Oscar Granados | Jan 16, 2024

How to Repair Chipped Paint On Car

Few things are worse than stepping out of your car and noticing chipped paint. Regardless of the cause, you now have to deal with the ugly consequences.

You’re eager to restore your car’s exterior to its former glory, but maybe you don’t know how.

Luckily, there are steps you can follow to repair chipped paint on a car. From minor scratches to massive chips, our experts at Scottsdale Collision Center can give you all the information you need.

Why Fix Chipped Paint?

Repairing chipped paint isn’t just about aesthetics. Sure, making sure your car looks good plays a role, but there are more pressing reasons to make the repairs.

Initially, fixing chips will prevent further damage to the exterior of your car. Damaged paint exposes the underlying metal to the elements, leading to rust and corrosion. Your car will age faster, and may eventually suffer from more cosmetic and functionality issues. Repairing paint chips prevents these issues and preserves your car’s exterior.

Considering the effect on both cosmetics and functionality over time, you might not be surprised to learn that repairing chipped paint is crucial for maintaining your car’s resale value. Potential buyers are often deterred by visible damage, so paint chips can seriously reduce bids.  Conversely, a well-maintained exterior will increase the resale value of your car.

Why Fix Chipped Paint?

Measure The Severity of The Chip Before You Start

Before committing to the repair process, it’s important to assess the size, depth, and overall severity of the paint chip. Small chips can be an approachable DIY fix, while large, deep chips are best addressed by a professional.

Signs of a small chip:

  • Dime-sized or smaller
  • Surface-level
  • Little flaking
  • No signs of rust

Signs of a large chip:

  • Larger than a quarter
  • Substantial flaking, peeling, or spreading
  • Depth that can be felt with a fingernail
  • Evidence of rust

While you can attempt to address any chip size independently, you may not receive the best results with a severe chip. If you notice evidence of rust, substantial flaking, or deep scratches, we recommend professional assistance from a dependable body shop. Especially in cases where rust has compromised your car’s integrity, a professional can provide the high-quality repairs you need.

Repairing Chipped Paint: Step-by-Step Process

If you want to repair chipped paint the right way, you’ll want to follow the important steps below. Here’s how to get your car looking as good as new:

  1. Clean The Chip Location

    Before any serious repair work begins, it’s vital to clean the area around the chip thoroughly. Removing dirt, dust, and other debris ensures a smooth, consistent, and durable paint job.Using a hose or clean buckets, start by rinsing the area with water. Next, apply warm water and soap to a microfiber cloth or soft sponge and wash the affected region.Remember to let the area dry before moving on to the next step.
  2. Eliminate Rough Edges Around The Chip
To ensure a smooth, even surface after applying the paint it’s essential to eliminate rough edges around the paint chip. Raised edges disrupt paint cohesion, and may also be coated with waxes and grease that prevent paint adhesion. There are a few ways you can smooth these edges, depending on severity:
    • Gloves and Tweezers: some flaking paint and other debris that causes rough edges can be easily removed with your hands and tweezers. Simply grab the debris and pull it off.
    • Canned Air: This inexpensive tool is a great method for blowing small debris out of and away from the area.
      Rubbing Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol applied to a microfiber cloth can be rubbed on the area to eliminate grease and oil.
    • Sanding: While risky, fine-grain sandpaper and sanding pens can be used to smooth extra tough rough edges. However, it’s important to avoid scraping areas with undamaged paint.
    • Rust remover: pairing rust remover with a cotton swab is an effective method for getting rid of rust. However, this process takes time and requires immense patience.

    Overall, you should choose your smoothing method based on the nature of the paint chip. Don’t go overboard, as applying an unnecessary treatment can cause further damage.

  3. Apply Primer (If Applicable)

    Larger chips that expose the metal body of your car require a layer of primer before being painted. Primer should be applied in a thin layer across the entire exposed area to ensure paint adherence. If you notice drips and streaks, be sure to wipe them right away.Avoid letting the primer coat the undamaged paint surrounding the chip, as this will prevent a flawless finish. The best way to avoid this is by applying slowly and methodically.After the primer is dry (smooth and no longer sticky), you can move on to the next step.
  4. Apply Layers of Paint

    Finally, now that the previous steps are completed, you can start to make that paint chip disappear. Painting is a relatively simple process, but a few preliminary considerations are crucial for success. Most importantly, ensure you select the right color to avoid any mismatch with the original paint.One of the best ways to ensure color matching is to use your car’s VIN to find the OEM color used by the dealership. You can also reach out to automotive repair stores for the exact paint code, painting kits, and valuable advice.

