It’s too easy to make a mess of body paint repair using DIY products. Ed Evans equips himself with some quality materials and attempts to perfect the art
I had long ago concluded that trying to spray sections of a vehicle using aerosols would always end up in tears, and that the real way to do a body job was to save yourself the time and trouble and let a professional tackle it. The advantages of a pro job include correct paint thickness, no blemishes, a good colour match and a job that should last well and be warranted. Of course, aerosol painting is much cheaper and there’s a certain pleasure in having done the job yourself if the results are acceptable, though it’s not the way you’d repair your smart Range Rover Sport, or is it?
Jaycos comprehensive range of products
I chatted with Land Rover enthusiast, Jason Mycock, of Jayco paints in Walsall. After he’d told me about Jayco’s products and his own recommended techniques I decided to give aerosol painting another go on the basis that if it all goes pear-shaped, my local body shop can put it right. Next day a selection of primers, top coats and miscellaneous preparation materials arrived at my workshop. The plan was to try it all out, see if a worthy job can be made, and report back in LRM.
My Range Rover Sport’s body remains corrosion free after 14 years and 140,000 miles, except for some bubbling around a rear wheel arch. It’s painted in Zermatt silver metallic, one of the most difficult shades on which to achieve an accurate match – it’s to do with the way the particles lay when the paint is blown on. So, rather than risk a mismatch on a prominent part of the body, I decided to first test the aerosol on a small, out of the way, panel. The tow hitch plastic cover in the rear bumper surround had dropped off recently and the new one was supplied in black plastic – painting this to match the body would be an ideal test case.
The rear left door had been resprayed before I bought the car. And you can see from this angle, that it’s a darker shade, especially at the bottom.
Painting the plastic test piece
To avoid risking another patch of dark mismatch, this plastic replacement tow hitch cover is the aerosol’s guinea pig – a mismatch won’t matter low down at the back.
No preparation is needed on this perfect new surface, other than to work over it with a fine sanding sponge to provide a key and eliminate any specks.
Plastic parts need to be pre-treated with an adhesion promoter due to their relatively unstable surface. A light application of UPOL Grip#4 does the trick.
While spraying high build primer, I developed a smooth action in moving the spray across the panel at the correct speed and height to produce an even coating.
The primer was given two hours to set before wiping dust off with a tack cloth, then applying the Zermatt Silver using the same careful spraying technique.
The panel is finally given two coats of clear lacquer, replacing the relatively matt silver finish with a high gloss and, so far, it’s looking good.
The colour match against the bumper is spot on, and the lacquer finish matches up, too. I’m sufficiently impressed to risk an attempt on the wheel arch.
Wheel arch repair
Corrosion on the rear wheel arch near the bumper is causing the paint to bubble. Only when the paint is scraped off, will I know how bad this is.
The metal is sound and the sanding has leveled the bubbles. But a 100 x 25 mm area needs to be exposed and treated with rust arrestor, then zinc-rich primer.
The surface is built up level with the surrounding good paint using a dab of smooth body filler. It takes a couple of applications, with careful sanding between.
High build primer is blown in, feathering the edge of the arch first, then expanding in careful stages outward over the repair area – several light coats.
After the primer had set for two hours, Zermatt silver was applied in the same pattern, shaking the can vigorously between coats, followed by the clear lacquer.
With the lacquer hardened and masking removed, the resultant finish is a good colour match from all angles. Note: Darker shade at top right is panel reflection.
Back to black
The trouble with smartening up a couple of body sections is that you then tend to notice the next shoddy item in line. In this case I reckoned the corroded rear wiper was letting the back end of the car down, so I reached for the satin black aerosol.
The corroded aluminium base of the arm was cleaned and rubbed flat and treated with acid etch primer, followed by high build primer, then satin black.
It’s small details such as these that can transform the overall appearance of a vehicle and, in this case, all for the sake of half an hours’ work.
These jobs took half a day, with most of the time spent waiting for paint to dry and harden – time which I spent out of the workshop to avoid creating dust. Dust can spoil an otherwise good paint job, so it’s important to clean particles off using a tack cloth before applying each coat. Wind and draughts will kick up dust that can land on and stick to fresh paint, though it’s important to spray only in a well ventilated area.
Perfect preparation is another essential to achieving a good finish because the slightest sub-surface blemish will show through. Even if the paint match is perfect, the job can be ruined by poor preparation – aim to get the prepared finish absolutely perfect before spraying. Accurate masking of the area is also vital.
To achieve the best top coat conditions, avoid spraying in humid weather and, in the case of metallic colours, especially silvers, avoid spraying in temperatures above 16 degrees C. Up to 23C is okay with solid colours.
Prior to starting the job, practice the spraying technique, learning the steadiest way to hold the aerosol and moving it across the subject at constant speed and optimum distance. Start the spray away from the subject and bring it across in a single pass and off the other side before releasing the nozzle. When finished, invert the aerosol and press the nozzle until clean air comes out, then release and wipe any paint from the nozzle. If nozzles do become clogged, they can be soaked in thinners, or simply swap the nozzle from another can.
The aerosol verdict
I was surprised and very pleased with both the colour match and the appearance of the lacquer, which blended nicely into the surrounding original paintwork. There is nothing to suggest the car has been touched up, though if you look very closely, my less than perfect sub-paint preparation shows a small defect.
Throughout all these paint jobs, not a single run appeared, nor any orange peel effect, possibly helped by the fan spray nozzle. I’ll be using quality aerosols for any future localised repairs, though the thought of spraying a whole panel on a Range Rover still daunts me – more practice may alleviate the fear.