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Is it worth the cost to get your car paint touched up?

You love your car. You’re particular about not just performance and price but the exact color of the vehicle, and take great pains to make sure it’s clean, running smoothly and has a full tank of gas.

But then it happens. You’re in a parking lot—far away from the crowded entrance, of course — and someone parks next to you. Too close. His door opens, the wind catches it. BOOM! Your perfect paint has a deep, nasty scratch.

You need an auto paint touch-up, but what’s the best option? DIY? A mobile painting service? A body shop? Read on to find out.

When good car paint goes bad

Car paint isn’t just about color. If damaged, the bare metal of your car becomes exposed, leaving it vulnerable to host of threats.

Rocks are an obvious source of paint chips — if you drive along gravel roads or spend a lot of time on highways, you’ll have more than a few rocks thrown your way. Large stones may cause a crack to your windshield, while small pebbles chip away at your paint.

Dirt and bugs are also a problem. If left on your vehicle for prolonged periods of time, the organic compounds in dirt and acid in bugs will eat through your paint, causing small patches of wear.

Finally, door dings from other vehicles or car collisions can seriously damage your paint, creating large scratches or tears. Once your auto paint is damaged, allowing water to sit on bare metal, rust is a real problem.
Touching up car paint problems yourself

You have three choices when it comes to fixing paint: Do it yourself (DIY), hire a mobile paint service or take your car to the body shop. Each method offers advantages; which one works best depends on how much time and money you have to spend.

Fixing paint yourself means first finding out exactly what color you need to match. Don’t go into an automotive retail store and just “eyeball” the color; you won’t be happy with the results.

Instead, start by opening your hood to find the “paint code” for your vehicle. This is usually located on the firewall between your engine and front passenger compartment — once you have the paint code, you can order the exact color you need from a factory – approved manufacturer.

Some car paint websites also have code locators. All you need to do is supply the year, make and model of your car and the site will return a list of possible colors and codes. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 for a can of spray paint and an applicator, depending on the make of your car.

Unless otherwise specified, always buy a can of primer to use before you begin painting, and clearcoat to protect the work you’ve done.

Start by washing your car, then sand down the affected area; this allows primer to stick. Lightly prime the area and let the primer dry. Apply a small amount of paint to an inconspicuous area to make sure it matches, then brush on or spray the paint over the chip or scratch.

Apply two or three coats, then let dry for 24 hours. Sand the area gently with high-grit sandpaper until the new paint begins to blend in with the old, then apply a clearcoat. Once dry, clean your car completely.
Hiring someone to paint your car

If you don’t want to tackle a paint job alone, consider hiring a mobile technician.

These painters come to your house with all the tools needed to handle minor rock chips to your hood or scratches on your door. The fix usually takes a few hours and costs between $150 and $250.

The work isn’t perfect, but may be more cost-effective than going to a body shop. In cases of major damage or if you want the best job for the money, head to a body shop for professional auto paint services.

Some dealerships will offer small touch-ups for free, such as around door handles or the bottom corners of your trunk. To repaint a bumper, expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1000; bigger jobs, such as doors or hoods, can run over $2000.

Before you hand over your car to any body shop, ask about their refund and satisfaction policy. While no shop can guarantee an exact color match, you should always have the right to request a repaint if the work is poorly done.

Auto paint touch-ups can be a headache, but you’ve got choice: DIY, mobile painters or a body shop. No matter what route you choose, sooner is always better to prevent permanent vehicle damage.

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