The 10 Best Automotive Touch-up Paint 2021

The 10 Best Automotive Touch-up Paint 2021

One of the harsh realities of owning a car is that it’s never going to look as good as when you first drive it off of the lot.

The rigors of daily life add up. Small rocks and dust can leave scratches, or in worst cases deep chips that expose bare metal. Rain and UV light from the sun will leave paintwork dull and lifeless. In the worst case, bumps from fender benders can damage entire panels.

But with the right products, almost any paint damage can be repaired cheaply and effectively. Keep reading to find out what you need to know to purchase automotive touch-up paint.

Why You Should Use Touch-up Paint

Even a single scratch can ruin the look of a car. If you’re proud of your vehicle having chipped, scratched, or faded paintwork is probably not option. Scratches and chips can come out of nowhere. All it takes is a single branch, stone tossed into the air by traffic, or someone brushing up against the panels can leave unsightly damage.

Damage to your paintwork shouldn’t be fixed purely for aesthetic reasons. Deeper chips and scratches can let air and moisture attack the metal bodywork of your car, which could lead to long term structural damage.

But body shops are expensive, and modern touch up kits contain exactly the same paint and products that your local professional would use, down to the precise, color-matched, manufacturer-approved paint.

The Benefits of Touch-up Paint

Autobody shops will have you thinking that paying a few hundred dollars for scratch repair is your only option, but paints on the

Speed

Your local body shop might have a waiting list days or weeks long, and that’s not even considering the fact that they might have to special order in your paint. A paint kit bought online could be at your door within 24 hours and applied the same day.

The reason this is important is simple. The longer you leave your vehicle with damaged paint, the worse that damage gets. If the scratch goes through to the primer, you must fix the problem as soon as possible. The oxidization process could start within hours, leading your bodywork to rust, and once rust takes, it’s almost impossible to remove without serious work.

Cost

Did you know that respraying a single panel on most vehicles can cost several hundred dollars? Even the most expensive car touch up kits cost less than a hundred bucks, saving you a lot of cash, especially if you’re applying it yourself on a small area of damage.

Ease

One of the unseen costs of taking your car to the shop is the opportunity cost. Bare minimum, it’s going to take at least a couple of hours out of your day, but the whole process will probably take a whole day or more.

Most paint kits can be applied in as little as an hour or two, from the comfort of your driveway or garage. Kits like these are also designed to be as easy to use as possible, meaning that even people with zero experience could apply a kit like these with no issues.

Types of Touch-up Paint

Different manufacturers take different approaches to repairing paint damage and color matching. We take a look at the most common types below.

Touch-up Paint Kits

The most effective variety of touch up paint comes as a kit. Some of our best choices are kits, for good reason. Kits like these can be more difficult to use than other styles of touch up paint, but offer better color matching and a much smoother finish.

Touch up paint kits are generally matched to particular car manufacturers, with kits being matched to exact paint colors from specific years. This means that, as long as you can find a particular kit to match your car, you’ll get the closest paint match possible.

Touch-up Paint Sprays

What most people probably imagine when they think of touch up paint, sprays like these are simple to use in principle, but unless you have experience applying spray paints, products like these might end with an uneven finish, with heavy spatter or a visible texture.

However, there is no better way to quickly cover a large area, meaning that sprays like these are best suited for larger discolored panels. You also tend to find plastic and chrome touch ups delivered as a spray.

Touch-up Paint Pens or Brushes

The easiest-to-use style of touch up paint, pens or brushes are incredibly simple to apply, but because of the design and function, are only really suitable for small, shallow scratches and dents.

Pens and brushes function exactly as their name suggests. Pens are basically a big sharpie marker that can paint over the damaged area of a vehicle. Brushes resemble a large pot of nail varnish, with a similar narrow brush that’s designed to cover small areas with a reasonable amount of control. We don’t recommend touch up pens and brushes for anything besides the smallest scratches.

Trim and Furniture Touch-up Kits

Designed specifically for the plastic trim and furniture of your vehicle, you’ll find touch up kits like these are generally delivered as a spray.

