxidation causes paint thinning. As you polish, the oxidized (dead) paint is quickly removed.
One question that frequently appears in my e-mail is, "My car's clearcoat is flaking off. How do I repair it?" Unfortunately, the only answer is to repaint the damaged body panels. Once a clearcoat fails due to heavy oxidation, it cannot be restored by polishing. In this regard, solid body paints are far more resilient.
PAINT CHIP & SCRATCH REPAIRYou'd be hard pressed to find a car on the road that does not have paint chips and parking lot scratches. While good detailing practices can't prevent nicks and scratches, repairing them will restore your car's "like new" appearance. In this section, I'll describe the methods I've used for years to repair chips and minor scratches.
Paint Chip & Scratch RealityTouching up small nicks and scratches is well within the skill level of most do-it-yourself car enthusiasts. Some nicks can be quickly repaired with a small dab of touch-up paint, while others will require more time, effort and skill. It's important to know what you should and shouldn't tackle, based on your knowledge of paint and tools.
By far the easiest colors to repair are black and white. Black and white are very forgiving on shade variations. Conversely, metallic paints (those with metal flakes) can be quite difficult to match perfectly.
This is a medium scratch. You will be able to feel it with your fingernail, but it does not go through to the primer. The best way to fix this kind of scratch is to round down the edges using a medium-grit rubbing compound, and bring back full gloss with a good polish.
Before you get started repairing nicks and scratches, you should know what to expect. Small nicks are easy to repair by filling the nick with paint, leveling the filled area, and buffing the repair area to blend and restore luster. Repairing small scratches, as from a key or shopping cart, is similar, but more time consuming. Fixing a ding (a small dent which may or may not have taken a nick out of the paint) is not usually possible for the do-it-yourselfer.
Deep scratches and chips that go through the color coat into the primer or down to the metal can only be repaired using touch-up paint.
Here are some other things you should know:
If you know your car's factory paint code, you can purchase an exact color match touch-up paint from your local dealer. If you don't know the factory paint code, look in your owner's manual for the location of the code, or ask your dealer. If you have a late model car, chances are you will find a color match at your local auto parts store.
- Use a small artist's paintbrush (#2 is ideal) or a round wooden toothpick to apply the touch-up paint, not the fat brush included with the bottle of touch-up paint.
- Always test the touch-up paint for color matching in an inconspicuous area.
- The area to be repaired must be perfectly clean and free of wax, rust and oils.
- Don't attempt a touch-up if the temperature is below 60 degrees (Fahrenheit).
- Color-matched touch-up paint (Try Paint Scratch.)
- Automotive or metal primer (only required if you have exposed metal)
- Dawn dish-washing liquid
- Prep solvent (Prepsol) or denatured alcohol/li>
- Foam swabs (from electronics supply) or pop swabs containing alcohol
- Sanding block and 1500- or 2000-grit wet and dry sand paper (A rectangular rubber school eraser makes a good sanding block for small touchups.)
- Fine cut rubbing compound
- Artist's paintbrush (#2) and round toothpicks (plastic)
- Cotton terry cloth towels
- New pencils with unused erasers
- Rubber cement
- Plastic cups
- Blue masking tape (easy-release type)
- Large-diameter paper hole punch (hand type)
Paint Chip Preparation ProcessBefore applying paint, you must prepare the chip to accept paint. Although paint may adhere for a while to a chip with rust, dirt or oil, eventually the repair will fail. The preparation process begins the day before you repair the paint chips and scratches.
The afternoon before starting your chip repairs, wash your car with Dawn dish-washing detergent to remove all wax and silicone from your paint. Dry your car thoroughly and put it away for the night.
After washing your car, make up several sanding pencils. Use a hole punch to punch out a few dots from the 1200-grit wet and dry sandpaper. Apply the sandpaper dots to the ends of your pencil erasers with rubber cement. Allow them to dry overnight. You will use the sanding pencils to scuff up and clean out nicks.
