How To Touch Up Car Paint And Get The Color Right

There’s nothing worse than chipped paint, scratches and dings after you work so hard to keep your car clean. And taking it to the shop for a paint chip seems like overkill. But you also worry about repairing it yourself and getting the colors wrong. Well my friend, now you don’t have to worry because we’ll show you how to quickly touch up your car paint in this post.

A scratch or a ding usually gets worse with time so it's important to get them taken care of quickly.

Here's how...

There are three levels of scratches and different repairs for each.

  1. The clear coat scratch: This scratch goes through the clear coat and is fairly easy to repair.

  2. The paint scratch: This scratch goes to the primer and requires paint to repair.

  3. The deep scratch: This scratch goes to the bare metal. This requires a new coat of primer, paint, clear coat and wax coat to repair.

The scratch that penetrates to the metal can begin to blister, and the metal underneath will eventually rust. You don’t want to see blisters in the paint and you definitely don’t want to see rust. Take care of the scratch or ding before it gets worse to prevent that.

With that said, let's cover how to repair each scratch...

The Clear Coat Scratch

If you steam clean the scratch and it disappears, that means it’s a clear coat scratch. Steam cleaning is no longer limited to the engine housing. It’s now available to maintain the car body. This scratch repair is fairly easy and requires only some light tools.

Here’s how...

  1. First, steam-clean the scratch

  2. Get some very fine grit sandpaper like 5000 grid

  3. Spray steam on the surface of the scratch and spray water on the sandpaper

  4. Carefully rub the scratch out

  5. Apply a scratch polish

  6. Then put on wax paste and rub it in and you’re good to go

The Paint Scratch

If it’s a scratch down to the base coat, it won’t rub out. It will require a clear coat repair. Fortunately this only requires basic utensils as well and you can find most at your auto store.

Here’s how to fix a paint scratch...

  1. Use a clear coat repair pen to fill in where the clear coat was breached

  2. Let dry and apply a layer of wax

  3. Buff out any imperfections.

Though this scratch takes a little more effort, it’s still very easy to repair and only takes a few minutes.

The Deep Scratch

This scratch is down to the metal and takes some effort to repair. Be careful with this repair since you can cause damage to your vehicle. Honestly, depending on the size of the scratch, we highly recommend getting this one professionally done. But if you want to to do it at home, you can follow these steps:

1. Buy the cleaner, primer and paint.

This sounds like the easy part, but it’s crucial to get it right. Stay away from generic paint colors in the aerosol cans.

To get the true color, open the hood of your car.

There you’ll find a paint code. It’s a simple set of letters and numbers you can take to the auto shop and give to them. They’ll be able to mix your paint and put it in an aerosol can for you. This ensures you have an exact match in paint color.

You’ll also want to get these things:

  • Degreaser

  • Sandpaper

  • Primer - you can use the generic can of primer

2. Prepare the area to repair.

Apply heavy grit sandpaper initially to clear the deck right down to the metal. Just to the damaged area. The less are you expose the better. If any rust has started there, remove it with the heavy grit sandpaper. Next, clean it up with a rag with some degreaser. Apply automotive body filler if needed. Let it dry after application, and sand it down to a primer ready level.

Wear a respirator mask at this point. Every DIY person should have a respirator. The chemicals start getting toxic when using the degreaser, and it will continue that way to the end of the job, so it’s mask-on time.

3. Tape the car off.

After the surface is prepared, tape off the area you want to repair with masking tape and newspaper. That means taping off about a square foot around it and covering the adjacent areas.

Some people believe you should paint an entire panel to ensure that the paint looks even and that’s an option you might consider but not one I would do at home.

Otherwise, keep the area for paint small, and do the blending within the twelve-inch area. Don’t leave any area outside the repair area exposed to primer and paint. Primer and paint will become air-born during the painting. That might mean you could get over-spray on the car so be mindful.

4. Apply the primer

Once the area is cleaned, apply the primer. Using a small grid sanding paper, hand rub out imperfections after the initial coat dries. Apply a second coat and repeat until fully primed.

5. Apply the first Coat of Paint

Next, apply the base coat on top of the primer. Sand it down with the small grit sandpaper. Repeat as often as you feel you should, allowing the surface to dry between applications. Once it's fully covered and matches the paint, move on to the next step.

6. Final Coat and Clear Coat

Let the car sit overnight before putting the final coat on. After that’s dry, chase it with a clear coat. Let dry for 24 hours, and your vehicle is back in business.


It’s perfectly normal to repair small scratches at home. It only takes a little knowledge and a trip to the auto parts store to find the stuff you need for the repair. For larger and deeper scratches / chips, we recommend coming to us. We have everything to tape off the car, mix the paint and guarantee the result so you’re going to get much better results. If you’re worried about the cost, just give us a call and we’ll give you a free quote.

If you have questions about how to touch up your car paint, don’t hesitate to comment or call.