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Paint reconditioning (swirl/scratch/stonechip)repairs

Number one in a series of DIY Small - Medium Area Repair Techniques (S.M.A.R.T.)

Why do we need to do it / what we are trying to achieve

Our car’s paintwork serves 2 main purposes;
  • To protect the metal from corrosion
  • To enhance the appearance of the vehicle

It is an unfortunate consequence that in today’s age of water-based paints, and increased road debris, coupled with airborne pollution (bird droppings included in this), and wanton acts of vandalism – this quite fragile coating can become damaged or look quite tired – losing its lustre.

Below, is an extract from an earlier posting of mine, which I believe some found useful – it is entirely relevant to this type of repair. I would, however, like to include a slight adjustment for cars with metallic finishes versus those with a non-metallic (solid) finish;
  • Solid paint has the ability to be ‘refreshed’ with a cutting compound, which restores the colour and finish to a showroom standard. It is advisable, to apply the touch-up paint (which is equally factory-fresh) a few days prior to cutting – this will allow the fresh paint to harden, and will ensure it all blends in to a higher standard.
  • Metallic paint fades, but cannot be cut-back this way (it is the clearcoat lacquer which is the first point of contact), however, using a cutting compound can eliminate the effect of ‘swirls’ (from automated car washes), and can also reduce the number and severity of scratches/stonechips which may only be apparent in the lacquer. Therefore for metallics, always use the cutting compound first, before paint.

It is of vital importance that you only cut-back one panel at a time, don’t rub too hard (remember, you are eroding a layer of paint/lacquer), don’t apply on hot paintwork, and use a clean soft damp cloth for application and buffing. Once the paintwork has had all rectification carried out, use a clean soft damp cloth for applying the polish and buffing. The polish applies a protective coating to the freshly exposed layer.

What you will need;
  • Touch-up paint which is available from Renault (they come as part of a kit, with lacquer if your car has a metallic finish).
  • A proprietary cutting compound (e.g. ‘T-cut’)
  • A good quality polish
  • A paper clip (one end opened-up)
  • A rust treatment agent (e.g. KURUST)

In terms of how easy they are to use - here are a few pointers;

  1. Don't work in the wet. If there is any rust starting to form, clean around this area until you reach 'clean' metal - you can apply a product such as KURUST which converts the rust into an inert primer base.
  2. Don't make the repair area too large - keep it as small as possible - you want a robust repair, but not one that is noticeable from a distance.
  3. Give the paint a good shake-up to suitably mix it.
  4. Remove the brush and using the opened-up end of a paper clip, place a small amount of paint on the end, then carefully apply to the chip/scratch and work your way along.
  5. Keep freshening up the paint on the brush by re-inserting it into the tube and shaking it. This prevents the paint getting a skin while you are still applying it. Keep cleaning the tip of the paper clip.
  6. Allow the paint at least an hour between coats if more is needed. Apply the lacquer (if applicable) using this method.
  7. After a couple of days (at this time of year) since the last coat was applied, you can lightly use some wax polish to blend in the repair with the rest of the panel.
This will (if patience is taken) give a good result - be realistic with the end result - it won't necessarily look 'perfect', but it will be an improvement, and should be to a standard whereby if a total stranger looked at your car (without knowing there was damage to it), they wouldn't be able to spot it.

I would like to finish by emphasising that this cutting compound should be used sparingly, and should not become part of your car-cleaning routine. It is very abrasive by nature, and should really only be used when necessary.

Hope that you find this article useful.

Paul:)
 

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Brilliant insights there VelSatisfied.

I've just got one question though: On some cars, even solid paintworks have a layer of lacquer over it. Should the 'metallic' method therefore be used when repairing paintwork / cutting etc?
 

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Great Post, nice to see someone giving us the benefit of their expertise
 

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Hi Paul
My wifes 1999 Renault coupe is Capsicum Red (solid paint) however it can not be cut as it has a top coat of lacquer, easy way to tell is when you rub your compound in take a look at your cloth after it should have colour on the cloth my problem now is the rear quater panel is bleaching in the sun, you can see the red getting lighter compared to the rest of the car, shame really as it is a nice loking car when clean, a lot of manufactures around this time (90's) put a clear coat over thier solid paint as thier water based paint was useless I remember polishing a brand new VW golf for the showroom using PDi polish which was 100% silicone not cut what so every, turning my rag over to find it RED with paint off the roof, can also remember at the same time leathering off a new black Gti Golf to find it covered in scrathes from the leather when the sun was on the vehicle warming it up you could actually leave a nail mark in the soft paint!:eek:
 
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