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Paint Restoration: What I Usually Do.

   So, let's suppose you happen to be out and about looking at cars. And you find some classic car (ie. non clearcoat)that you really like. And it's in wonderful shape, with a wonderful price. Except the paint is bad. Well, not really bad, just.....not good either. There aren't any major chips or bubbles, but the finish just seems to be dull and lifeless. Should you repaint the car? Hell no, especially if it's the original finish. What you should do is put some elbow grease into that "old" finish. You'd be suprised what you can find under that layer of oxidation. Speaking of which, lets start there: paint degredation.
    Right after the finish on a car is applied by the factory, the paint is (should be) almost flawless. Everyday use introduces its own blend of dings and scratches, but the main enemy to a shiny finish is oxidation. Years of exposure to the sun, rain, and other elements breaks down the uppermost layers of the paint on a car. This layer of broken down or oxidized paint is only a thousand or so of an inch thick, but that layer disturbs the light being reflected off the paint, creating a hazy diffuse reflection rather than a shiny specular reflection.
To combat this process, the best thing to do is keep the paint protected under a layer of wax. Unfortunately for many of us, other people owned our cars before us, people who apparently were not aware of this fact.  So, how to we correct the problem?
    The best way to fix oxidation is to remove it. The most common method of doing this is mechnical effort (hence the elbow grease) plus some sort of extremely fine abrasive compound to polish the oxidation off. Here is the method that I have used on several vehicles, with good results. Please note that this will not bring a clear coat finish back if the clear coat has be damaged and/or is scoured away.

1. Go to your favorite store and pick up some Turtle Wax hard shell wax (tub or bottle) and some Turtle Wax Polishing Compound (white tub, green top). Make sure you get polishing compound, not rubbing compound, which is far more abrasive. Also, get a roll of paper towels. (good ones, like Bounty) Park the car in a shady spot.

2. Wash and dry the surfaces to be polished thoroughly, as any dirt left behind will get rubbed into the paint. You may notice that the areas of the car that don't get any sun (ie sides) are still shiny. Try to polish the dull surfaces to match these.

3. Dampen a paper towel, wipe in polish tub, and rub into paint surface of car. Try to do one body panel at a time. Make sure you rub evenly and over the whole thing.

4. After you get done, let the polish haze up a little bit. Mind you, I said haze up a little bit, not bake in the sun for an hour.

5. Take a dry paper towel and lay it flat on the finish of the car. Lay you hand flat on the paper towel and sweep it side to side over the finish to boff the polish off. This does two things: A. It removes the polish. B. It further buffs the paint surface.

6. Stand back and look at the finish. See any reflections? Check for spots where the polish may not have been fully removed. if that's the case, just buff over those spots again with a dry paper towel.

7. You may have to polish it a couple of times, but rest assured, the shine will come back. After you are satisfied, washand dry the car again to remove the last vestiges of polish, and wax the car as usual.



    Lil' Greenee's Page
        :Wonderful site about a 1973 RWA Midget Resto.

    Front End Lubrication and Service
        :Page about proper front end service.

©2003 Stephen Phillips, Stib Inc.
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