Safe to use internally and externally, sprays like these can only be used on the plastic trim and furniture, and can’t be used on bodywork paneling. On the upside, furniture touch up kits tend to be incredibly simple to use and leave a great finish without much effort.

Top 10 Best Automotive Touch-up Paint 2021

1. Best Overall Touch-up Paint: Color-N-Drive Exact Match Kit

Color-N-Drive Exact Match Kit

Why we like it: The single best product on the market to touch up the paint on your car, Color-N-Drive make hundreds of individual kits that are keyed to almost all popular makes and models out there, with the closest color matches possible.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

Color-N-Drive kits are matched to the color code of your car, which means that the kit you get should be as closely matched to your vehicle’s original color as possible.

Once you’ve found the color code and made your order, the kit comes with a pot of color, alongside a second pot that can be mixed with the paint to gradually dull it down. The reason for this is that, unless your car is brand new, the paintwork will have faded from wear, meaning newly applied paint would stand out.

Ease of Use

The only downside with this kit is how difficult it is to use. Overall, the process isn’t hard, just complicated and extensive. Expect to set aside several hours to prepare and paint your car.

However, you get absolutely everything you need in the box kit, and the instructions are comprehensive and simple to follow, even for absolute beginners.

Application and Kit

Out of every product we considered for this list, Color-N-Drive is by far the most comprehensive kit. Even the basic kit comes with paint, matching paste, cleaning solution, and Carnauba finishing wax. On top of this, it comes with small application brushes, as well as buffing cloths. Essentially, you’re getting absolutely everything you need to get started in one box.

A lot of other touch up paints don’t do this and require buying several other products just to be able to apply them correctly.

Finally, Color-N-Drive kits have three different size options; basic, plus, and pro. Each step increases the amount of paint and other products in the kit, letting you cover much more area, in case of extensive damage. As long as it’s stored correctly, the paint will also last a long time, giving you a little bit of insurance for the future.

Pros

  • Mixable formula means a perfect match
  • Comes as a complete kit with everything included
  • Different kit sizes let you buy as much or as little as you need

Cons

  • Takes a little effort to perfectly match your paintwork color
  • Instructions could be clearer

2. Best Pen Applicator: ACDelco Four-in-One Touch-up Pen

ACDelco Four-in-One Touch-up Pen

Why we like it: Effortlessly simple, a pen tool like this is the easiest way to fix small scratches and chips on any standard GM car.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

First off, it’s necessary to point out that these pens only match the colors of GM cars and trucks. However, a quick search will find a huge amount of similar style pens for almost any model of car.

ACDelco use officially branded GM equipment in their products, which means that the paint in each one of these pens is perfectly color-matched to the paint that’s used during your vehicle’s initial spray coat.

Ease of Use

The real reason to choose a pen-style applicator like these is how simple they are to use. All you need to do is clean away any rust or other contaminants in the scratch, then fill in the gap with either the pen or brush applicators.

It might take several coats to fill deeper scratches because the finish from several light coats that are built up is significantly better. Once the paint is dry, the area should be polished or wet sanded until it’s smooth, then clear coated, also using the pen.

Application and Kit

Each pen contains four separate tools, including a cleaning and prep tool, applicator pen and brush, and a clear coat finish to protect the newly applied paint.

It’s recommended that you use third party tools to properly prep larger or deeper scratches and chips, and polish the finish back down when you’ve applied the paint. This will make sure that the finish is as good as it possibly can be, especially when it hits sunlight.

Pros

  • Good color match to GM vehicles
  • Four options in each pen, including cleaning tools

Cons

  • Only suitable for GM vehicles
  • Instructions are unclear

3. Best General Paint Kit: PAINT2FIX Automotive Touch-up Paint Kit

PAINT2FIX Automotive Touch-up Paint Kit

Why we like it: The second kit on our list, Paint2Fix kits come with everything you need to touch up almost any kind of damage quickly and easily.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

Like most good kits, Paint2Fix kits are matched to the OEM paint color of your car. Each kit comes with a pot of factory-matched paint, and a second pot of blending medium. This lets you blend the factory paint color down to match your vehicle’s current color, until it’s supposedly a perfect match.