To make a chip ready for touch-up paint, you must make sure it does not have loose edges, and then clean it and sand it. I use a toothpick to check the edges of a chip. If the edges are loose or lifted, I use the toothpick to knock off the loose paint. To clean, I like to use denatured alcohol or Prepsol and a foam swab. I pour a little bit into a plastic cup and use a foam swab to clean the chip and surrounding area.
Next, I use a sanding pencil to clean out the chip and rough up the edges. Simply dip the sanding pencil into a cup of clean water, dab a few drops of water on the chip, and gently rotate the sanding pencil over the chip. Keep the area you sand as small as possible. Rotating the sanding pencil back and forth in your fingers 8 to 10 times should be enough to do the job. If the chip has exposed bare metal, or if you can see rust forming, use the edge of the pencil eraser to remove the rust. When you finish sanding the chip, dry it with a terry cloth towel, and clean it again with Prepsol and a foam swab.
How-to Apply Touch-up PaintOnce the damaged areas are cleaned and prepared, you can begin the touch-up itself. If a chip exposed bare metal, you must primer the chip before the color touch-up. After mixing thoroughly, pour or spray a small amount of your primer into a plastic cup. Next, use a clean toothpick to apply the primer. I do this by dipping just the tip (2 to 3 mm) of the toothpick into the primer. If I get a blob, I wipe it back.
Next, I touch the tip of the toothpick to the center of the chip and allow the paint to flow off of the toothpick into the chip. You will be amazed how well the capillary action works. If you prefer, you can use the #2 artist's brush. Do not allow the primer to overflow the sides of the chip. Allow the primer to dry for 2 or -3 hours. You can speed dry the primer with a hair dryer after allowing it to air dry for one hour. Simply wave the hair dryer 3 to 4 inches over the primered chip for 30 to 40 seconds. Do not touch the chips with your hands, as the oils from your skin will prevent the color coat from adhering.
Now, mix your color-matched paint thoroughly, and pour a small amount into a clean plastic cup. As with the primer, use a clean toothpick or #2 artist's brush to apply the color coat. Touch the toothpick or brush to the center of the chip, and allow capillary action to pull the paint into the chip. Apply a small dab at a time, and allow it to dry for 2 to 3 hours. You must repeat this process several times, so don't try to fill the chip in one pass. Applying several thin layers will produce much better results.
The color touch-up process is complete when you have applied enough coats to slightly overfill the chip onto the roughed-up area surrounding the chip. Once you've filled the chip, allow it to dry for another 24 to 48 hours; the longer, the better.
I'm often asked if it's necessary to apply a clearcoat over chip repairs. I don't think it's necessary or adds any noticeable difference. If you get the proper touch-up paint from your dealer, it will match without using a clearcoat. However, if you're a purist in pursuit of perfection, substitute a clearcoat for the last 2 or 3 coats.
Here is a close-up picture of a scratch after it has been repaired with touch-up paint. The touch-up creates a raised surface. In order to perfect the repair, the raised touch-up paint must be leveled. I will use 1500-grit sandpaper to level the repair. If you are new to wet sanding, use 2000- or 2500-grit paper.
Level & Polish The Paint RepairUntil you level or mill the paint repair down to the same plane as the original paint, all you'll have is an ugly looking blob. Leveling the paint repair is easily done using a small sanding block and 1500- to 2000-girt wet and dry sand paper. I like to use a 1" by 2" rubber erasure as my sanding block, which helps level touch-up repairs with surgical precision. Don't forget to soak your sand paper overnight (30 minutes at a minimum) before use, as the directions indicate.
To level your paint chips, use your finger to put a small dab of car shampoo on the chip repair for lubrication. Next, use your sanding block and sandpaper to mill the high spot off of the chip repair. I always sand in a straight line, with the length of the car, never in a circle. Keep the area you're sanding well lubricated with water. Wet sanding will dull the paint. Don't worry, your polish will easily restore the finish. When the surface looks level, dry it with a clean towel and inspect with your fingertips. If you can feel a high spot, it needs more work.
This picture shows the repair area after a couple of passes with 1500-grit wet and dry sand paper. The scratch touch-up is almost level, and you can clearly see the surface scratches (micro marring) I put in the paint surface.
