Paint restoration is a painstaking and challenging skill to master. But it can also be hugely satisfying.
One of the more challenging tasks is restoring the paint on an old car.
I never thought I'd be interested in car paint correction until I came across Larry Kosilla and his quite extraordinary detailing skills. In this 15-minute video he goes through the entire process of restoring the beat-up paint on a 1958 Porsche Speedster to its original glory.
It's truly shocking to see the difference at the end of the process.
Here's a summary of the cooler tips and geeky tools for those who are considering a paint restoration project for a car.You want to start your project by really understanding the current shape of the paint and this requires more than a close look with the naked eye. First you need to get rid of all wax on the car, since it hides the true state of the paint. Typically car lovers tend to only use car shampoo when washing their car regularly, but to remove wax you need something stronger...dish soap does the trick.
Next step is to take a very close look at the scratches in the actual paint. Kosilla uses a Brinkmann dual xenon light to get a better view of the swirls of scratches on the car. Then in order to work with the paint you need to take its temperature with an infrared thermometer. Yes, it's that serious. Anything under 100 degrees is workable. Above that it's considered too hot and the abrasive products needed to restore the paint will burn away too quickly to be of use. The third starter-step is to measure the paint depth (who knew you could measure paint depth?) To do this you can use a PosiTector to measure the microns of paint on the car—this is basically to gauge how deep you can buff. There is a limit!
The next prep-step and Kosilla's favorite geek tool is the Dyno Lite digital microscope. He uses it to take a very close image of the scratches on the paint and to check his work.
Now it's time to actually start working on the paint. Typically one might use three different grades of polish and compound (aka liquid sandpaper) to start the abrasion process. Kosilla suggests using a jewelers polish, which is about a 4500 grit (e.g., the higher the grit number the more fine the abrasive.) If you find that the finest polish isn't doing the job of getting to the deeper scratches (as you can measure with your Dyno Lite digital microscope) then you move up to the next level, a standard polish of about 3500 grit, and then above that you can use a compound at a 2500 grit. Once you are satisfied with "sanding" the paint, you ought to finish with the fine jewelers polish once again. Then comes the sealant which creates a perfectly flat surface (i.e., no or minuscule scratches) so that nearly 100 percent of the light is reflected back, similar to a mirror. Kosilla finishes the process off with a very thing layer of carnauba wax.
He suggests working only on a 2×2 section of the car at a time. Certainly seeing the amazing before and after pics is huge motivation to go through what he says winds up being an eight-hour job!