How To Fix Paint Chips on Your Car: Beginners Guide

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paint chip on a silver car

Paint chips are something that all car drivers struggle with, and it’s just impossible to avoid all those tiny rocks and stones on the road. So, at some point, you will have to fix those rock chips; sometimes, paying paint shops to do that may cost you a lot of money.

That’s why I decided to write this article and show you a simple way how you can fix paint chips on your car without spending a fortune.

Just a quick disclaimer: of course that the only proper way to fully fix paint chips is by re-painting the whole car part, which also includes sanding, filling those tiny holes, and applying the primer coat, base coat, and clear coat. That’s not the goal of this article; I aim to teach you how to fix small paint chips caused by tiny stones and rocks from the road so that you can prevent further rusting of the car and hide those chips as much as possible.

How To Fix Paint Chips on Cars

Here’s my step-by-step guide on how to repair stone and rock chips on your car’s paint. First, let’s make sure that you have all the equipment needed.

Gather the following materials:

  • Sanding paper (1500 and 2000 grit)
  • Bottle sprayer filled with water
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Car paint (base coat)
  • Lacquer (Clearcoat)
  • Compound polish
  • Applicator pad or buffing pad if you’ll do it with a machine
  • Touch-up paint applicator
  • Plastic paint spreader
  • Hair dryer or heat gun

I know the list above sounds like too much stuff, but actually, it’s not, and you can buy all of it for some smaller amount of money, and you’ll be able to fix many paint chips on your car with one purchase only.

Step 1: Make Sure That The Surface Is Clean

Before we dive into the exact steps, you must ensure that the surface you’re working on is clean from dirt, dust, or grime. So, I recommend you quickly wash your car. You can even use a self-service car wash to remove any contaminants quickly.

Step 2: Remove Rust With a 1500 Grit Sanding Paper

First, we need to remove any rust that has appeared over time. And trust me, if the paint chip is deep enough, it will develop rust pretty quickly. This step will also flatten the edges, which helps us to do a better job at hiding the scratch.

Just take 1500-grit sanding paper and gently sand the paint chip to remove any rust. If you want to speed up the process, you can also use some WD-40 or any other rust remover. Also, if you can’t remove rust with 1500 grit sanding paper, don’t be afraid to use a bit harsher paper, but don’t go with too low numbers. I would avoid using anything beneath 1200 grit.

After sanding the area, spray a bit of water on the car and wipe it dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

Step 3: Apply Car Paint To The Chip

applying paint on the paint chip

Now it’s time to start filling that chip with the paint. Take a bottle of your car’s paint, and apply it to the chip. While you can use the brush just as in the image above, I highly suggest you buy that tiny touch-up tool (Check here) because you’ll get much better and smother results.

Now slowly blob the paint into the chip. Try to fill the chip as thoroughly as possible without spreading the paint all over the area.

Step 4: Remove Excess With Plastic Paint Spreader

No matter how careful you are, you will always apply too much paint to the chip, and it’s not a mistake. It’s actually a must if you want to fill the hole properly.

To flatten it out, you should use any plastic paint spreader (you can buy it in most stores), and with one quick movement, slide over the paint to remove any excess paint. Now the damage should be already much less seeable.

Step 5: Let The Paint Dry

You should let that new paint dry completely before proceeding to fix the rock chip completely. Most car paints will be dry enough after 10-15 minutes, but if you don’t want to wait, you can use a hair dryer or a heat gun to speed up the process.

If you decide to use a heat gun or a hair dryer, don’t heat up the paint too much. Keep it at a safe distance and just slightly heat the area, and move the tool up and down to spread the heat all over the surface.

When it’s completely dry, inspect the chip, and apply a new layer of paint by following the methods above. So, repeat steps 3 to 5 one or two times more.

Sometimes, if the chips are deeper, you’ll need two or three coats of paint to fill those damages entirely. And when the paint finally covers the whole chip area, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 6: Use a 1500 Grit Sandpaper To Flatten It Out

Now we need to use 1500 grit sandpaper to flatten everything out again. This will help us properly apply a clear coat in the process.

Now you can go a bit wider and also sand a few inches (2-3) around the chip. But this time, wet sand is extremely important, so spray a bit of water onto the damaged area and sand to flatten it out.

It only takes a few seconds to sand it since it’s already filled with paint, but we need to flatten that out. And again, after the sanding is done, spray with water and wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.

Step 7: Apply Clear Coat Lacquer

Now that everything is sanded, the car is ready for clear coat application. Most clear coat lacquers will come in bottle sprayers, so you can either spray it directly onto the paint or spray just a bit of clear coat onto the plastic paint spreader and apply it to the surface.

Again, use another (clear side) paint spreader and wipe it off to remove any excess clear coat.

After clear coat application, let it sit for ca. half an hour, or even an hour if you’re not in a rush. In this stage, don’t use a hair dryer or heat gun to speed up the process – it just takes some time.

Step 7: Sand With a 1500 and 2000 Grit Sandpaper

Now that the clear coat is dry, you should do the following:

  • Use 1500-grit sandpaper and wet sand in that area
  • And then follow up with a 2000-grit sandpaper

Just make sure to use some water, it’ll make the sanding process easier, and you won’t damage anything. The paint should be extremely slick to the touch, and that way, you’ll know that you have done it properly and you’re ready to proceed to the next step.

Step 8: Buff It Out

After sanding that car part, the paint won’t be shiny at all. But don’t freak out. It’s completely normal; nothing is damaged; it only needs a little compound and polish to make it shiny again.

Here’s my guide on how to polish a car by hand, so you can use that technique to buff the car.

Take your favorite car polish compound, pour it onto the applicator pad, or even better, polish the car with a drill and just buff out the area.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Lightly damp the buffing pad with water (just a little bit)
  • Pour some polishing paste onto the pad
  • Tap it a few times onto the surface
  • Start buffing the paint chip
  • Wipe off with a clean microfiber cloth once you’re finished

And that’s it. Now you should have your car’s paint chip fixed completely. It will probably still be noticeable, but only if you look thoroughly. But more importantly, it will prevent the clear coat from peeling, and also, it’ll protect the car parts from rusting and causing further damage.

Bottom Line

As you can see, fixing paint chips in your car at home is not rocket science. It just takes a bit of your free time, dedication, and only a few bucks.

If you still don’t have an idea how the whole process goes, I highly suggest that you check out the video below. Actually, that’s the video that I have followed to fix stone chips on my car.

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