The final step is to buff out the repair with a good polish. If I'm working with my rotary buffer or Porter Cable 7424, I like to use Sonus Restore (SFX-1) followed by Sonus Enhance (SFX-2). Apply the compound and polish to a clean foam applicator pad or polishing cloth, rub into the paint area using a short back-and-forth motion (not in circles), and then buff out with a clean terry cloth towel. Tada! The blemish is gone. The job is much faster if you use a machine polisher.
The next step is to compound and polish. I did fewer than 20 passes (strokes) with rubbing compound. It does not take much to remove surface scratches. To completely polish and restore the surface, I polished the area twice.
As you can see, the repair and paint finish turned out to be quite beautiful. There are no visible surface marks in the paint, and the touch-up cannot be detected.
AERODYNAMIC AUTO PARTSNot long ago, I had an unfortunate parking lot accident. A tired employee backed into my pride and joy, crumpling and tearing the plastic bumper cap on the rear of the car. The end result was a $4,200 repair bill. The repair was perfect, but it left me wondering and asking a lot of questions about the use of plastics on cars.
Most modern cars use plastic bumper systems and fascias made of thermoplastic olefins (TPOs), polycarbonates, polyesters, polypropylene, polyurethanes, polyamides, or blends of these compounds. Often, glass fibers are added to provide more strength and structural rigidity. Plastics allow automotive engineers to have a lot of freedom in styling, building and placing components.
Plastic also lends itself to combining several complex parts into a single, integrated piece, such as a bumper cap or spoiler. From bumpers to door panels, plastics give car designers and engineers the freedom to create shapes and designs that otherwise would never be possible.With all of their benefits, plastic body parts do have limitations and drawbacks. One of the issues that I have discovered over the years is that painted plastic body parts are easily stained and dulled. To understand why, I researched the process of painting plastic bumpers and how it differs from painting metal body panels.
I have long known that it's necessary to add a "flex agent" to paint that will be applied to plastics. The flex agent allows the paint to move with the plastic part without cracking or delaminating. What I did not understand is how the flex agents work. It's very interesting, and it explains why painted plastic parts are so susceptible to staining and dulling.
It sure doesn't look like much, but the complete rear bumper cap had to be replaced and repainted. Aerodynamic parts sure look great, but the repair cost can be pretty hefty. In my case, the repair work was $4,200. Ouch!
Paint flex agents cause the cured paint to be more porous. In essence, the flex agent makes the paint foam, creating microscopic pockets. These pockets allow the paint to remain spongy and flexible. Most of the pockets are deep in the layers of paint, but some float to the surface. The flex agent also causes the paint to remain soft. Paint on TPO parts resists chips very well, but it will dent (small pock marks) from road stones. The porosity and softness afforded by the flex agent create a couple of challenges. First, the paint does not resist stains as well as paint without a flex agent. Second, the flex agent paint cannot be buffed or polished with anything more than the finest polish, or the finish will be ruined. Buffing does not increase the gloss on this paint as it does on a hard paint finish; it smears it. I've seen a dozen or more cases of botched repair jobs, where an inexperienced painter used a buffer to blend paint, and put permanent buffer burns and smudges in the bumper cap. I've seen even more cases of car owners using a rubbing compound on their soft plastic bumper caps to remove bug stains. The paint dulls and never returns to full gloss. I have also noticed that etching from hard water and bird droppings is much worse on the painted plastic parts.
AUTO BODY SHOP TANGONo one likes the thought of taking their car to the body and paint shop. Horror stories abound. How many times have you listened to the stories about swirl marks, paint that didn't match after 3 months, overspray on the rest of the car, and so on? I could go on and on with some of the stories I've heard, even longer with what I have experienced.
It's unfortunate that for every good paint and body shop available, there are probably three mediocre shops and two bad ones. When the day comes that you need to take your shining beauty to the painter, you need to be prepared. You need to know what to expect before you get there, and know what questions to ask to qualify the shop and the painter.
Just as important as qualifying the paint and body shop is understanding what damage requires a body shop repair. Just like alternative medicine for humans, there are some great alternatives to going to the body shop for small nicks and dings.
