Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making bad paint jobs better

One of the characteristics of a low budget paint job is peel.  Orange peel, that is.  Orange peel is the texture paint has, when it’s laid on thick and heavy and dries before it has time to flow out smooth.

A car with a lot of peel has good color, but the finish is dull when seen from a distance.  The microscopic hills and valleys scatter sunlight in all different directions.  Reflections from the car are blurry, and diffuse. 

Heavy peel will tend to attract and hold dirt, which further aggravates the problem.  The valleys can trap wax too, and the result is a pretty sorry looking car.

Take a look at this reflection, seen in a door.  You can see the dullness, but what really stands out is the blurry reflection.  You can’t really make anything out.  The “diffuse reflections” are perfectly illustrated by this shot.  This diffusion is what makes the paint look flat.

Luckily, this is often a fixable situation.

We start by washing the car, and wiping it down with mineral spirits to get rid of any wax, tar spots, or other nasty stuff.  Then we get out the orbital sander, and some 1200 grit color sanding paper.

Working carefully, we sand the entire surface until the paint is perfectly smooth.  That often means sanding off one or two thousandths of an inch of finish.  You’ve got to be very careful, because too much sanding can cut right through the paint.  There is often a fine line between sanding away the flaws and sanding off the paint. 

The result is a flat but smooth finish.  At this point, you may see lines from flaws under the paint.  You can see edges of body filler, or even deep scratches in the underlying metal.  Those flaws are taken out by hand, with a block and fine paper.

Next we take a buffer and compound and smooth the sanded surface.  After that, we use a finer polish, then a glaze and wax.

The result:  A brilliant shine and a paint that’s perfectly smooth to the touch.  You may still find some flaws, around the edges, but the finish is vastly improved.  You can read the magazine I'm holding in the reflections!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Jaguar convertible tops and bleeding hydraulics

Has your Jaguar convertible's top started going up and down very slowly, or quit working entirely?  If so, there is a good chance the hydraulic fluid has turned to jelly.

The hydraulic fluid Jaguar used from 1997 to the mid 2000s was prone to solidify and block the lines.  It tended to clog worst in the valve up above the rear view mirror.  The photo above shows a 1999 Jag with the header bar removed so the lines and valve can be cleaned out over the drain pan.

This problem is also the cause of excess stress on the hoses, which may manifest itself by lines that blow out and spray oil on the inside of the roof liner, or the dash.

So what do you do about this problem?  You flush the lines and get rid of the old fluid and and chunks of gel.  It's a bit time consuming but it's easier to do when the top still works.  In that case, flushing and changing to synthetic fluid usually takes about three hours.  Changing the hoses from the windshield header back is a bigger job; that usually takes all day.

Other than this, the convertible top mechanisms on XK8 cars is pretty trouble free.  The only other service we commonly do is replace the canvas cover, which gets weathered after 8-10 years in New England.

Robison Service has specialized in Jaguar and other fine British automobiles for 25 years.  We're located in Springfield, Massachusetts.