How to Repair Sun Damaged Car Paint – Easy Fixing Steps

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

Are you tired of being embarrassed by the car you drive? Are you looking to list your car soon? One easy way to ride in style or maximize the value of your car is by repairing the sun damaged paint on your car.

Older cars can become weathered by rain, wind, and even the sun. Maintaining it well can help protect its appearance, functioning and overall value.

If you follow the points outlined below, you will learn plenty on how to restore your car to its best condition possible – especially against harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.

To repair sun damaged car paint, you should start by washing your car. Depending on the level of damage, you might need to scrape off the affected layers of paint, and then repaint your car. You can then take preventive measures like waxing to ensure lasting results.

Let’s start by understanding paint composition on your vehicle. Breaking down the actual paint job of your vehicle is crucial to knowing how to restore and maintain it.

Understanding Paint Composition

Before you begin sanding or cleaning your car, you will need to determine what level of paint is damaged. Your car has two main layers of paint. The base coat (the primary color) and the clear coat.

If it appears that there’s mostly been color fading and nothing worse than that, it’s possible that only the clear coat (the top protective layer) got damaged. In that case, some buffing and respraying might fix it for you.

Wash & Dry Your Car

Once you have determined the level of damage to your car, you should wash your car. You should use a microfiber cloth soaked in warm water and mild soap or dish detergent. This will help in removing any dirt and debris.

After you have washed your car, be sure to rinse it off and then dry it with a microfiber cloth. This will help to prevent any ugly water spots from remaining on your car.

Options to Remove the Damaged Paint

The next step is to grab a razor blade, or sandpaper, to begin removing the affected clear coat. You could also use a buffer during this stage. You want to make sure that the surface is smooth before you begin painting or applying a clear coat.

Let’s look at these options in more detail and determine their most suitable use cases.

Razor Blade

A razor blade is helpful for smaller sun-damaged areas of the car. Be sure to avoid using the sides of the razor blade. Using the sides of the razor blade could scratch the base paint.

Sand Paper

Using sand paper is more beneficial for larger sun-damaged areas of the car. You will want to use water while sanding down the area. This is known as ‘wet-sanding’ your car.


If you notice scratches, bugs, or even bird poop that is stuck to the paint, you should definitely buff your car. This is not a long process and will prolong the life of your paint by removing these matters.

After you have smoothed out the surface, you will want to wash down the area again following the steps listed above. It is very important that you have a clean surface.

Sun-Damaged Paint Repair Methods

The next step is to either move right to repairing the clear coat, or to apply a new level of base paint. You will know to repaint the base if the color of paint appears to be noticeably faded compared to other parts of the car.

If the color looks the same, but lacks luster, you just need to repaint the clear coat. If you do not have to repair the base coat, you can skip this next step.

Color Matching

When repairing the base coat, I recommend getting the official color mixed by your car company brand.

If this is not an option, you can go to your local auto store and have them color match the paint on your car. It is important to remember that it may not be an exact match.

Base Coat

Once you have the desired color, you will want to use masking tape to avoid over applying the color. You could also use a piece of cardboard to control the spray. If the affected area is on the bumper, you can simply remove the bumper by removing the bolts.

Tip: If the sun-damaged area is plastic on the bumpers, you can use something called Plasti Dip to spray over the affected area. You will want to apply several light layers and allow it to dry before placing it back on the vehicle.

Color Application

You should spray on a light layer of the base paint and allow it to dry for 5-10 minutes. Then, you should apply a second layer of base paint and allow it to dry.

Drying time varies. Be sure to read the label on the paint bottle to determine how long you should wait before applying a clear coat.

Clear Coat

After the base coat has dried, you can begin spraying the clear coat on top. You should spray a light layer on the affected area, then allow it to dry for 5-10 minutes. Apply a second layer and allow it to dry as well.

After it has dried, you can replace any pieces on your car that you removed to complete the job. Examine the paint and enjoy the results!

Short-term Prevention of Sun Damage on Car Paint

Now that you have the paint and clear coat looking brand-new, there are steps you can take to enjoy the look of your car for years to come!

Wash Your Car

You should wash your car regularly, at least once a week. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly to avoid soap scum build-up. Soap scum can cause the paint to chip overtime.

Car Washes

Try to avoid automatic car washes as much as possible. Branches and other items can get caught in the brushes from cars before you. This can cause scratches in your clear coat.

Certain mechanisms in the car wash can also malfunction, causing damage to the paint or underbody of your car.

Dry Your Car

Be sure to dry your car immediately after washing it. If you don’t you will have ugly water marks on your car and on the glass. It is important to remember that water reflects the sun. This can cause the effects of the sun to be more intense on your car.

Wax Your Car

After your car is thoroughly washed and dried, you should wax your car. You can use a spray-on wax, otherwise known as a quick wax. You can also use a buffing wax. To use a buffing wax, you will need to have access to a buffer or hand microfiber applicator pads.

If you are using a spray on wax, spray the wax and then wipe in a downward motion.

Waxing your car applies a thin layer of protection from rain and sun-damage. You should do this bi-weekly to enjoy lasting results.

Long-term Prevention

If you want long-term prevention from sun-damage, you should consider getting your car wrapped. Although this option can be more costly upfront, it will save you money in the long run. A wrap is essentially like a screen protector for your phone.

Wrap Options

There are two different types of wrap options. One is a vinyl wrap and the other is a Paint Protection Film. It is important that you get either of these wraps applied by a professional.

Vinyl Wrap

This is typically made of polyvinyl chloride. It allows you to alter the color of your car without the need for a full paint job. It acts as a thin protective layer over the current paint of the car. It ensures that the original paint will be covered from the sun.

A benefit of vinyl wrap is that it can be changed out more easily than paint protection film.

Paint Protection Film (PPF)

PPF is typically made from polyurethane. It is stronger and more flexible than the vinyl wrap. Although PPF is more expensive, it lasts about 10 years with regular washing. Vinyl wraps usually only last about 5 years.

Professional Application

You should get a wrap applied by a professional for several reasons:

  1. Wraps can cause damage to the original paint if not applied correctly.
  2. Any dirt or grime remaining on the car will be noticeable through the wrap itself.
  3. Professionals can recommend high quality products.
  4. Application of wraps could be a multi-day process.

Protection from the Elements

If at all possible, you should park your car in a garage or under a carport. This will help to protect your car against outside elements such as rain, hail, and sun.

If you live in an apartment, I highly recommend paying the extra fee for a covered parking space or garage. If parking in a covered space is not an option, you can always purchase a car cover.

Although putting a cover on and taking it off everyday might seem like a repetitive and outright boring task, it’ll pay off immensely in the long run by protecting your car’s paint from the sun.

Cost to Repair Sun Damaged Car Paint at a Body Shop

The average cost to get your sun damaged car paint fixed at a body shop can range from around $500 to $2,000 depending on the extent of the damage. You can get quotes from several automotive body shops / paint chains like Maaco before finalizing on one.

In the end, the price may be worth paying if the damage is too much for you to handle or you just don’t have the time or the confidence to do it all by yourself.

Final Thoughts

A sun damaged car exterior is an eye sore. It can greatly affect the value of a car. It can also cause you, as the owner, to be unhappy or embarrassed to drive to an event with chipped paint on your car.

If you repair the base coat and/or clear coat, wash your car regularly, wax it, and protect your car from environmental elements, you will greatly increase the value of your car and arrive at any event in style.

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About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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