They say the grass is always greener on the other side. As my five weeks in Europe wind down, I think more and more fondly of the USA. Pickup trucks are a rare sight in Germany, even though I’m in farm country. On my road trip to Italy over Easter, I saw lots of campers similar in size to mine, but being pulled with little hatchbacks. Or, picture two huge draft horses, each weighing easily a ton, in a horse trailer being towed by a Volkswagen Passat station wagon. It’s crazy. But I digress. Even though this topic is a year old, I’m currently reminiscing about spring stateside and my little Valentine. In this post I’ll tell you about the time when I decided to repaint her front end!
The clear coat was peeling off the hood and front left panel of Valentine at an exponential rate. It was spring in Arkansas: nights were dewy, days were humid and all this moisture seemed to exacerbate the problem. The paint underneath was mostly okay, but there were a few spots that had deep scratches. In fact, I deduced that these scratches were the origin of my peeling problem. I based this assumption on the pattern of sun fading on the exposed red paint. I didn’t want the unprotected parts to begin to rust. A body shop quoted me $1,100 to repaint the hood and left front panel. Insurance did not cover it. This was not really in my budget, so I began looking into how to repaint it myself.
Doing thorough research is the most important step. I quickly learned that it would be unwise to just slap some clear coat over things. To bond properly, the clear coat should be applied within 24 hours of fresh paint. You can’t overlap new and old clear coat: You have to do an entire panel of the body at a time, even if the damage to that panel is limited to a small area. Again, it’s all about the adhesion.
I’d also have to monitor the weather for ideal conditions as there were all kinds of warnings with the paint: do not apply if temperature is outside this range, in this humidity, in direct sunlight, blah blah blah. Then, once finished, there’s a 48 hour “cure” time where you ought not to leave your truck out in a hailstorm. Since I didn’t have access to garage parking, I would really have to plan the timing carefully.
I’d never done anything like this before, so I made sure to do my homework. I read reviews of paint products, FAQs, and watched YouTube videos. Some people buy a reusable spray gun and cans of paint that attach to it. Since I didn’t think I’d get enough use out of the spray gun, I chose to go with spray-paint style cans. I decided to start with the fender panel, as it was a smaller area than the hood. This would give me a better idea of how much time to reserve for the hood, and how many more cans of paint to order.
I ordered all my paint and most of my other supplies from Automotive Touchup. I really recommend their paint! It was a perfect match, and the resources on their website were extremely helpful. When I contacted them with a question, I got a speedy and useful response.
( Automotive Touchup did NOT endorse or sponsor this post, or provide me with products for review)
The prep work
While I waited for my shipment of supplies, I removed the remains of the peeling clear coat and did A LOT of sanding. Because I did this all by hand, I got a major arm workout. Fortunately, I didn’t need to sand all the way to bare metal, just enough to get a uniform/prepped surface.
Finally the right conditions presented themselves. I got ready by removing the plastic trim piece around the wheel well and removing the headlight housing. A true pro might have chosen to remove more parts, like the bumper, but that would have required a helper, and at this point I was flying solo. I just made sure to tape super good. Can you tell I like horses? Those are feed bags 🙂
Finally! time to repaint this thing
Painting was an all-day affair because of the dry time between coats. I did about 8 coats of color coat, followed by 8 coats of clear coat. Automotive Touchup won’t sell you the clear coat without extracting a promise that you will wear an intense mask during application (provide your own or buy from them). Of course they have no way to enforce this, but I like my lung tissue pink and healthy so I made sure to don my mask for every round of spraying. After a day of painting, the breathing barriers on the outside of the mask had acquired a red hue, which I was glad had not gone in my lungs.
By the time I was ready to tackle the hood, I was in Minnesota at my folk’s house. The humidity wasn’t a concern as much as in Arkansas, but I had a new nemesis: cottonwood trees. Bits of cottonwood fluff were floating in the air everywhere. My dad didn’t want red paint and a whole lot of fumes in his garage, so I constructed a shanty thing in the backyard and dubbed it my spray booth. I hoped this would protect my wet paint from anything carried on the breeze. The plus side of doing this part in Minnesota was that I could enlist some family members as helpers!
I removed the grill myself but I needed help to remove the hood because of it’s size. We set the hood on two saw horses in my shanty. To be honest, I didn’t spray primer over the whole entire surface of the hood. I focused my primer application on the more troublesome areas where the hood had been scratched. Then I did a bit more (light and careful) sanding to blend these areas and make sure I would have the ideal surface for the new paint to adhere to.
So much spraying
My grandpa, a lifelong handy man, was eager to help with spraying and he gave me a pro-tip to improve my technique: instead of aiming straight at your target and then pushing the button, start the spray off to the side a little and then sweep your arm over your target. This results in less splatter/bubbles/drips and gives you more even coverage.
Again, I did about 8 coats of each color coat and clear coat and it took ALL DAY. We moved it into the garage overnight so squirrels wouldn’t leave paw prints on it or anything like that.
Next was to get the hood back on an align it, which my dad and sister helped with. The last steps were replacing the grill and the little dodge symbol. (By the way, I had removed the symbol with dental floss and then used goo-gone to get the sticky stuff off. I found fresh sticky stuff in the automotive aisle at Walmart). I also used a soft cloth and a little solvent (from Automotive Touchup) to gently buff the surface for the smoothest texture and shine.
It’s almost perfect. A couple teeny tiny flies made the mistake of landing on the hood between coats. I tried picking them off with a tweezers, but some fly wings will forever be preserved between clear coat layers. Like Jurassic Park insects in amber.
This project took a lot of planning, preparation, and patience. I spent nearly $300 on paint, tape, sandpaper, the mask, etc. That sounds like a lot, but this was way cheaper than the $1,100 that the pros quoted me. Valentine’s new paint held up perfectly through all kinds of weather over the following months of road trips, work, and adventures.