No one likes to think about it, but when a repair facility bungles the job, you need to know what remedies you have available to you. The unfortunate thing about paint and bodywork is, you may not know there is a problem until days, weeks or months later. What can you do?
Good Car Painter, Good as Gold!There are several stages to paint and body work. The first step is repair. If your car was in a minor fender-bender, it may require some parts removal and replacement. Common replacement parts include lights, bumper caps, hoods, spoilers, trunk lids, quarter panels and doors. Virtually every component of your car's body can be replaced, and all manufacturers make the necessary replacement parts.
If your car was in a serious accident, it is often necessary for the repair facility to make repairs to the internal, structural system of your car (the chassis and frame). For these repairs, you must seek the counsel of your insurance company. Your insurance company should be intimately involved in all major repair work to your car.
The second step is preparation. Preparation has many facets, but you can think of it as perfecting and protecting the bodywork for painting. Body shop technicians perfect bodywork by cleaning, straightening and aligning panels to be painted. Different shops have different methods for perfecting small dents, dings and ripples, but all body shop technicians use fillers. The quality of body fillers and application methods varies widely, and you should inquire. Once the bodywork is complete, the car body technician prepares the body panels to accept paint. This involves the use of sanding papers and paint primers. The body shop technician is also responsible for masking your car, leaving only the parts to be painted exposed.
The third step is painting. In most shops (small shops are different), the painter does not do bodywork, and the bodywork technicians do not paint. so it's really the painter who determines if a car is ready to be painted. A good painter will scrutinize the preparation work, because bad preparation will make his work look bad.
The smallest details can make a paint job look bad. For example, if the car body technician uses a grinding disk in the repair process and does not completely remove or fill all of the circular grinding marks, they will show through into the final paint. Likewise, pinholes in filler are a common prep problem, as is neglecting to feather repairs for a smooth blend. The painter should find all of these problems and reject the car if it's not ready.
The fourth and final step is buffing and blending. It's my belief that a good painter rarely needs to buff his paintwork. If a car requires buffing because the paint is oxidized or slightly faded, it should be done prior to painting in order to correctly match the repair color and finish. I've only met two painters who shared the same belief, and their paintwork was beyond great.
Auto Body Shop Horror StoriesThe Autopia forum archives are filled with stories of "Look what the body shop did to my car!" I have my own learning experiences.
My horror story takes place in Sacramento, California, where I was working for the state on a child support enforcement project. For the two years I was working on the project, I left my BMW M3 in Sacramento for local transportation. Even though my daily drive to work was short, the Sacramento roads have a lot of debris, so the front of the car had heavy road stone damage. At the end of the project, I decided I would have the M3's paint repaired prior to transporting the car down to Los Angeles.
Not being a Sacramento resident, I did not have a relationship with a painter, so I consulted the local dealer. As it happens, the same family owns the Porsche dealership in Sacramento, and I had seen their paintwork. It was perfect in every way. So, I assumed I would get the same quality of work from the BMW facility. What I did not realize is that they send their paintwork out to local shops. Bingo! Mistake number one on my part.
Timing being what it was, my M3 was not ready until the day I was packed up and heading out of town. The paint shop had delayed the work by 3 days. When I got the car back, it was filthy, but on first inspection, the paintwork looked pretty good. That is, until I loaded the car on the transport trailer.
On closer inspection, the paintwork was horrible. Three problems stood out. First, the repair facility was lazy and did not mask off or remove the plastic brake cooling ducts. So the ducts, which are supposed to be black, were now silver. Second, the lower cooling intake vent was matte black from the factory, but the painter sprayed it silver instead of masking it off or repainting it black. Worse, however, someone used a sanding disk and left deep grinding marks on the front spoiler. Strike three, the painter's work was obviously not great, because they used a buffer on the paint and stained all of the black rubber and plastic parts with silver paint from the buffing wheel.
Needless to say, I was furious, and they knew it. What could I do? I was headed out of town. The repair bill was $1,400, and they wanted a personal check or cash. Sorry, guys, here's my credit card. By the way, never pay for a repair by cash or check.
On my way out of town, I called my credit card company and disputed the bill. My second call was to the paint shop to voice my displeasure and to tell them I had stopped payment. They filled my ear with some colorful metaphors.
