Offering minor paint repair services can increase revenue potential for car care businesses. Here are five touch-up techniques to help you get started.

Assemble project accessories

For simple pen and bottle touch-ups, a pair of disposable gloves might be all that is needed. When the project involves more repair steps and aerosol products, additional materials can include a body filler, sandpaper, a dust mask or respirator, safety glasses, a prep solvent, an adhesion promoter, masking tape or masking film, tack cloth and a rubbing compound.

Surface preparation

Thoroughly clean the area to be repaired with dish soap and water before painting to remove wax, silicone and oils. Regular car soap often has a car wax, so this product should not be used. Then, dry the area completely.

Use a prep solvent and a clean, lint-free towel to ensure the surface is free of wax, silicone and oils. Silicone tire dressing is infamous for causing “fish eyes,” a defect in a coating.

Prime (if required)

For plastic and fiberglass parts, before priming use a plastic parts adhesion promoter over bare plastic or fiberglass. This is only required for aerosol paints, not pens or bottles.

Shake primer well. Apply an aerosol primer over clean, sanded metal or plastic treated with a plastic parts adhesion promoter.

Primer will fill 180- to 320-grit wet sandpaper scratches. Apply three or more coats, allowing five to 10 minutes of dry time in between coats. Sand the primer in 30 minutes with 600-grit wet sandpaper.

Use regular water to clean off sanding dust; then, dry the area and replace the dust-contaminated masking tape and paper. Do not use a prep solvent over the fresh primer. Use a tack rag to pick up lint and dust particles.

Apply paint

Thoroughly shake the base coat color pen, bottle or spray can before applying. Spray a test panel with the base coat and clear coat first to compare the color match and coverage. Apply as many medium coats necessary to cover the area, waiting five to 10 minutes minimum between light coats. Each coat should appear uniform and dry between applications. You may gently use a tack cloth between each dry coat of the base coat. Spray light dust coats if a metallic or pearl color looks too dark. Wait 30 minutes before using a clear coat.

When refinishing larger areas with aerosol paint, use a blending technique to seamlessly match the surrounding area. Some companies provide how-to videos to help you learn techniques to blend new automotive paint with your existing paint. The final step, the clear coat, covers the entire surface so everything is more uniform.

Apply clear coat

Shake aerosol clear coat well. Allow 30 minutes after the base coat color has been applied to apply the clear coat. Apply two to four wet coats, waiting five to 10 minutes in between for aerosol and 10 to 20 minutes for bottles and pens. With these brush-on products, be gentle with the brush so the undercoats are not disturbed. For aerosol, each coat should look wet and glossy but not dripping. The clear coat should be dry to the touch in one to two hours, but will completely dry overnight.

Wait one day to use a rubbing compound for an optimum gloss level. For aerosol, you can sand out orange peel, light texture or dust imbedded in the clear coat film with 1,500-grit wet sandpaper, and then use the rubbing compound to bring out the gloss. Cold weather and/or excessive paint film buildup will extend dry times. Note: These times are dependent on acrylic lacquer clear coat; urethane clear coat has a different dry time.

You can read more about why paint touch-up services here.


Jeremy Thurnau, owner of AutomotiveTouchup, created a leading custom touch-up paint company in the U.S. At 20 years old, Thurnau began his career in an automotive paint store where he learned about different paint systems and the refinishing industry. He then received training in automotive touch-up techniques and earned a degree in business administration. He launched Microfinish LLC in 2002. To succeed in the highly competitive paint services market, Thurnau identified specialty touch-up paint as a strong niche within the emerging e-commerce industry, and AutomotiveTouchup became the flagship consumer brand division of the company. For more information, visit www.automotivetouchup.com and/or call 888-710-5192.