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Stone Chips
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Stone Chip Repair & Touch-ins
Abridged Version
By Danny Argent
27th April, 2005
stone chip touch-in

Stone chips and other minor damage looks unsightly once it begins to accumulate, especially on dark coloured car. But worse still, because the stone chips, scratches and scuffs have penetrated your paint, you car will be prone to rust. Once rust sets in it is very difficult to remove.

Although stone chips are small, they do have a huge effect on the appearance of your car, making it look tatty and therefore devaluing it considerably.

We strongly recommend that when you collect your car from the dealers, you also collect a touch up paint of the appropriate colour (you can get the right one from their parts department). You should then check for chips every time you clean your car and touch them in as soon as possible.

Touching-in stone chips on a BMW

"I'm no artist"
I am often told by customers that they are no good at it, or that they don't have a steady hand. In all honesty, it's far better to paint your stone chips and do it badly, than not do it at all. If you end up putting great big splodges all over your car, it isn't really a problem as they can easily be removed and the touch-ins re-done by somebody more skilled at a later date, meanwhile you are protecting the chip from the elements and preventing rust.

It's hardly surprising that so many people have problems applying touch in paints, because without exception, the brushes supplied with touch in paints are universally useless!

Get a decent brush
The solution is really rather simple, go to an artists or hobby shop and buy a size 1 brush. You don't need to spend a fortune on finest Kolinsky Sable, most brushes will do.
We also suggest you buy a small tin of Standard Thinners from Halfords or your local car accessory shop for cleaning the brush with. The correct Thinners can also be used for thinning the paint which will give you more control when touching in thin scratches, and of course, you can use it on a soft cloth to remove any accidents you may have.

The alternative to all of the above is to use a cocktail stick or matchstick. It's not a method I can get along with, but many professionals do it this way with great success.

Types of paint and touch-in kits.

touch in paint

(From left to right) A Ford touch in paint, Holts Dupli-colour mixed by Halfords stores and a Peugeots touch up paint.


In the vast majority of cases, modern cars have a type of paintwork called 'Clear over Base'. A layer of primer is applied to the car, over this is applied a fairly thin base colour, which is the colour that you see. And over the top of this is the Clear-Coat, which is a clear lacquer. Because there is such a thick coat of shiny lacquer over the base coat, there is no need for the base coat to have it's own gloss, this is why often times it is supplied as a matt finish.

So now you know how modern paintwork is constructed, this will help explain the vast array of bottles you may find in your touch-in kit! Most kits from a dealership will include the base coat and the clear coat (top coat or lacquer), while halfords kits sometimes include a primer as well. Other motor accessory shops may supply a single paint with a gloss version of your colour which does not need clear coat over the top. You will also find this to be the case with services which mix the paint for you while you wait.

stone chip touch-in pencil kit
A Halfords Stone chip and scratch repair kit. It contains (from left to right) a small scraper, primer, base coat, lacquer and sponge backed sanding pad. The paint tubes contain a thin brush and a pen-type nib.. but we still prefer our own brushes!
(The Pro-Arte series 31, size 1 seems to be best suited)

Kits may also contain strange plastic objects for removing rust, miniature wire brushes and/or sanding pads.

If you are not able to readily find the correct touch up paint, you may be able to buy the correct paint in a spray can. You can spray this into the lid and brush it on from there.

Update: If you can find the correct paint code (which is stamped onto a metal panel or thick silver sticker which is located either under the bonnet, inside the door shut, and more rarely in the boot (Audi). If you can't find it, or the panel doesn't have paint code numbers (which is sometimes the case with cars like Cryslers and Fords) then phone your dealer, they should be able to tell you the paint code from the registration number -- or if you have fitted private plates, from the chassis number) then you can order touch up paints online from companies like Autobright (Tell them Danny sent you).


Applying the touch-up
Inspect your vehicle to get a good idea of the areas you have to do and how many chips you have to deal with. Most stone chips will be on the front of the car around the grill and lights. Another place to pay careful attention to are the wing mirrors. Some cars have an annoying habit of throwing up stones and their own sills, so check around the bottoms of the doors. You should also have a good look along the edges of the doors and boot, and don't forget to check inside the door shuts. Often there are small chips and scratches cased by people's feet.

You don't want to be painting over tar spots or squashed flies, so use a suitable cleaner to remove these before you begin. Your car should be clean and dry and any loose flakes of paint should be removed. Some people recommend de-greasing the area with an alcohol swab.. but these paints have enough solvent in them to cut through any waxes remaining on the car. I have yet to see touch-up paint bubble-up or fall off!

You should follow the manufacturer's instructions on the side of the touch up paint. It is important to shake the tins for a good long time, especially with metallic colours as the metal flecks can sink to the bottom of the bottle. We recommend decanting the paint into a suitable container which means something you can throw away, (using a container means that you can have 'just enough' paint in it, meaning there is less to spill, and you can stir with your brush so that the metallic flecks don't sink out and you don't get your brush in a mess). And do not use plastic or styrofoam cups as the solvents in the paint will eat right through them and the paint will pour through the bottom.

The best thing to use is the plastic lid of an aerosol can. You can then dip your brush in the paint and begin. You should aim to fill the small hole left by the stone chip and no more. The same goes for small scratches, less is more, aim to cover as little area as possible, just enough to hide the damage. If you feel you are competent with a brush, then feel free to go the full hog with your touch in kit. You can apply the primer, then the base coat, then the top coat.

Repairing stone chips on a Hyundi
Sean applies dark metallic green paint to the front of a very badly chipped Hyundai. He has poured some of the paint into the lid of an aerosol can and is using a Size one Nylon brush. Nylon brushes seem to work best and last longest, but stay clear of very cheap brushes, the solvent in the paint will just melt them.

But few stone chips go through to the bare metal, usually they chip off the top coat exposing the primer, so there is no need to re-prime. Each time you add a new layer of primer, base and lacquer, you need to paint a slightly larger area to cover the one below, so the less layers you put on, the better. Usually, we save primer for when a large chip has occurred, or we have had to repair an area of rust. If you find that you have very many stone chips to do, especially lots of small ones, it would be a huge chore to have to treat with base and clear-coat. A simple way of getting around this is to mix the base and the lacquer together. This will make the base coat glossy. If you are touching up a silver coloured car, or a car with high metallic fleck, remember to keep stirring the paint, and try to get the paint on as thin as possible.

Silver paint is very, very hard to match because there is very little actual colour to it, the colour is made up by the metal flecks. If you find that your colour matched paint looks a little dark, it is because it is designed to be sprayed on (see below) - and answer to this problem is to buy a different paint for a lighter coloured silver car. We have found that Mazda silver works best on most silver cars. When you are done, don't forget to clean your brush with the thinners!

This is the Abridged version of this article, if it has left you with more questions than answers, then please go and read the full article here, which includes information on colour waxes, specialty films, avoiding stone chips and different techniques for painting them in.



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