After multiple calls and several hours of negotiating back and forth, the owner of the paint shop agreed to reduce the bill by $800, which is what it would cost to replace the parts they had ruined and repaint the center intake area black again. I wanted compensation for my time, but he told me to go to a hot vacation spot down under.
Paintless Dent Repair (PDR)The paintless dent repair (PDR) industry is about 12 years old now, and going strong. If you're not familiar with the process, it's basically the use of gentle persuasion with specialized tools to massage dented metal back into place. PDR can achieve an 80% to 99% repair on most small dents. It's not possible to achieve a 100% repair with PDR, because metal stretches when it bends.
What can be fixed with PDR? Just about any minor ding or dent, including dings from car doors, bashes from shopping carts, and dips from a hail storm. Although very aggravating for someone who cares about their car's appearance, small cosmetic blemishes such as these can be repaired in a matter of minutes by a PDR professional. So let me make sure I get the point across clearly. There's no need to go to a paint and body shop to have a small dent removed. In fact, most PDR specialists will come to you.
Most PDR jobs require the technician to get behind the dent and massage the metal back into place using tools called dent rods. Used with skill, dent rods can remove damage from the size of a dime to 2 or 3 inches in diameter. In many cases, after the repair is complete, there is little or no evidence that a dent ever existed. The typical tell-tale sign is a small black plug in a door end or door jamb, where the PDR technician must drill a hole to access the back side of the dent.
When I purchased this 1995 Porsche 993, it was full of small dents. The car was used as a display model in the Los Angeles car show. The guys who transported the car must have been gorillas, because the car had 11 dents when it was returned to San Diego. This picture was taken after a visit to the PDR doctor and a day of detailing it with my Perfect Shineâ„¢ process. No one could find a trace of the dents. The guy was a master of his craft.
PDR is the least invasive way to repair a dent or ding. Unlike traditional body shop repairs, PDR does not compromise the vehicle in any way. For vehicles with custom paint jobs and for exotic cars, PDR is often the only way to retain the value of the car and maintain paint perfection.
PDR is not always perfect. Oftentimes the PDR technician can remove the ding, but the paint may crack, or you may have a paint chip in the center of the ding.
If you have a minor dent or ding, I highly recommend calling a PDR specialist first. Visit a traditional paint and body shop as your last resort.
Do-It-Yourself Paint RepairsI'm not going to talk about doing your own repairs. That's another book all to itself. However, I know that many of you like to be involved in the repair work. Indeed, for the best results, you must be involved.
If your car needs to go to the paint and body shop, you can do a lot of preparation work yourself that will help make the repair work better. For example, cleaning the car and removing trim is an important step, and most body shops hate doing it or refuse to do it.
In almost all cases, you will get a better repair if you remove the trim from the panels to be repaired and painted. Most body shops simply mask around the trim (lights, side markers, door handles, chrome bumpers, etc.) because it takes too much time to remove it. There is also some risk in removing and reinstalling trim.
The problem with masking trim is that there is always a masking line, leaving a clear sign that the car was painted. Also, don't forget what some buffoon did to my bumper trim with a buffer. If you take the time to remove small trim parts, the end result will be much better.
Clean your car completely before taking it in for repair. The most important task is to remove all waxes, sealants, polishes and silicones from the repair area. Realize that the body shop technicians will use Prepsol (a paint preparation cleaning solvent) to wipe down the areas to be painted, but how well do you think they will actually clean? If you have wax in the deep crevices between a door and fender, do you think they will take the time to scrub it out with a toothbrush? Don't fool yourself. Do the deep cleaning yourself. Make sure everything is cleaned, even down to the lowest part of the body.
Get Involved With Your Car RepairWhen you take your car in to the shop that will do the repair, you'll want to meet two people, the manager and the painter. Let the manager know what you have done to prepare the car for their work. He may shake his head and tell you it wasn't necessary, but you know better. He might even warn you about problems reinstalling the trim. If he doesn't appreciate the work that you've done, he obviously doesn't understand the car appearance enthusiast. Turn around and walk out, because you're not in the right place.
