Chip and scratch repair
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  1. #1
    Sr. Global Product & Training Spec Michael Stoops's Avatar
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    Chip and scratch repair

    From time to time the topic of chip repair comes up here on MOL and, even though Meguiar's doesn't really make touchup paint or a specific repair kit for this sort of damage, we just might be able to help with the process. Chips don't just happen on the leading of the hood or front bumper, although those are very common areas simply due to the common impact from road debris. The good folks at Dr. Colorchip actually make an excellent kit that dramatically minimizes the appearance of this sort of fine, densely populated chipping with minimal effort. But for those larger chips and scratches you may need something different. That's what we're going to discuss here.

    It should also be noted that you want to exercise caution when doing any sanding so as not to alter the existing texture of the paint around the chip repair. Let's face it, a little chip might be a great frustration to almost anyone, but to an MOL member it's exasperating. But that same MOL member is going to notice if, in the course of fixing the chip, you've suddenly left an area totally devoid of orange peel when the rest of the car has plenty. Now you've got this big ol' dead flat, nearly perfect patch in a field of tiny little ripples. If the orange peel in your paint drove you crazy before, it surely will if that happens. Another reason why sometimes having a slightly softer backing pad, and even use of a Unigrit Finishing Disc rather than a Unigrit Sanding Disc or even Unigrit Sandpaper, is the better way to go. Remember, the Unigrit Finishing Discs have an integral foam backing and the abrasive particles themselves are designed to move, so the whole structure allows for texture matching as opposed to texture leveling.

    This picture is actually a bit out of focus, but the big white spot is a chip - a rather deep chip!


    A deeper and longer chip/gouge next to the fuel filler door.


    And a longer vertical scratch on the same panel, almost directly below the chip in the first shot.


    Touching up the paint in the first chip. Here we used a small Duplicolor bottle that matches the factory Chevy Victory Red paint color, but opted to use a very fine artists brush instead of the larger brush that is part of the cap to the bottle.


    Touching up the scratch with the same method.


    Sanding was done with 2500 Unigrit paper cut to fit a small sanding block courtesy of wetsanding guru Jason Killmer. Jason, by the way, was our featured high end sanding instructor at our last NXT Institute Advanced session in May of 2014. Given that Jason has wet sanded and buffed out several Ridler Award winners as well as winners at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, he's got some serious opinions on what makes a good sanding block. His blocks are various shaped pieces of clear plastic (mostly plexiglass) that are about 1/4" thick, and several have a very thin foam backer on them. The one being used in the image below has that foam backer, but because this panel area is pretty flat, we're using the flat plexi side of the piece.


    After sanding the main chip and the scratch below it, some of the touch up paint was actually pulled out of the chip so we reapplied more touch up, let it dry, and re-sanded.


    Sanding complete, it's time to buff out the sanding marks. That was done with a microfiber cutting pad, M100, and the MT300 DA polisher running at 5800 opm.


    Voila! Now, we have to admit that a solid, non metallic color is probably the easiest type of color to work with in these cases. There's no worry about how the metallic particles line up, etc - it's just a big old field of solid color so it's pretty straightforward.


    And in the spirit of full disclosure, this picture shows what happens when you change the angle of the light a bit. It's not very noticeable, but if you look for it you can see a very slight little round mark where the chip was. But the light has to be just right and you have to look for it.......big whoop. It used to jump out and smack you in the face it was so obvious, so we'll take this.


    A bit further down the panel and the same thing..... hunt for it, at the right angle and with the right light, and you can still see it. Fine by us, nobody else is going to know it's there.


    A few other caveats to keep in mind here;

    Chief among these being "don't sand where you can't buff". For example, that chip close to the fuel filler door was workable, but if was much closer to the edge things get really, really tricky. You can fill it easy enough, and you can even sand it pretty easily..... or so it would seem. But it that chip was right on the edge, you'd be sanding on some of the thinnest paint on the car so it would be really easy to sand through the clear. Then what? You've got sanding marks and almost no paint left, and that most likely looks worse than the just the chip. Or the chip with some touch up in it. So you have to buff out the sanding marks and ..... uh oh.... there's almost no paint left. You will burn through. End of story.

    Also, don't be too quick to lay down some masking tape and sand up to it. You'll end up with a hard line where you sanded, and that's going to be a real bugger to buff out, so you end up with a hard line at the edge of your sanding marks. Not cool.

    Prep is king. If you're addicted to waxing your car, your touch up paint isn't going to stick very well to all that wax. Thoroughly clean the area with isopropyl alcohol or a body shop panel wipe. Mineral Spirits can work well, too. Just don't wipe it down with a quick detailer that contains silicone or you're back to square one and your touch up paint won't stick.

