It's quite surprising how discovering even the tiniest and microscopic of stone chips or scratches on your paint could ruin your entire day. It offends your eyes, and you just can't help but to try and find a way to buff it out or to fix it completely. We should be fortunate then that there's easy paint touch-up kits and solutions aplenty, some of which you can manage DIY-style at home.
No need for expensive resprays or trips to the body or paint shop after a puny little ding. However, there's this realisation of the intricacies of automotive paints hanging over your shoulders, which makes the whole ordeal a bit daunting. One question that we ask more often than not is whether we should wax our cars before or after touching them up. Is there really a difference?
In short, there is indeed a difference. If you need a quick and straight answer, then in this case, our reply would be that you should only wax your car after touching it up. But as to why this is the case, you ought to stick around to learn more. There is, of course, many different steps from first coming across that chip or scratch, and then touching it up, before giving it a final waxing job.
So, let's take a closer look one by one, and find out why waxing (as well as polishing) before touching up your car's paint could make the whole process a lot harder than it needs to be.
Pre-Touch Up: A Deep Wash...
While any polishing or waxing is best left to after the paint touch-up, a good wash beforehand comes as highly recommended. So, before you get the touch-up repair kit ready, be sure to give your car a thorough and deep scrub. A bucket, some water, car washing shampoo, and a sponge is a great way to get all the muck, grime, and other contaminants away from the damaged spot.
As small as the debris might be, it can have a huge impact on how the paint will look afterwards. Hence, why you must always wash your car before a paint touch-up. You don't need to wash the whole car, just around the spot where you'll be touching up. Once this is done, run a microfibre cloth over the top to get rid of any dirt that might remain, and let it dry.
Touching It Up: Primer, Base Coat, Clear Coat...
If your car's paint is badly damaged to a point where the bare bodywork underneath is exposed, then applying primer first is a must. This would help the paint stick onto the metal or plastic body panels nicely, and give it some added protection. Although if the damage is mostly surface level, then you could skip the primer.
So far, no waxing is needed. Remember that waxing compounds form a protective layer over the area that's been waxed. If you apply wax prior to the touch-up, the new paint won't be able to stick properly. At best, it will still stick, but the end result would appear as though your touched up paint is floating on top of the rest of the car. Save the wax for later.
Once the soap's all completely dry, you can start touching up the paint. Carefully apply the base coat layer before letting that one dry. Depending on the temperature and the touch-up paint you use, each layer of the base coat - and there should be a few layers - can take around 30 minutes to dry. When the base coat is complete and dried, you can start with the clear coat.
While the base coat is how your car will get its colour, the clear coat is what protects it from the elements. The clear coat is transparent, and is thinly applied. Several (thin) layers of the clear coat ought to be touched up, and you'll have to wait around 30 minutes or so for every layer to dry. When the rest of the clear coat has been applied, let it rest and cure.
Post-Touch Up: Sand, Polish, And Wax...
At this stage, you should've already finished the whole touch-up process, and your paintwork is very nearly close to looking as it was on the showroom floor. Now, we get into the part of making it look uncannily as though it's been detailed by a professional. When discussing how long you need to wait after the touch-up before giving it a good wax, the answer varies.
Generally speaking, the longer you wait, the better. There are some who prefer to wait a few weeks or at least a month after the touch-up before the first wax. Nevertheless, it's relatively safe to start waxing even after just 24 hours. Many people recommend wet sanding or using polishing compounds to soften and smoothen out the paint on and around the touch-up area.
This process will wear down the paint just a little bit to get rid of any imperfections, and ensures that the surface is as seamless as possible. When you're doing this, bear in mind that the touched up paint is still rather fresh, so be a bit more gentle around that area. Following this, we come to the waxing part. Apply as much wax as you see fit.
Conclusion - Touch Up First, Wax After
Waxing your car adds a layer of shine and gleam that your car most deserves. Doing so after a paint touch up allows that new coat of paint to blend in beautifully with the rest of the car a whole lot better, too. Moreover, that wax will also add an extra layer of protection for your paintwork against future scratches, UV (sunlight), the weather, and more. Automotive wax is a godsend, but only if you use it right.
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