This is the reason we rate this lower than the Color-N-Drive kits. The difficulty matching your car’s existing color. It’s much harder to get an exact match with this kit than with our top pick. It’s always recommended to test color matched paint kits like these on a less visible area of your vehicle first.

Ease of Use

Complete kits like these are the most difficult type of touch-up paint to use, but the trade-off is a much better finish if it’s applied correctly.

Compared to other products, the instructions provided with Paint2Fix kits are comprehensive and easy to follow, which makes a kit like this a good choice if you’ve never done a paint touchup before.

Application and Kit

All Paint2Fix kits come with everything you need to prepare and treat your car’s damaged paintwork, including; Color-matched paint, paint blending medium, clear coat and wax, as well as microfiber cloths, gloves, and brushes.

Each kit also has three options, bronze, silver, and gold, which increases the amount of paint and blending medium provided. This lets you scale up the amount of area you can cover, depending on your needs.

Pros

  • Color blending lets you match your existing color
  • Simple three-step application process
  • Color match a huge range of cars

Cons

  • Can take a little work to find the right color
  • Bad customer service

4. Best Brush Touch-up Paint: Songven Car Paint Touch-up Brush

Songven Car Paint Touch-up Brush

Why we like it: Cheap and cheerful, if you need to infill a tiny scratch and need a product that's going to do it with the minimum of fuss, a simple brush applicator is a great option.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

Available in four colors, black, silver, white and red, Songven touch-up paints aren’t color-matched to particular manufacturers, but the generalist colors are a decent match to most modern makes and models.

There may be a slight difference in color compared to your existing paint job, and the finish is glossy, so we would only recommend Songven brushes for the smallest scratches.

Ease of Use

Brush applicator touch-up paints are absolutely effortless to use. It’s as simple as making sure the scratch is cleaned and dry, then fill in the damage with the applicator brush. One of the big advantages of this applicator is how it can be used on more than just cars. Motorbikes, bicycles, even boats are fair game

Application and Kit

There is no real kit to this touch-up paint. It’s just a single brush applicator. On the downside, that means there are no options when using this. On the upside, it means that there is almost nothing that can go wrong.

It’s also covered by a money-back guarantee, which is a nice touch.

Pros

  • Brush is very simple to use
  • Matches the color from most manufacturers
  • Covers a decent area

Cons

  • Only suitable for small areas
  • Finish is very glossy

5. Best Scratch Removal Kit: Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover

Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover

Why we like it: Carfidant scratch and swirl remover is incredibly simple to use, and polishes out almost any minor scratch or damage, leaving your paintwork shiny and looking like new.

Editor’s Rating:

Scratch Removal

The results of this product speak for themselves. Not only does the paintremove scratches and swirls, as well as water spots, oxidation and other contaminants, Carfidant swirl remover eliminates the tiny micro-scratches (smaller than you can see with your naked eye) to bring your car’s paintwork back to a glossy shine.

Once applied, the coating is hydrophobic, so water and dirt just beads up and rolls off. It’s also safe to apply and works on literally everything, including paint, metal, glass, even lights.

Ease of Use

Using Carfidant Scratch and Swirl remover is as simple as cleaning and waxing your car. That’s literally the whole process. Clean your car’s paintwork as you normally would, then use the bottle of scratch and swirl remover in the place of normal car wax.

Completely safe for all paint colors and types. You can use this every time you wash your car, keeping everything looking shiny and sharp, and it comes with a 100% refund guarantee.

Application and Kit

The full kit comes with two 250ml bottles of formula. You get a bottle of scratch and swirl polish and paint restorer, which is a thick, creamy composition that’s easy to apply but takes some effort to rub in completely. There’s also a ceramic clear coat spray designed to be applied as a protective layer.

The kit comes with a buffer pad, and other options have microfiber cloths and separate sponges included.

Pros

  • Safe to use on all paintwork types
  • The simple process is as easy as cleaning your car
  • The kit comes with a ceramic clear coat, for long term protection

Cons

  • Takes a little elbow grease to apply
  • Vulnerable to salt water

6. Best Rapid Scratch Repair Kit: Quixx Paint Scratch Removal Kit

Quixx Paint Scratch Removal Kit

Why we like it: Deep scratches can be hard to fill, and leave ugly and obvious marks on your bodywork. The Quixx Scratch Removal kit is the single best way to fill chips and big scratches, leaving them flush and ready to paint.

