Paint and refinishing processes are the most visible and most noticeable steps of the entire collision repair process. When you are looking for a shop to paint your car, check to see what kind of materials will be used and check to see that proper masking paper will be used. The quality of the paint materials used is as important as the quality of the painter’s work. Most quality shops will have their own in-house mixing system and some modern shops are equipped with computer systems in which the database is updated with new factory color code information regularly. DuPont, PPG or Sikkens paints and primers should be used. These products can be expensive, but they have a lasting quality that can’t be beaten.
Modern shops are using bio-degradable alternatives to paper and the results are quite acceptable. DON’T let anyone mask your car with newspaper unless you want to clean overspray off of it for the next two months. Newspaper often has perforations and most paints will soak right through it onto your car. Modern shops are also equipped with down draft paint booths. A down draft booth has its filtering system installed in the floor of the booth so that the exhaust fans will create a downward draft. This downward draft reduces overspray problems, removes toxic fumes from the work area and it pulls any loose, floating dust to the floor.
The shop where your vehicle is being repaired should have separate areas for body repairs and painting to prevent dust from entering the paint area as well as reduce paint overspray in the repair area. The paint shop should be clean and well lighted. All spraying should be done inside of the paint booths or a prep station. The paint booths should be the cleanest part of the whole shop. The less dirt there is floating around in that little room, the less dirt you’ll find in the surface of your paint job.
When a vehicle is being prepared for painting it is important to remember that the preparation of the vehicle is the most important part of the job. The way that your vehicle’s surface is treated prior to the actual painting of the vehicle will directly effect the end result.
All parts that are to be painted should be thoroughly sanded with fine grit sand paper (400-500 grit). Any areas where paint has been sanded through to the bare metal should be coated with 2-3 light coats of primer and re-sanded so that the metal is protected from corrosion. The amount of sanding required depends upon the condition of the paint’s surface. Some cars only need a light sanding while others should be stripped completely and re-primed with a good quality primer.
Chips and scratches should be sanded out with a process called “feather edging”. A chip or scratch that is improperly feather edged will show a “bull’s eye” which will appear in the final finish as a group of concentric circles (more or less). In most cases these circles are barely visible.
When the sanding is finished, the car is pressure washed and thoroughly blown out with a high pressure airline to remove all loose dirt so it will not blow into the paint will spraying. The car is carefully masked and parked in the paint booth where it is cleaned and degreased.
Door handles, moldings, signal lamps or reflectors, etc., should be removed when the vehicle is painted, but if the insurance company does not pay for the technician to remove these parts, they will be covered with masking tape while painting. When the car is masked up to paint, EVERYTHING that is not to be painted must be either carefully masked or removed. There should be no paint anywhere on the vehicle except on the factory painted surfaces. There should be no traces of overspray on any of the glass or chrome and the wheel openings should all be black. Even though the wheels may have been covered during painting, the wheel openings and the shocks and struts may get overspray on them.
In order to duplicate the factory finish, the painter starts with one or two coats of primer or surface sealer, two to three coats of color, pearl if needed, and finishes it all with two to three coats of clear. Clear coat is just what it sounds like; a transparent coat of paint which seals in your car’s color. When the clear coat is properly applied, it dries to a smooth uniform finish with no RUNS or excessive ORANGE PEEL or DRY SPRAY. In order to obtain a smooth glossy finish, the painter applies a final “wet coat” or heavy coat of clear which maintains a wet look as it dries. If this wet coat is too wet (too heavy) it will run. The most common places where runs occur are near door and fender edges and around body lines and creases.
Orange peel and dry spray occur when the clear coat is not wet enough (heavy enough) and the tiny droplets of clear are partially dry before they land on the car’s surface. Orange peel actually has the texture of an orange and, in more severe stages, has a pebbled texture like that of a brand new basketball. Dry spray will be even more coarse than orange peel and can even resemble the texture of sandpaper. Orange peel and dry spray most commonly occur in hard to reach areas such as the center of hoods and rooftops on trucks and other tall vehicles and low areas on the very bottom of the vehicle, although you may find orange peel anywhere on the vehicle if the job was not properly sprayed.
Without body repairs, most cars can be painted in five days or so (depending upon condition and age of vehicle). Beware of shops who promise it can be done in less than five days as there is a chance they are cutting corners somewhere. Production type paint shops are prime examples of this. The low price and the fast turn around lures customers into these types of paint shops, but the quality of materials used and the quality of the workmanship in such a shop leave a lot to be desired.
After the vehicle is painted, it should have a smooth, uniform finish with no runs or particles of dust in the surface. Metallic and pearl colors should have an even and uniform pattern to them. Most importantly, there should only be paint on the surfaces that are intended to be painted. When checking the car for overspray, check any door jambs in the repainted area for dry spray which will appear as a rough textured area just inside the edge of the door opening.
Upon closer inspection of the repaired areas, be on the lookout for sanding scratches which are a result of overly coarse sandpaper being used on the surface. If the scratches are not removed with a finer grade of sandpaper, the paint shrinks into the scratches making them visible (as well as unsightly). The most common place you might find sand scratches is in the door jambs. Open your doors, trunk, or hood and look closely at repaired areas for these signs of poor quality. Because the average body man thinks you only look at the outside of your vehicle, it is very important that you carefully inspect everything in the area where the vehicle was damaged.
Until you are completely satisfied with the quality of repairs made to your vehicle, it is not advisable to take delivery of the vehicle or to pay any deductibles or other charges for items not covered by the insurance company. Most of all, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SIGN. Once you’re satisfied with the repairs made, you can settle all accounts and take delivery of your vehicle, at which time your warranty should go into effect. Any quality shop will provide a warranty at no extra charge, covering repair related problems for at least one year. You may want to request a written copy of this warranty when you are getting your first estimate from a shop.
After you take delivery of the vehicle, wait at least two days to wash it with a mild soap and a soft sponge. Do it in the shade or else early or late in the day if possible and make sure none of the soap dries on the painted surface. After your paint job is about thirty days old it will be cured enough to put a coat of wax on it. Once again, try not to do this in direct sun, and use a good quality wax such as Meguiar’s. If you use a car cover or you have add-on accessories such as a front bumper bra, it’s a good idea to leave it off for thirty days until the paint fully cures.