Thoughts and advice on the care and feeding of fine automobiles from Machine Aficionado and bestselling author John Elder Robison, owner of JE Robison Service in Springfield, Massachusetts

We are independent restoration, repair, sales and service for Audi, BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Rolls-Royce automobiles.

Bentley archives

Land Rovers

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!

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