preparing an area for touch up paint

I'd like to extend a pearl of wisdom to any of my fellow do-it-yourselfers out there, looking to tackle the world of automotive paint repair. Whether you're dealing with a minor scratch repair or a full-blown restoration, the one thing I learned years ago is that preparation is key.

Similar to building a home, in auto paint repair it's the foundation which has the greatest effect on the final product. So before you grab that can of touch up paint, the first and most important step you need to take is properly cleaning your car's surface.

The biggest mistake most people make when prepping for a refinishing or repair job is assuming that a splash of warm water equals a clean car. What they don't know is that every car's surface is loaded with all types of contaminants, which can quickly sabotage your project unless properly removed. The two primary contaminants you need to concern yourself with are water based and solvent based.

Water based contaminants include common foes of the everyday driver, such as dirt, dust and bird droppings. I've found that these can be removed easily enough with a good car washing soap and some hot water.

Solvent based contaminants include wax, plastic resin, oil, tar grease and other hidden nuisances. These are a bit tougher to spot and require the use of a solvent based wax and grease remover. The best trick for knowing when you've effectively removed solvent contaminants is to flush the treated area with water and see if it sticks. If the water beads up, then it's time for another coat of the wax and grease remover.

One important thing to note about contaminants is that they're very picky. Water based cleaners will not remove solvent based contaminants and vice versa. So to get the job done right, be sure to wash your car with both a water based and solvent based cleaner. (Please note that plastic car parts contain certain wax and chemicals which require an entirely different solvent known as "plastic prep".)

Now you're ready to get fixing. Good luck and always remember, it's that extra bit of effort up front that will usually save you from a whole lot of aggravation in the future.

always wash your car before you touch up paint
A good washing is important, but is only the first step in preparing your vehicle for touch up paint.

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