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Engine & Transmission Tips • Issue 22

Fixing Paint Scratches

Like A Pro

How To Use Touch-Up Paint (The Right Way)

uth touch up paint 3First, understand that DIY (Do It Yourself) solutions for repairing scratches or paint chips on your car will vary greatly according to the quality of the products you use, the severity of the damage to your paint, and your ability to follow instructions patiently.

For the purposes of this article, we are not going to address severe paint damage that would require filler, extensive sanding, primer, multiple color coats and a clear top coat.

With that in mind, here’s Fraser Engine Co’s abbreviated recommendations on using touch-up paints for scratches and paint chips smaller than a pencil eraser.


The first thing to do is determine the severity of the damage to your paint.

  1. Is it a surface scratch that might be removed or greatly decreased using abrasive rubbing compound?

  2. Is it a surface scratch that is only in the clear coat or color paint layer, but too pronounced to rub out?

  3. Is it a deeper scratch, maybe down to the primer or metal that will clearly need color paint to repair?

  4. Is it a larger area, referred to as a paint chip, where filler, primer, color paint, and a clear coat may be necessary?

Once you know what level of damage you are dealing with, you can select the appropriate product to work towards an acceptable repair.

uth touch up paint 1TOUCH-UP PAINT TYPES

There are three types of DIY touch-up paint applications available, paint pens, brush in bottle, and aerosol spray cans.

Automotive paint pens are virtually identical to those metallic pens you use at Christmas time, where you shake the pen and a weight inside slides back and forth mixing the contents. Then you press the tip down and some paint comes out for you to spread around. The trick to using paint pens is PRACTICE. Use a bare surface similar to the one you’re repairing, a piece of flat metal would be ideal. Apply the paint from the pen to a second surface, like a plastic coffee can lid. Spread the paint around with the pen tip to see how it covers and how fast it dries. This will make you far more skilled when it comes to the actual repair.

NOTE: All paint pens are not created equal, so be sure to use a reputable product like those from or or Some paint pens have ‘press-the-tip-to-apply-the-paint’ applicators. Others have brushes like the bottles. Some even come with an abrasive tip in the cap, to clean out a scratch before applying the paint. The latest wave have your desired color in one end, and a clear coat applicator in the opposite end of the pen, which is just a smart convenience. The Dupli-Color Scratch Fix All-in-1 has all three in one pen, and the applicators include a fine brush for the color, and a pointed sponge for the clear coat. In any case, paint pens can product fantastic results, even for the novice.

Brush In Bottle paints are a little trickier to use, and often the applicator in the bottle is very caveman-like. The touch-up kit we purchased included fine artist brushes which made application far more precise. (Which is why some manufacturers are now just providing the paint in a small jar, with no cap-mounted brush.)

Graduating to serious repairs, you may need to use a spray aerosol application. This is the high-quality automotive paint packaged in what looks like and every-day spray paint can. The application is almost comparable to that of a body shop’s professional paint sprayer, but rest assured, the key word is almost. The type of repair that would warrant a spray application will almost certainly require bondo-filler and several coats of primer first. (This process is outside of our article’s scope.)

uth touch up paint 4TOUCH-UP PROCESS

If your scratch seems light, it may only be in the clear top coat. Test it by wiping the paint with rubbing alcohol. If it completely disappears, its only in the clear coat. That’s great, because you can go to the auto-parts store and get two rubbing compounds, medium and ultra-fine. Follow the instructions and you should be able to ‘buff’ out the scratch. If that doesn’t completely work, you may be able to add a clear-coat from a pen to fill the damage, and buff that out to make it disappear.

If the scratch or chip is down to the color, primer, or even bare metal, you can still use a paint pen, but more work is required to achieve the results you want. Here are the steps:

  1. Clean the surface thoroughly. 91% isopropyl alcohol is preferred.

  2. Be sure to get any rust or other debris out of the scratch or chip before applying any products.

  3. Remove the sharp edges of the scratch using the abrasive tip on the Dupli-Color paint pen cap.

  4. Feather out the scratch carefully, using 800 or 1000 grit sandpaper. (Watch this video.)

  5. Wipe down your prepped scratch with isopropyl alcohol again.

  6. Tape off the scratch about 2mm from the edge of the scratch. Protect the rest of the car’s paint.

  7. Apply the touch-up paint carefully. Starting with very thin layers, starting at the top, and be aware and correct drips within the first ten seconds. Wait ten minutes to add the next coat. Wait ten minutes. Add coat three. Wait ten more minutes. Add coat four. The paint should be higher than the level of the surrounding paint.

  8. Slowly remove the masking tape at a 40 degree angle from the paint so as not to pull up the fresh paint.

  9. Wet-sand down the touch-up paint with 800 grit sandpaper and the narrow edge of a ¼” furring strip of wood. Stay as close to the painted edges as possible, avoiding sanding onto the surrounding original paint. Run your finger across the scratch; it should be imperceptible to your touch.

  10. Wipe with isopropyl alcohol again.

  11. Apply a very thin coat of clear to any surface that has been sanded. Wait ten minutes. Apply a second coat. Let clear coat dry for at least an hour.

  12. Using your bare fingers, gently Wet-sand clear coat with 800. Wet-sand again with 1500 grit sandpaper, and one more time with 2000 grit paper.

  13. To restore the original shine, wet sand with a kitchen sponge. Wet-sand with 3000 grit sandpaper, then 5000 grit sandpaper, and then buff with light rubbing compound. Always sand along the scratch DO NOT USE circular motion, which creates more noticeable swirl marks.


  • uth chrisfix touch up kitPaint fades, so on older cars, you might get the exact OEM paint for your repair, yet it doesn’t match exactly. Remember that a modest repair is still far better than an ugly scratch.

  • Do not wax the repair or apply any coatings for at least 30 days, so the paint can cure.

  • We definitely recommend finding a touch-up kit, that includes the cleaner, a microfiber cloth, and Trizact sandpaper in 800, 1500, 2000, 3000, and 5000 grit. You may be able to add on the rubbing compound, fine artist brushes, and other tools to make your repair perfect.

  • Watch Youtube videos like the 30-minute one above by ChrisFix. It will make your repair as professional as possible.

  • Finally, the slower you go, the better the results. It’s that simple. Be delicate, meticulous, and patient and you may just make the repair invisible.


Fraser Engine Rebuilders specializes in remanufactured engines. Any diagnostic computers in your car will operate exactly the same with our products. Visit our home page to find the right engine, if yours is ready to retire. They’re less expensive than you might think and come in different options and warranties!

Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!