    Take your time. Build up the paint slowly, don't just glob it on. Let it dry fully because it will shrink back a bit as it dries and you may not be able to tell that it's still mostly below the top of the chip. Sanding at that point isn't going to do you much good. The touch up paint must be fully dry and totally above the top of the chip with no low spots.

    Never, ever use just your thumb as the backing for your little piece of sandpaper. The "meat" of your thumb will contour around the touch up paint blob and you'll end up sanding a little bit of the top of the blob, plus a bunch of the surrounding paint while leaving a ring of untouched paint around the blob. That's not the goal as it does not yield a seamless, flat area where the chip had once been.

    Don't get crazy with the grit of sandpaper you use. Leveling the touch up blob is easily done with 2500 grit if you take a tiny bit of extra time. And the resulting sanding marks buff out very easily with a DA, a microfiber pad and some M100. The car used in the images above actually has fairly hard paint, and those 2500 grit sanding marks came out with almost no effort at all. No reason to fight this, or get more aggressive on the paint than needed. 2500 grit is usually a great balance between fast cutting and easy buffing; for chip repair you rarely need to start with an aggressive paper and then do multiple sanding steps to refine things. Don't over complicate this!!
    Michael Stoops
    Senior Global Product & Training Specialist | Meguiar's Inc.

    Remember, this hobby is supposed to be your therapy, not the reason you need therapy.

  2. #2
    Michael The Guz's Avatar
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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Very good article Mike. I may have to give this a shot on a couple chips I have.

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    Swirls+Surly=Swurly ClearlyCoated's Avatar
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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Great tutorial, Mike! Bookmarking this for future reference.

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    Excellent info Mike. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Subscribed to this thread!

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    Registered Member Spazzz's Avatar
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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Thanks Mike.

    I was looking at the Automotive touch-up paint brand and noticed their paints say 'needs clearcoat'.
    I would think that would be totally unnecessary with these repairs.

    From what I read, there was no clear used with the Duplicolor, correct?

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    Michael The Guz's Avatar
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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Quote Originally Posted by ClearlyCoated View Post
    Great tutorial, Mike! Bookmarking this for future reference.
    Same here. Very good post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spazzz View Post
    Thanks Mike.

    I was looking at the Automotive touch-up paint brand and noticed their paints say 'needs clearcoat'.
    I would think that would be totally unnecessary with these repairs.

    From what I read, there was no clear used with the Duplicolor, correct?
    You can get by with just the touch up paint. I used it on a couple areas on my door without the clear with no issues.

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    Registered Member Selectchoice's Avatar
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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Great article Mike!

  8. #8
    Sr. Global Product & Training Spec Michael Stoops's Avatar
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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Quote Originally Posted by Spazzz View Post
    Thanks Mike.

    I was looking at the Automotive touch-up paint brand and noticed their paints say 'needs clearcoat'.
    I would think that would be totally unnecessary with these repairs.

    From what I read, there was no clear used with the Duplicolor, correct?
    Automotive Touch-up sells a very nice factory color matched spray paint for dealing with larger areas and if you go that route you should also purchase their clear coat. From personal experience, having used their product on a couple of aftermarket front end aero kit pieces, it actually works extremely well. But their sprays are designed to behave just like the paints used by the OEMs and body shops; the color coat will not hold a gloss and you must apply a clear over it for both gloss and UV protection. Heck, they sell their paints in cans so that you can spray out of an HPLV air gun and do an entire car if you wish. But their rattle cans are actually quite good, especially if you're comfortable with a little wet sanding to remove orange peel, and then buffing out the sanding marks.

    For spot repairs like this (chips and scratches) I don't recall if Automotive Touch-Up sells factory matched "brush in a bottle" type kits or not. The Duplicolor product used here, sourced from a local auto parts store, does not need a clear coat on top of it to give gloss. The two are really just different means to a similar end. Depending on the type of repair you're working on, both are great products/processes.
    Michael Stoops
    Senior Global Product & Training Specialist | Meguiar's Inc.

    Remember, this hobby is supposed to be your therapy, not the reason you need therapy.

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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Mike, great post and perfect job of helping me (and others) to manage expectations on chip touch ups.
    Question: could an "old fashioned" rectangular eraser (2" x 1/2") serve as a sanding block for these small areas?

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    Re: Chip and scratch repair

    Nice write up...

    I'm in the process of doing mine, metalic.

    The hardest part is sanding the base before adding the clear using halfords 3 pen kit.

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