Most vehicles made since 1990 have clear coat finishes, mainly because the clear coat looks good, manufacturers can create specialized colors and offer durability and ease of repair. When you need to repair clear coatings, you do not need to worry about color misalignments since you can repair and lightly coat only that portion of your vehicle.
You can carefully wet or buff to striped sand without repainting the vehicle. This process has become increasingly important as people want to hold onto their cars more and the cost of repainting has increased. People also care more about the appearance of their cars.
- Measure the thickness of the paint before you start sanding using a paint meter. You want to make sure there is enough paint on your vehicle. For example, since the hood has more exposure than the sides of your vehicle, you may have a thinner coat of paint and sanding may damage the paint job, which also affects your warranty.
- Soak a sheet of 2000 grit sandpaper in clean water for 10 minutes. This type of sandpaper, also called micro fine sandpaper, provides the best paper to work with, especially good for beginners. Keep the water container handy as you must wet the sandpaper again often.
- Fold the sheet of wet sandpaper and then use the flat surface of the folded edge to sand the scratch on the vehicle.
- Sand some strokes very carefully by light pressure. You can remove a scratch from the transparent layer with about 10 to 30 movements. Take your time and if you find that you need more than 30 strokes, do it. John Pfansteihl explains this sanding and polishing process as “acting” in his book, “Automotive Painting Manual: Painting Technology for Auto Enthusiasts and Body Shop Professionals.” Pfansteihl also states that skill is needed to know if the defect can be removed without heavy repair and to know when to stop sanding.
- Check your work often. If you can still see the scratches or the chip, re-wet the sandpaper and move again until the scratch has disappeared. As soon as you notice that the scratch has gone, stop sanding. You observe and feel a dull, smooth surface. If you still see the scratch, it has a deeper scratch than the clear coat and needs professional repair.
- Dry and clean the area with a clean cloth. Apply a fine polish to this process that does not remove any paint, then polish the surface by hand quickly using pressure. You can use a current buffer if you wish but polishing works well in your hand. Keep polishing until you get the shine you want.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure you have a clear covered vehicle before starting any type of sanding. Otherwise you will end up damaging the painting permanently.