Editor’s Rating:

Scratch Removal

Deep scratches and chips, especially damage that’s reached primer. are almost impossible to fill effectively without leaving visible marks.

The answer most kits have is sandpaper. You’re expected to sand down the area around the damage until it’s flush, then build it back up again, and we don’t have to point out how involved that process can be.

Suitable for almost all paint types, and all colors, Quixx can quickly remove scratches and chips by filling the damaged area and blending in the existing paint, permanently fixing the problem.

Ease of Use

Quixx lives up to the name. Applied to a clean car, it’s a simple two-step process that takes a few minutes from start to finish. It uses German-engineered technology called plastic deformation, which creates a barrier over the top of any damage while blending with the existing paint job underneath.

If you can apply car wax or polish and follow simple instructions, you can use this product to fix scratches on your car.

Application and Kit

The kit contains everything you need to apply the product, including; the repair polish itself, as well as an incredibly fine-grit sandpaper (2500 grit) to work it in. Finishing polish, to bring your paintwork back to a mirror shine, and polishing cloths.

Pros

  • Simple two-step process
  • Creates a completely flush finish, ready to spray
  • Complete kit

Cons

  • Can't be used with some Mercedes paint schemes

7. Best Machine Applied Scratch Remover: Adam's Car Scratch and Swirl Remover

Adam's Car Scratch and Swirl Remover

Why we like it: Easy to use, Adam's car products are a trusted choice that you can rely on. Slightly more expensive than other options

Editor’s Rating:

Scratch Removal

Specifically designed to fix minor imperfections like paint swirls, scratches and paint transfer, Adam’s swirl remover is formulated with micro-alumina abrasives that  buffs out small problems with your paintwork while bringing it back to a mirror-like, factory finish.

While it’s fantastic on smaller imperfections, Adam’s scratch remover isn’t recommended for larger, deeper scratches. Look at the Quixx scratch removal kit, or a complete touch-up paint kit, instead.

Ease of Use

Like most scratch removal kits, using Adam’s scratch and swirl remover is as simple as waxing and polishing your car. The included hex grip applicator is easy to hold, and only needs a tiny amount of Adam’s scratch remover per panel.

Safe to use in direct sunlight, Adam’s scratch remover also doesn’t pick up dust like a lot of cheaper products might, meaning that you can apply this on your drive without worrying about the finish.

Another huge advantage of Adam’s scratch remover is that it’s completely safe for machine application. If you have that option, a buffing machine can save you a huge amount of time and effort.

Application and Kit

The basic kit is precisely that, basic. You get one bottle of Adam’s scratch and swirl remover, and a hex applicator. On top of this, you’ll need a way to clean your car, and probably wax or polish and an applicator cloth, all of which can also be bought from Adam’s.

The product itself will last for several uses, even if applied to your entire vehicle, as you only need one or two pea-sized drops to cover an entire panel.

Pros

  • Exceptional finish
  • The included foam pad makes polishing effortless
  • Safe and additive-free

Cons

  • Only works on small to medium sized scratches
  • Not the cheapest option

8. Best Rust Protection Spray: Rust-Oleum Automotive Paint Spray

Rust-Oleum Automotive Paint Spray

Why we like it: Rust-Oleum is a brand that can be trusted, and their products are consistently good. This spray doesn't just cover imperfections, it actively works to prevent rusting, making it the perfect choice for older cars.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

With a formula specifically designed to bond with automotive plastic and OEM color matching, if your need to respray your trim there is no better option than Rust-Oleum.

Properly prepped, Rust-Oleum trim spray will bond to any car plastics without needing primer, renewing and restoring the plastic, and making it look brand new. The spray is also safe to use on metal trim, mirror covers, bumpers, and virtually any car material. On top of this, Rust-Oleum actively protects against rust, helping to slow the spread and prolong the lifespan of your vehicle.