    • Painting small chips: Small chips can be painted using touch-up paint pens or small brushes. Simply use the applicator of your choosing to fill the chip until the new paint slightly protrudes above the surrounding area. This accounts for the paint shrinkage during the drying process.
    • Painting large chips: Use a small brush to apply small amounts of paint, starting at the chip’s center and slowly working toward the outer edges. Once finished, let the paint dry before repeating the same process with a few more coats. As with small chips, you’ll know you have enough coats when the final layer is raised slightly above the surrounding area before it dries.
  5. Apply Clear Coat

    Clear coat lacquer is applied after the new paint is fully dried. This coat will safeguard the new paint, while also blending it seamlessly with the original paint job.Similar to painting, a small brush is used to apply a thin layer on top of the new paint. This first layer will dry quickly, and may require a second coat.
  6. Polish and Buff The Clear Coat

    While the clear coat will help match the new paint job to the old one, polishing and buffing creates a seamless transition between the two.First, apply polishing compound to a microfiber cloth or polishing pad. Using the pressure of your hand, rub the cloth or pad against the new paint job in small circular motions. Polish and buff slightly beyond the chip area to create a smooth transition.
  7. Wax The Area

    Waxing the area will apply a finishing touch that makes your car look as good as new. Plus, it will protect the exterior from future damage.Unlike previous steps, wax should be applied to the entire car, rather than just the previously damaged area. This will ensure an even, polished look.Use a microfiber cloth to apply the wax, following the directions provided by the specific product. Slow application is key to achieving a lasting and uniform coat. Once the wax has dried to a haze, use a cloth to buff the entire exterior. This will give you that new car finish.

Repairing Chipped Paint: Step-by-Step Process

Bring Your Car To An Auto Body Shop

If your car has large or rusty paint chips, consider heading to a reliable auto body shop to address the issue.

Body shops like SCC are well equipt to handle even the toughest paint chips. Instead of growing frustrated because the tools you bought aren’t working right, or because the color of your new paint doesn’t match, you can rely on the experts. SCC’s professionals possess all the necessary equipment and expertise to repair paint chips without causing unnecessary damage.

Plus, if you have any other cosmetic concerns you’d like to address, you can trust us to take care of them. Your car’s exterior will look better than ever, without you having to waste your precious time and money on imperfect repairs.

Paint Chip Repair
Frequently Asked Questions

You should go to a professional for paint chip repairs if the chips are large, deep, rusty, or extensive. Typically, if the chip is larger than a quarter it’s best to seek professional help.

This is especially true if you lack experience or connections. Attempting a repair with a lack of experience can result in further damage. Further, some cars may have unique paint colors that are difficult to match, creating a frustrating headache for you when you don’t know where to look.

Overall, taking your car to a body shop will likely save you time, money, and resources, while also giving you the best results possible.

There are several ways you can protect your car from future paint chips. Our top recommendations include:

  • Maintain a safe following distance to avoid rocks and other kicked-up debris hitting your vehicle
  • Avoid construction zones where gravel and debris are common
  • Use mud flaps or splash guards to protect against debris
  • Clean your car with regular car washes
  • Avoid parking your car under trees likely to drop sap
  • Avoid off-roading
  • Take your car in for regular inspections
  • Have your vehicle waxed regularly
Primer will need to be applied when the metal body of the car has been exposed. However, if this isn’t the case, applying primer typically isn’t necessary.
If you don’t fix paint chips as soon as possible, further damage can be done to your vehicle. For example, you might experience:

  • Corrosion and rust
  • Spreading paint chips
  • Compromised protective coating
  • Structural damage

In turn, these issues can create a domino effect of bad outcomes, such as reducing your car’s resale value, increasing repair costs, and voiding your warranty.

When in doubt, it’s always best to fix issues with your vehicle as soon as they arise, even if they only appear to be cosmetic.

SCC Is Your One-Stop Shop For Paint Chip Repairs

If your vehicle has deep or rusty paint chips, you can benefit from our services. Our auto body professionals at Scottsdale Collision Center have extensive experience repairing and refinishing anything from minor chips to extensive damage.

Our customer service is unmatched, and we’ll walk you through the paint chip repair process every step of the way.

You can visit our website, contact us at (602) 777-7921 and estimates@scottsdalecollisionaz.com, or visit one of our repair shop locations.