Touch Up Car Paint

Car paint can chip very easily. Debris from the road kicks up while driving to chip the sides, adverse weather can wreak havoc on the hood, and accidents can happen any time. A car in use is bound to obtain a few paint chips. These chips are usually too small to warrant a new paint job or professional assistance at all. If the affected area is smaller than a pencil eraser, you can use touch-up paint to repair the damage. Use these steps to touch up car paint. Car Maintenance and Repair


  1. Buy a matching touch-up paint color.
    • Check the firewall (bulkhead) to find the paint code number. The firewall is the piece of sheet metal that separates the engine under the hood from the passengers inside the vehicle. You will need to open your hood to find this number.
    • Purchase a primer along with the touch-up paint unless the particular touch-up paint you've chosen states otherwise. Touch-up paint and primer can be purchased at auto stores.
  2. Check the affected area for rust.
    • Apply a small amount of rust arrestor on the chipped area before touching it up to prevent rust from spreading underneath your touch-up job.
  3. Wash the car, focusing on the area where the paint is chipped.
  4. Pre-treat the chip.
    • Apply wax remover to the area.
    • Use a nick sander to remove all loose paint from the area.
    • Sand the area again with number 220 sandpaper. This will allow the primer to stick.
    • Wash the area once more with water to remove the wax and any leftover debris from the pre-treating process. Allow the area to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step.
  5. Apply primer if necessary.
    • Squeeze a dab of primer onto the area if the chip reaches metal. If the chip is surface-level, you can skip this step. Primer is needed for deep chips because regular paint will not adhere to bare metal.
    • Spread the primer around the small chip with a tiny brush. Only use enough primer for one thin coat. Allow the primer to dry completely.
  6. Test the paint.
    • Apply some of the paint to an area on the car that isn't visible, such as the lip under a door. It is important to make sure the paint you've purchased will not react poorly to your existing paint and also that it matches well.
  7. Paint the primed area.
    • Shake the paint well and pour some into a shallow dish.
    • Spread 2 to 3 layers of touch-up paint on the area. The touched-up spot will look elevated above the rest of the paint, which is how it should look.
    • Wait at least 24 hours before continuing the process.
  8. Finish the surface.
    • Sand the area with 1000-grit sandpaper, making sure to move very slowly and gently. Continue with 2000-grit and 3000-grit until the touch-up paint is even with the rest of the vehicle.
    • Polish and wax the entire car.


  • If the paint chip is on a vertical surface on your car, wait until the touch-up paint dries between layers so it doesn't run.
  • A matchstick works well as a tiny applicator for primer and touch-up paint.
  • You can practice applying paint on a metal can if you aren't confident enough touch up the paint right away.


  • Light-colored cars can be difficult to find a perfect color match. Consult an auto paint specialist if you are having difficulty finding the right color.
  • Avoid getting primer on the car paint. It will ruin the finish.
  • Always wear safety goggles, gloves, and a paint respirator when applying auto paint and primer.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Primer
  • Rust arrestor
  • Touch-up paint
  • Wax remover
  • Nick sander
  • Tiny brush
  • Matchstick (optional)
  • Number 220 sandpaper
  • 1000, 2000, and 3000-grit sandpaper
  • Shallow dish
  • Car polish
  • Car wax

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Sources and Citations

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