Vehicle Scratch Woes

Not my usual type of post, and not really my area of expertise, as you’ll soon realise.

We own two motor vehicles. First is my 400cc motorbike which I love getting out on and occasionally hug when I think no one is looking. I still maintain that, if you want to see a country and meet the people, get on two wheels and off the beaten track.

Our second is a small Toyota Vitz (called the Yaris in many places) which we bought used last year. It’s basically the family runabout, and is used and abused around town and on longer runs.

The problem is our car –  it’s picked up a few minor scratches,  but thanks to someone in a car park who then fled the scene, there is a deep scratch around the rear passenger wheel arch which went through to the metal. After it happened, I quickly sanded the section down and got some paint from the local shop to just cover it to avoid rust.

At first I wondered how much a professional respray would cost, so I went to a couple of local places like KaKombini and Autobacs, and quotes were upwards of 50,000yen for the work (as usual, they wont put it in writing with a scope, sigh). For a seven year old car we bought quite cheaply last year, I doubt it’s worth it at this point.

I asked a car otaku friend what basic ingredients I would need for some patchup work, and went shopping for filler, rubbing compounds, paint polish, masking tape and such) and the right paint from Autobacs (one can and a pen touch up made by Holts) and some clear coat (specifically for metallic/pearlescent cars like ours). I think that cost about 4000yen.

Part of the initial scratch. doesn't show depth sadly.
Part of the initial scratch. doesn’t show depth sadly.
Part of the initial scratch. the bumper - plastic.
Part of the initial scratch. the bumper – plastic.
Rust prevention work
Quick rust prevention work

First off though, a week or so ago I tried to get the main scratches filled with the filler, let it harden and sanded it back down smooth – this takes a couple of iterations, so be patient. For the less severe scratches it was just filler and fine sanding with masking tape to protect the other paint to prep it, then use the small brush.

I had a crack at spaying it on a morning off work last week, and this last weekend. That morning it was fairly warm, no wind, and with most of the car taped and covered in paper, including the wheel, I had a go at spraying, after making sure the whole area was clean.

I went with nice even strokes leaving a mist across the target area and remembering not to attack the worst places directly, but layer it up and though not perfect, it covered evenly and there’s no white filler visible so at a passing glance, doesn’t look too bad. (Note: the paint isn’t like a jet from 20-30cm away, so it’s important there’s no wind or you’re shielded.) The blend to the body colour isn’t perfect though obviously, since I didn’t spray too far from the main scratch on the wheel arch as that would have meant doing part of the door and I didn’t want to get that far with it, but I’m told that’s the better way to graduate the colours.

I did use the compounds though to smooth the transition line to the body colour, but since its a 7 year old car, that main body has faded, and its a ‘pearlescent’ (?) / metallic type paint, and it looked a little darker in places.

I then got the clearcoat on top at the weekend, and blended it a bit into the normal paint (and buffed it again a couple of days later). Don’t underestimate this topcoat and buffing – it made the whole thing far less noticeable, making the spray job appear lighter in colour – don’t skimp on this. Really, this was a step I hadn’t really thought about, but it really improved the whole look.

After top coat but before blend and buff.
After top coat but before blend and buff.

I definitely learned a lot though, so when attacking some other scuffs, hopefully I’ll get better at it, and keep it looking decent until we upgrade to something bigger in 2012.

I have to say as well, I was impressed with what I could hide / cover / ‘remove’ with the rubbing compound and the polish.

So why put these amateurish stumblings on my blog? Well, one because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be to do, which often stops us trying things, and two, because I really think I learned something. There are hours of web video how-tos on this, but I found many were aimed at the enthusiast, or pushed certain products, but they do have some tips so look around. All comments appreciated.

(And yes, it’s good enough that it passed the main driver seal of acceptability).

** Note – sadly, no truly before and completely after pics, though I’ll post an after photo in a couple of days after I take one!