How to Fix Car Paint Chips

Remember that gravel truck traveling at 100 km/h that suddenly switched lanes in front of you and bounced a few marble-size rocks off your hood? Now you’ve got to fix those chips on your car’s paint finish that could grow to quarter-sized rust spots in a few years. Take care of the problem right away for less than $10, and you’ll save yourself big money later on-not to mention the embarrassment of driving a premature clunker. As your new car is a significant investment, you want to protect it as best you can with our new car paint protection process.

The fix we show here is for fresh chips that haven’t started to rust yet. If you see a rust spot, or have a dent along with your chip, you’ll need to do a more challenging fix than we show here. Keep in mind that this repair will be visible under close scrutiny, but if you buy the right touch-up colour, it’ll be unnoticeable from a few feet away.

At an auto parts store, you’ll find a display of auto touch-up paints. Look up your car’s year, make and model in the booklet at the display. You’ll find a list of factory colours that cars like yours were painted that year. If you have a white vehicle and there is only one white listed for it, just buy that one. If you don’t know the colour number for your car, you’ll have to find it on your vehicle identification plate. This can be challenging. The plate may be located under the hood on the cowl, near the radiator shield or on the jamb of the driver’s door. Some owner’s manuals will tell you where to look, or a quick call to your dealer will help.

Once you find the number, buy a small bottle of touch-up paint. If you can’t find the correct colour at the display, check with the dealer. Dealers often carry colours for the cars they sell. Also, buy a small can of auto primer. Now just follow our photo sequence to fix that chip, and remember, don’t do this repair in the direct sun or if the temperature is below 10 degrees C.

Tip: If you can only find spray paint with the right colour number, you can use it by spraying a bit of paint into the cap and applying it with a fine artist’s brush.

Step 1: Clean the chips

This is a typical rock chip that you can fix with this procedure. In fact, even if the chip is about one-fourth the size of a dime, you can still repair it. Clean the chip with soap and water and then dry it with a soft cotton cloth. Rub a dab of automotive polishing compound over the chip to gently soften any ragged edges. Just a dozen swirls or so will do the job. Too much rubbing could damage the clearcoat over the paint and make a cloudy mess.

Step 2: Clean with alcohol

Clean the finish with denatured alcohol. Don’t flood it with alcohol-just a few wipes with a soft cloth will do. The alcohol will remove any wax or remaining grime.

Step 3: Apply the primer

Apply a spot of primer with the butt end of a paper match. Fill the area within the chip, just touching the edges of the surrounding paint. Let the primer dry for at least a half hour.

Step 4: Paint the chip

Put a small amount of paint over the primer coat. Always test the colour on a piece of paper to make sure it matches. The test will also give you a feel for how much paint to load onto the applicator brush. Take note to apply a second coat about one hour later. Let the paint cure for several days and rub it out again gently with polishing compound to feather the edges of the repair.