If the manager appreciates your preparation work, let him know you want to inspect the car prior to painting. This immediately tells him that you know your stuff, and that the car needs to be properly prepared before he calls you.
Also ask to meet the painter who will be assigned to your car. Spend a little time getting to know the painter and let him know you are a fanatic about your car's appearance. Let the painter know that careful masking is important to you, including the wheel wells, underbody, engine compartment, air ducts and other inlets. Let him know that you want no apparent sign of paintwork when the job is complete. Again, if the painter empathizes with you and understands what you want, you've found the right place. If not, turn around and head for the exit.
When the manager calls you for the paint pre-inspection, don't wait; go immediately. Inspect the work. If they replaced a body panel, look at the alignment. Is it straight with an even panel gap all the way around? Did they do a neat job of applying body panel cement at the mounting points? If they repaired a dented panel, can you see the repair? Thump the area repaired. Does it sound "thick" like they applied a lot of body filler instead of pounding out the dent? Have all of the pinholes and grinding marks been filled? Be very critical. It doesn't get better when the top coat paint is applied.
After the painting is complete, and it's time for you to pick up your car, inspect the work again. If they buffed the paint, look closely to be sure they did not leave swirl marks. Look for overspray. Look for a consistent paint finish that's free of orange peel, fish eyes and other obvious painting defects. When you're satisfied, pay by credit card. If you're not happy, review the problems with the manager. If the problems can be easily corrected, let them fix their work.
After the Paint & Bodywork Is CompleteIf you removed trim from your car, by the time you get your car home, the paint will be cured enough to begin reinstalling the trim. Be careful, though, as the paint is still soft and can be easily marred. If you're reinstalling a large part, such as a bumper, do not work alone. Ask someone to help you.
During the first 30 days after the paintwork, you should not use any chemicals on the fresh paint. Wash with cool water and a good wash tool. Do not wax until the paint has cured for a full 30 days. If you wax too soon, you'll risk discoloring the paint from trapped solvents. The solvents need to off-gas completely. Thirty days is plenty of time.
AUTOMOTIVE PAINT CLINIC SUMMARYMaintaining your car's paint in perfect condition, especially if it's a daily driver, can be quite a challenge.
Bird bombs are a simple fact of life. Just be aware that, in addition to looking really nasty, they are very damaging to your car's paint. Take care as soon as possible to remove bird droppings. If your paint is damaged, use a little polish to restore the surface.
While tar, sap and bugs are not immediately harmful to your paint like bird droppings, if not removed, they will deteriorate your car's paint finish. When regular washing does not remove the tar, sap or bugs from your car's paint, use the methods described above. If your paint is damaged from tar, sap and bugs, use a good polish to restore the finish.
Regular polishing is the best way to remove water spots and swirl marks. Choose a good polish, good tools, and be patient. To keep spots to a minimum, try using a detailing spray after you wash. A good detailing spray contains wax or silicone for protection and gloss. The wax will condition your paint and reduce hard-water-deposit spot formation. To keep swirl marks to a minimum, make sure you have good wash and dry tools, never wipe, rub or polish in circles (straight-line motions only), and be very careful with the use of buffers and polishers.
Learning to repair paint chips and scratches is not difficult. After buffing out a few scratches and filling a couple of chips, you will become comfortable with the process. The reward is a great-looking car and a lot of money saved. Most paint shops won't bother with repairing chips, because it's often faster for them to repaint an entire panel. If you keep up with repairing the chips and scratches, you can avoid repainting for a long time.
Let's hope you never need to visit a body shop. If you do, I hope I have been able to give you some insight into body shop repairs. It's a huge industry that's largely unregulated in terms of repair quality. You must do your homework. The best way to choose a body shop is to ask family, friends and co-workers for references. If you are a car club member, ask other members. If you have a good insurance agent, ask your agent. Whatever you do, qualify the shop before you hand over your car. Look at their work. Inspect their shop. If you don't feel good about it, walk away and find another facility.
Last edited by Autopia Expert; 03-30-08 at 08:01.Too Many ads? Becoming a member of Autopia has its privileges. Sign up here .
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