Do-it-yourself automotive finish touch-up

Larry Edsall

If your car is like mine, the forward-facing surfaces sometimes look more like a painter’s palette than the showroom-fresh face your car, truck, crossover or SUV wore when you drove it home from the dealer’s lot.

Carefully wash your vehicle and you’re likely to discover that many of those colorful spots are the remains of various insects and can be erased with a little elbow grease. But you’re also likely to discover that some of those blemishes were made by stones, which not only broke through the clearcoat surface but even through layers of paint and thus provide a fertile inroad for rust.

Perhaps it’s time for touch-up work. Or your issue might be a longer scratch, perhaps even a scrape here or there.

A New Orleans-based company, Automotive Touchup, is a division of Microfinish LLC, which produces coatings for vehicle and industrial equipment repair and refinishing.

Automotive Touchup offers a variety of do-it-yourself products for the sort of chips, scratches and scrapes mentioned above. Depending on the area of your vehicle that needs attention, you can select from cans of ready-to-spray materials, to small bottles with built-in brush applicators, or even to ballpoint-sized touch-up pens.

Go to, enter the year, make and model of your vehicle, and select the proper paint color.

Next, go to the “Directions to teach you how to use our touch up paint” page to learn which products you’ll need. You can watch videos that guide you through the processes.

Basically, you start by preparing the surface, using dish soap and water, and then making sure everything is throughly dry. Next, you use prep solvent to clean away any wax, grease and other contaminates. You may need some sandpaper, which also is available through the website.

Now, you apply touch up primer over the bare metal or plastic, usually two to three coats about 10 minutes apart, Automotive Touchup instructs. You may need to do some sanding in between those coats, and if the area you’re repairing is larger enough, the instructions even include masking off and paint blending details.

Primer dry, you apply the touch up basecoat color, again allowing about 10 minutes between coats. Next comes the touch up color, again in multiple coats.

After the paint has had a half-hour to dry, you apply the touch up clearcoat, two or three coats, with about 20 minutes ticking away between those applications.

“Clearcoat should be dry to the touch in 1-2 hours, but will completely dry overnight,” the instructions note. Once dry, you can use some rubbing compound to produce a glossy surface, but you don’t want to wax that section of your vehicle for a month, the instructions note.

Automotive Touchup sells 12-ounce spray cans of clear coat and primer for $8 each and a similar-size can of basecoat color for $20. A 2-ounce bottle of primer or clearcoat is $8 and basecoat in that size — with a built-in brush, is $15. The pens are $5.75 for primer and clearcoat and $13 for the basecoat color. The website also offers sand paper, rubbing compound, gloves and protective eyewear, etc.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at