Ease of Use

Spray paints like these are simple to use. Clean the area, then apply two or more thin coats. Rust-Oleum spray cans come with comfort tips that are clog-resistant, and can be sprayed from any angle without spatter.

One thing to point out is that you need to make sure that the area where you’re applying this is completely clean and free from dirt, grime or other contaminants. Rust-Oleum paint has a strong enough bond that it will happily adhere over the top of any dust or dirt, fixing it in place and ruining the finish permanently.

Application and Kit

Each can contains 12oz of paint and comes with an easy-application tip. There are options to buy in bulk if you need more paint, which works out cheaper.

Pros

  • OEM color-matched to all black bumpers and trim
  • Spray is easy to apply
  • Protects against rust and corrosion

Cons

  • The area of application has to be completely clean

9. Best for Trim Restoration: Carfidant Trim and Plastic Restorer

Carfidant Trim and Plastic Restorer

Why we like it: Another Carfidant product hits our list. While it doesn't contain a colorant, Carfidant trim and plastic restorer can be used on all non-metal surfaces, making them look as good as new.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

Carfidant trim and plastic restorer doesn’t match your car’s existing color. Instead, it renews and restores your existing trim, cleaning away grime, bringing out the existing color, and creating a protective layer over the top.

Ease of Use

Like most Carfidant products, their trim and plastic restorer is incredibly easy to use. It works on plastic, rubber, and vinyl, but is completely safe on all surfaces and can be used internally or externally.

Water-based, it won’t ever damage rubber or trim and leaves no oily residue or film. Instead, it provides a barrier to further damage, protecting your trim from drying, fading and UV sun damage.

Application and Kit

The kit is as straightforward as the rest of the product. A single bottle of plastic trim restoration fluid and a sponge. But that’s all you need. A few drops on the application sponge and you’re safe to wipe down all the plastic and rubber surfaces of your car. Once that’s done, let it dry, which takes a handful of minutes, and you’re good to go. Simple, easy, just how we like it.

Pros

  • Water-based product is completely safe to use
  • Easy to apply, inside and out
  • USA made 100% refund guarantee

Cons

  • Doesn't contain color

10. Best Spray Touch-up Paint: Dupli-Color Perfect Match

Dupli-Color Perfect Match

Why we like it: Dupli-Color is a trusted brand with a 60-year lineage, and their Perfect Match series is the simplest way to quickly respray a larger area, like whole panels.

Editor’s Rating:

Color Matching

Every Dupli-Color spray is color-matched to manufacturer’s paint codes, getting you the closest you can to your vehicle’s factory standard color out of a spray can. Each can of paint is pre-matched and aged, so out of the can it should be very close to your existing color.

Bear in mind that individual vehicles will have paintwork that’s aged differently, based on things like the local UV index from the sun, whether it’s kept outside overnight, and other variables, so it’s best to test the spray on a smaller, hidden area first, like a wheel well.

Ease of Use

Spray cans like these are deceptively easy to use but might take a little work for the perfect finish. Out of the can, these sprays can be applied directly over the factory finish to repair scratches or chips.

The spray cans come with an EZ-touch 360-degree nozzle that helps get you a smooth and even finish. The paint is high-quality, with minimal flaking, and dries to touch in as little as 30 minutes. Even large areas will be dry to handle in around 1 hour.

As it’s a spray can, Dupli-Color Perfect Match can also be used to respray entire panels without purchasing an expensive spray gun and air compressor, although the look might not be perfec.

Application and Kit

Sprays like these should only be applied to prepared areas unless they’re covering small scratches and dings. The area to be sprayed will need to be stripped and sanded, then primed and cleaned before spraying.

Once that’s done, the paint will need to be laid down in several light coats, but will bond to any standard primer. The cans are easy to handle, with easy applicator heads. If necessary, you can buy in bulk, which saves money. Dupli-Color also offers a Clear Coat spray, which should be applied after the paint to protect the new coat.

Pros

  • Great color matching
  • Simple to use
  • Matches most major manufacturers
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Vulnerable to humidity
  • When can is low, can spatter

Buying a Paint Touch-up Kit for 2021

While a great touch-up kit can completely fix the appearance of a gouge, scratch, or blemish, the wrong paint can make it even worse. We answer some of the most common questions below.

