A summer's worth of driving is over, but a close look at your car, truck or recreational vehicle may turn up some unwanted vacation souvenirs -- little nicks and scratches that could turn into large rusty blisters this winter if left unchecked. So before you put away that van covers up the trailer RV or get your everyday driver suited up for cold weather driving, take advantage of the relatively warm weather to protect your vehicle's finish from the ravages of winter's salt and snow.
All you need is a steady hand, a good eye, and about $20 worth of materials. Most automotive paints are available in either spray cans or brush top bottles. Make sure you select the proper type of touch-up paint. If you have a question about the proper color, have the auto supply store match it up to the paint code on your car's identification plate.
Other materials required are a top quality sable hair brush with a fine tip. Wooden toothpicks also come in handy to dab a speck of paint into a chip. Get some high quality wet-or-dry sandpaper. Be sure to get an assortment of grits, but go no lower than about 320 grades. You will also need a 400 or 600 grade paper, which is a super fine grit needed for the job. Remember, the higher the grade number, the finer the sandpaper.
A can of tar and bug remover (Du Pont makes one that is not harmful to car finishes), and a can of white polishing compound are also necessary, in addition to some clean, soft rags. Before doing anything else, give the vehicle a thorough wash. A run through a do-it-yourself wash bay which has a high pressure hose will loosen up dirt and other road grime from cracks and crevices on both the body and the undercarriage. A pressure wash now is just as important as frequent winter washings to remove road salt buildup because touch up work can only be done on a clean surface.
After towel drying the vehicle, carefully go over the car one fender or panel at a time in a well-lit area. Most chips or spots are found directly behind the wheel wells, but carefully examine windshield or trim moldings, door edges, or the car's nose. Using a clean cloth, dab some bug and tar remover onto the surface to remove any specks that may really be tar spots, not chips in the paint. Let the tar remover soak a suspected spot for a little bit, then wipe away and lightly dry the area using another part of the cloth.
Once all the tar and road grime marks are removed, use a dab of the solvent to wipe into the paint chips to ensure that any grease or wax is not present. Touch up paint will not adhere to greasy surfaces. Before any paint is applied, make sure any larger scratches are free of rust. Painting over rusty areas will only cause the blemish to show up a short time later.