How to Smooth Out Touch Up Paint on Car – A Step by Step Guide

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

It’s quite common for small rocks to hit your car or for other cars to leave minor scratches in your paint job in case of minor collisions. When this happens, it can be scary and make you feel discouraged about your car’s appearance.

If you plan to sell your car, it is especially important for the paint job to be absolutely perfect. Any dings or imperfections will lower the value of your car.

Minor dings and scratches often appear on our cars for no apparent reason. Whether you’ve just bought a new car or had yours for years, it can be upsetting to have your perfect paint job damaged. You might think that simply applying touch-up paint will solve the problem. But even then, you might have a bumpy surface or chips of paint hanging off. This doesn’t look nice and may discourage you.

Have no fear, this article will walk you through how to smooth out touch-up paint without damaging your car!

To smooth out touch-up paint on your car, first clean the car using soap, water, and a sponge, and finally wipe it dry with a microfiber cloth. Next, remove the excess paint using rubbing alcohol. Then sand the area and apply rubbing compound. Finally, buff and wax the car to make it look as good as new.

Before we get into the steps, make sure that you are choosing an appropriate day for working on your car. Working in the rain is no fun, and working in the hot sun can make it difficult to use some of the products we’ll be using in this guide.

Materials Needed

You will need several specific materials to clean up the touch up paint on your car. Here is a list of what you will need.

 Step 1: Clean the External Surface

The first step in smoothing out your rough touch up paint is simply cleaning the surface of the car. We want to remove all dirt and dust that might prevent us from doing a good job in the following steps.

If there is dirt left on the car before the next steps, it could cause further scratches and make your job more difficult. Use soap, water, and a sponge or microfiber cloth to wipe the area clean. After that, use a dry microfiber cloth to remove all the moisture.

After you’ve finished cleaning, inspect the area for any tiny grains of dirt or dust. If there are any remaining, repeat the process until the area is completely free of contaminants.

Step 2: Remove Excess Paint

The next step is to remove any extra touch up paint hanging around on your car. You may have little flakes of paint that you can easily peel off with your fingernails or a toothpick.

If the paint resists being pulled off, leave it in place and try the following methods. But if it comes off easily, feel free to gently pull it off the car.

After you pull off any hanging pieces of paint, the next step is to apply rubbing alcohol to remove larger bumps of paint. It is essential that you dilute the rubbing alcohol with water. You should have a dilution that is 10% rubbing alcohol and 90% water.

Make sure to never leave a rag soaked in rubbing alcohol sitting on your car. Because rubbing alcohol is a solvent, it can eat through your car’s clear coat.

The clear coat is the top layer of paint on a car that gives it that factory shine. If this coat is dissolved, it can remove the shine from your car and damage your paint job.

Step 3: Sand the Area

The next step is to smooth out the paint with 1,500 grit sandpaper. It’s important that the sandpaper is wet because we’ll be using a technique called wet sanding.

If the bump you’re trying to smooth out is very large, you can start with a lower grit of sandpaper and move up slowly. For example, start with 600, move to 1,000, and then on to 1,500.

The first step is to apply masking tape to your car to create a little box around the affected area. This will protect the rest of the paint on your car from being sanded off. The box should be as small as possible around the affected area. Use as much masking tape as you need to protect your car.

After you’ve applied your masking tape, take your wet sandpaper and rub it gently in circles across the area that is bumpy or raised. When you’re done, the surface of the area should be smooth and no longer shiny.

Step 4: Use Rubbing Compound on the Area

The next step is to apply rubbing compound to the area. You have to be very careful when using rubbing compound, as it can damage your car’s paint job. The most important thing is to never let it dry on your car.

You’ll want to take a wet rag and dip it in a little bit of rubbing compound. Then, using the same circular motion as you did with the sandpaper, rub it onto the area. You can still have the masking tape on your car at this point.

After you rub it in for about 20-30 seconds, take a dry rag and wipe it completely off your car. The surface of your car should look more glossy, closer to the original paint job.

Step 5: Use Polish on the Area

After applying the rubbing compound, you’ll want to polish the area with car polish. It is a process very similar to working with the compound, but this time you’ll take a dry rag and apply the polish to it.

Then you’ll rub it in circles and wipe it off before it dries. It may take a few repetitions of this process to fully polish the area, so feel free to follow the instructions a few times.

Step 6: Wax the Area

The final step of smoothing out your touch up paint is waxing the area. To do this, you’ll need car wax (I personally use and recommend this one). It is best to wax your car on a cloudy but rain-free day. You can also work in your garage, especially if it is hot out. The wax does not respond well to direct sunlight or rain.

The process of applying wax is, again, very similar to the process of applying compound or polish. You’ll take a slightly dampened microfiber rag and apply the wax in circular motions. After rubbing it in for about 20-30 seconds, wipe it off. You can repeat this process as many times as you need to obtain that factory shine on your car.

In Conclusion

As you can see in the steps above, it is very simple to smooth out touch-up paint. Doing it yourself can save you a lot of money, as professionals charge quite a bit for such services (be prepared to pay at least $150 to $250).

When little dings and scratches appear on your car, there is no need to worry. It is very easy to fix these problems yourself with the steps outlined above. Provided that you follow these instructions, you’ll have your car looking good as new in as little as an hour.

You can even offer your services to your neighbors and friends once you’ve learned this process. Maybe you’ll own the next car polishing and waxing company once you become a pro!

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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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