How Easy Are Touch-up Paints to Use?

How difficult your touch up paint is going to be to use depends entirely on the type of kit you buy.

In general, pens and brushes are relatively simple. Once the area has been prepared, which generally means priming any bare metal, you can simply paint directly over the damaged area. The look won’t be perfect, but these kits are pretty effective.

Sprays and complete kits can take a lot more preparation, up to stripping the existing paint, applying a pre-paint primer, then finishing with a complicated series of buffers and clear coats.

What Type of Touch-up Paint Do You Need?

When considering what type of touch up paint to buy, you need to consider several key things:

  • How extensive your paint damage is
  • Whether it’s a single scratch, a series of scratches, a deep chip, or a large area of damage
  • Whether the area needs re-priming
  • Whether bare metal is exposed

The larger and more extensive the damage, the more comprehensive the kit you should purchase. Minor scratches can generally be polished out or touched up with a simple pen or spray, but larger areas will require more extensive treatment, meaning a full kit would be a better choice.

How to Apply Touch-up Paint

Most touch up paint products are applied similarly. The most important step is always preparation because a dirty or badly prepared area of application is going to ruin the finish, no matter how careful you are with everything else.

When you’re prepping your car for touch up paint, here’s what you need to do:

  • Start by washing and preparing the area that needs to be touched up. You can check out our favorite car wash kits here.
  • Eliminate all signs of rust and corrosion. Any rust left under new paintwork will continue to oxidize and eat away at the metal of your car’s bodywork, and now, with paint applied over the top, it will be impossible to see the extent of the damage.
  • Smooth down any rough or harsh edges on scratches and chips. An ultra-high grain sandpaper is ideal. All areas should be flush and smooth to the touch before any paint is applied, otherwise there will be a visible ridge once the paint has dried.
  • Apply your chosen touch up product, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Once all products have dried, polish the area, making sure that all areas that touch up paint have been applied to are smooth to the touch, with no imperfections.
  • Some products require multiple layers. If so, make sure you give it adequate time to dry, otherwise it can affect the finish, then repeat these steps in order.
  • Once the touch up paint is applied, smooth and polished, we recommend that you apply a good quality clear coat. Clear-coat sprays create a protective layer over your paintwork, and are an important part of keeping your paint looking smart long term. Some kits come with a good quality clear coat, but many don’t.

Applying Touch-up Paint Safely

When applying vehicle paint, always make sure that you use it in well-ventilated areas, as most rattle cans use toxic propellants and other dangerous chemicals as part of the formula.

Always follow the recommended safety instructions on anything you buy, and if in doubt, a ventilation mask and safety goggles are always a good start.

Where Do I Apply Touch-up Paint?

Preparing your workstation can have a big effect on the final finish when you’re touching up paint. Having a large area to move freely around will make the entire job simpler, and you should try to minimize dust or other contaminants in the air, as they can get stuck in wet paint and ruin the finish.

If possible, work indoors. A garage is ideal. Sweep the floor, move any obstacles out of the area, and prepare everything before you begin. Some touch-up paints have time-sensitive steps, and it’s much simpler to have everything in one place.

If you’re working outside, start by cleaning the area you’re working in. Hose it down using a fine mist to settle airborne dust, then wash your car.

It also stands to reason that you shouldn’t work directly under anything. Sap from trees, grime from guttering, even condensation falling from your roof can land on wet paint and utterly ruin a paint job.

When Is the Best Time to Apply Touch-up Paint?

External conditions can have a big effect on the final finish of your paint, even if you’re inside a garage or otherwise under cover.

If possible, avoid days that are too hot or cold, stay outside of direct sunlight, and choose days with medium to low humidity. Extreme weather or particularly high levels of humidity can affect the final finish even if your car isn’t directly exposed to the elements.

Can You Remove Touch-up Paint Once It’s Been Applied?

