Archive for August, 2010

Automotive Paint

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

When feasible, consider buying vehicles with lighter colors, they don’t show minor scratches. The acrylic urethane clear-coat paint overlaying the pigment on virtually all late model cars and trucks will show up as almost white when scratched. Consequently, a scratch in this clear-coat surface on a black car will stand out much more than say on a white or light tan vehicle. We see most black cars with minor scratches from fingernails filling the recesses at the outer door handles, where the average white car won’t show any.

Most bumper systems of today consist of shaped semi-rigid painted plastic covers over high-strength substructure. Most people I work with mistakenly believe that the parts they see at each end of their car are the actual bumpers, they’re not. What they see is the contoured plastic outer skin. I explain that, “The steel part they used to chrome years ago, the one that will save you in a collision, is now hidden beneath all that plastic”. Scratches and nicks in this plastic outer “bumper skin” will not rust and tend to be purely cosmetic in nature. I tell people, “Bumpers get bumped, why not do a small touch-up and save yourself a bunch of money?” Many times a simple touch-up with a small brush will work wonders in hiding minor damage on these bumper covers. Of course pickup trucks and some SUV’s still have the older exposed chrome design that we’ve seen for years.

Keep your vehicle out of the sunlight as much as possible. Ultraviolet light is a primary culprit in automotive paint breaking down. That’s why many times one can see cars or trucks where the upper surfaces (roof, trunk & hood) are failing with the sides still intact. The upper panels have simply received more UV over the life of the vehicle.

Try to wash your vehicle at least once a week. Paint manufacturers will tell you that dirt, industrial fallout or any foreign matter allowed to remain for long periods of time on the paint surface can contaminate it, causing a microscopic breakdown in the paint’s outer finish, dramatically reducing paint life.

The general rule is that if you can feel a scratch in your paint with your fingernail it cannot be removed by polishing. We tell our customers that minor scratches can often be polished out, but only if you can’t feel the scratch with your fingernail. Deeper scratches, the ones you can feel with the tip of your fingernail will require normal prep and painting to make them go away completely. One last note: On occasion we’ve taken a small “pin-striping brush” with our catalyzed clear on it and done small touch-ups on deeper scratches, those where the underlying colored pigment is still intact. The effect can often be stunning, our clear paint from our brush filling the scratch’s small groove. If one looks for the damage, it’s still visible. But the improvement is usually quite dramatic, and at a fraction of the cost.