Touch up paints are sold as aerosols and in jars. The packaging tells you something about the product’s formulation. Some touch up paints are solventborne, and others are waterborne, they have different characteristics based on the paint system. The majority of new factory finishes are now waterborne; this is a superior paint system in every way: it is environmentally better, has a low VOC, is odorless, and safer to handle.
An aerosol touch up paint is thinner, more watery than a touch-up paint from a jar. The thickness and viscosity of the paint affect how long it takes to dry.
As a rule of thumb, you should assume it takes about a day for any touch up paint to cure fully. But most paints dry in a few hours, and some in as little as 30 minutes. Check the instructions for the touch up paint you are going to use.
Knowing how long it takes the paint to dry is only one of several factors to consider when deciding what’s the best time of day to repair your vehicle’s finish. Here are a few other things you need to know.
Weather Is a Major Factor
You don’t want to fix your dinks and scratches when it’s raining. Even if you’re working in a dry garage, the air’s humidity will mess up the paint. You shouldn’t paint when the humidity is over 50%.
The best weather for touching up a car’s finish is warm and sunny. Also don’t paint outside where the wind might blow dust, leaves or pollen onto your fresh paint, ruining it. Avoid drafts and don’t blow a fan directly toward the vehicle or any surface that can reflect airflow onto the vehicle’s exterior. Moving air carries dirt and other particles with it. That gunk will settle on your wet paint.
Paint shop pros work in controlled environments. They have heaters, steady airflow, filters, controlled temperature and humidity, and a dirt and dust-free spraying room (or booth). The larger the repair job you’re doing, the more you want to emulate the spray booth at a paint shop.
Traffic Flow Is Another Important Factor
If you’re touching up a vehicle in a busy area like a public garage under an apartment building, you’ll want to do the work when there are as few people around as possible. That means waiting until everyone who parks near your car has gone to work for the day.
Even in a 2-car family garage, if your kids or significant other will be pulling in and out at random times, the larger the job you plan, the more time you need to work undisturbed. And it’s not just that you need the space. You don’t want someone’s vehicle to pull in beside your wet paint, blowing up dust from the ground and spitting mud off the wheels.
By the same token, if your family keeps a lot of stuff in the garage or the laundry room is attached to the garage, plan ahead and ask everyone to stay away while you’re working on the car. Remind them to keep drafts to a minimum for at least 2 hours after you finish.
Don’t Try This Late at Night
Unless you’re accustomed to working the graveyard shift and are wide awake, night-time isn’t necessarily the best time to do even a quick paint job. Even when the weather is warm and clear with little wind, you may make simple mistakes if you’re tired.
You should be wide awake, fully alert, and able to think clearly. So if you spent the afternoon watching a game on TV and drinking beer with your buds, a little touch up before dinner might not be the best idea.
How to Pick the Best Time to Apply Touch Up Paint
Make a plan. Start by looking at your calendar and deciding which day in the near future is your least busy. You don’t want to rush through the job even if it only takes a short time.
If you have a family who may distract you or kick up some dust, pick a day when they won’t be home. You may need to plan a family outing for your significant other and the kids.
Check the weather forecasts. They may not be perfect, but they’ll give you an idea of when the humidity and winds will be relatively low. You don’t want to paint when a front is moving through.
The morning is the best time to do the jobs so you can leave the car to cure for at least the rest of the day. It helps if you have a second vehicle; otherwise, you’ll need to clear your schedule.
Avoid doing other chores near the car. It should be left alone. So don’t clean out the garage, fix the ventilation, or cut the grass if there is a chance you’ll kick up dirt onto the car.
Schedule Time to Get What You Need in Advance
You can run down to the auto parts store Saturday morning, get your paint (if you have a standard color and they have it – if not, we probably have it for sale here on our website), and do the car before lunch. Some people do that. With practice, you’ll know what you need and what you can do in your own space.
When you’re learning to do this the first time, buy your supplies in advance (or right here on ScratchesHappen.com). Give yourself time to read the directions and ask questions if you’re unsure.
It’s a good idea to do a practice session first. Find a piece of metal that you can scratch and paint. Experiment with the setup to see how much the drafts in your chosen workspace may affect the job.
Let the test paint fully cure and time it so you have a good idea of how long you need to leave the car alone.
Although it may feel like you’re making the job bigger than it seems, a lousy touch up job can look worse than the scratch you’re trying to cover up. It’s worth it to take your time.
Run Through a Check List the Day You’re Ready to Do the Job
Recheck the weather forecast. A fast-moving front might arrive sooner than you expected.
Confirm that everyone who said they’ll give you space is still on track to leave you alone. You shouldn’t need that much time if you’ve already done a practice session and know the steps.
Review your other plans for the day. Have you made any last-minute commitments that require you to use the car?
And take inventory of your tools and material before starting to work. You don’t want to leave the job half-done while you go root through the tool chest for something you thought was there.
Manage Distractions – Don’t Let Them Manage You
You’re not doing brain surgery and this isn’t rocket science. But even though James Bond doesn’t need your help disarming a nuclear warhead, put your cell phone on silent or leave it in the house while you work.
The odds your mom will call you just as you apply the paint to the car are very slim. But in case the phone rings, leave it alone. That’s what voice mail is for.
Make sure your pets can’t come to see what you’re doing. Dogs and cats are curious creatures, and maybe they’re not looking for a fresh paint job, but they might start rubbing up against you at the wrong time.
If you think the job will take a while, put up a couple of signs to let people know you’re busy. Give them some warning so they give you some warning as they approach.
The best time to apply touch up paint is at the start of any stretch of a few hours where neither you nor anyone else must approach the car. The longer you can leave it to cure, the happier you’ll be with the result.
A breeze might slip through the door while you’re working. The job should turn out okay as long as you’ve prepped your workspace.
The worst time to start a touch up paint job is on the spur of the moment when you have no idea of what’s going on around you. You only need to do a little planning. Take the time and do it right.