A badly applied paint job can be removed, but it’s not easy. It’s much better to make sure that you’re prepared before the paint is applied and to attempt to get the best finish the first time. But if you do need to remove touched up paint, there are several options:

Firstly, it may be possible to physically remove recently applied paint, or paint that has dried flaky or uneven. If this is the case, you can start by trying to pick the paint free with just your fingernail. If that fails, a toothpick might provide an alternative that won’t worsen the damage. Avoid metal tools, as they can just as easily add more scratches to the paintwork and make the problem worse.

Paint thinner or nail cleaner is another option, especially if the area is relatively small. Start by cleaning the area around the paint that needs to be removed, then slowly apply paint thinner to the area with a Q-tip.

Once the thinner has been left on for the required amount of time, wipe it free with a soft cloth, and re-clean the area to make sure there is no remaining paint thinner.

The final option is the most drastic. Sanding the area down and beginning again. To take this step, begin by masking off the area that needs to be removed with a good quality car masking tape. Then pick a low grain sandpaper (around 150 to 200 grit is ideal) and sand off the topcoat with slow, steady back and forward motions. Do not sand in a single direction, as it will affect the finish.

Wipe the area clean of paint dust, then move to a 500 or 600 grit sandpaper and gently repeat the process to smooth away any harsh edges. Once the area has been sanded down to the primer, smoothed off and cleaned, you can reapply your choice of touch up paint.

How to Match Your Existing Paint Color

The best touch up paints can be matched to the original manufacturer’s paint scheme using something called an OEM code or color code.

A color code is a unique set of letters and numbers, generally between three and six characters long. Color codes are different to paint color names, because the same paint color across different years will have different color codes. This lets manufacturers, body shops, and you buy pre-colored paint that accounts for the aging and fading paintwork will experience over time.

Most cars and trucks will have their color code somewhere on the body, normally in one of three places:

  • Near the bottom of the driver’s side door frame
  • Next to the VIN number, at the bottom right of the windshield looking into the car
  • Inside the glove box

If you’re still struggling to find your vehicle’s specific color code, you can find a more comprehensive list here. When you’ve received your chosen touch up paint product, it’s recommended that you check the color against your existing paintwork on a small and unobtrusive area that’s out of sight.

Good areas to choose include under a wheel arch, or inside the trim of a door or the boot. Once applied, give your touch up paint 24 hours to dry, as the color will continue to change as the paint dries completely.

How Long Does a Touch-up Paint Last?

No paint job will last forever. Even a high-quality, factory finish paint job on a car that’s kept under cover in a garage will slowly dull and lose its luster over time.

Touch-up jobs are no different. On average, expect a well-applied touch-up job to last around one year if you do it yourself, follow the instructions correctly, and apply a clear coat finish.

If done by a professional, for example your local body shop, you could expect a touch up to last up to 2-3 years, which is a surprisingly minor difference for the cost.

When Should I Avoid Touch-up Paint?

In general, unless you know exactly what you’re doing, touch up paints shouldn’t be used if:

  • There is any sign of rust on or around the bodywork
  • The damage has exposed bare metal, and it has been left for longer than a few days

This is because applying a touch up paint on metal that’s already started rusting does nothing to slow the process, meaning that your car’s frame could be rusting away underneath that fresh coat of paint, with no way for you to know until it fails. If paneling begins to rust, you’re better off taking your car to a professional.

My Paint Is Peeling. Can I Use Touch-up Paint?

Paint that’s peeling away is normally not caused by the actual paintwork. Instead, the problem is generally the clear coat.

If your paint is peeling in a large area, especially if it also has a yellow cast or tint, the best thing to do is strip and reapply a high-quality clear coat, rather than spraying a touch up coat on to it.

After a Touch-up, Can I Wax My Car?

It’s not recommended that you wax your car until the touch up paint is completely clear, because the chemicals in the wax can react with the paint and ruin both.

This works both ways. If you’ve recently waxed your car, make sure that it’s been thoroughly cleaned before attempting to touch up the paintwork.

Final Thoughts

There’s a dizzying amount of options for touching up your paintwork, but if in doubt, the best option is a fully comprehensive kit. Matched to your car’s precise manufacturer’s color, with everything you need to apply the paint and protect the finished job in one box, there’s very little that can compete with a kit like this.