How To Repair Sun Damage Car Paint? (3-Step Guide)

Last Updated On June 4, 2021

Wondering how to repair sun-damaged car paint? 

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, you'll learn:

  • What you need to know about sun-damaged paint
  • Supplies you'll need to repair the sun-damaged car paint
  • The step-by-step process to correcting sun-damaged paint
How To Repair Sun Damage Car Paint? (3-Step Guide)

Direct sunlight takes a toll on your old or new car's paint job - that's right, even new paint isn't safe from paint oxidation and other harmful effects from the weather.

Read this guide on how to restore faded paint.

We have all the answers on paint repair, and we're happy to share them with you here on our Pro Paint Corner page.

So, before you repair sun-damaged car paint, I recommend you read our quick blurb about how to repair sun-damaged car paint.

What You Need To Know About How To Repair Sun Damage Car Paint

The sun wreaks havoc on car paint, but there are ways to repair and protect it also. 

Repairing sun-damaged car paint is an easy do-it-yourself job, and you can start by simply trying to buff it out with an electrical buffer and some correction compound.

Hiring a professional for a detail? Leave it up to the professionals to give you great advice on paint correction. 

If you pay for a full detail service at any car dealership, they will perform a complete paint correction, but it's going to cost you. Just keep in mind, oxidized paint won't always revert back to normal – some sun damage requires a repaint. 

A professional detailer will typically charge anywhere from $100-$300 for a full exterior detail. 

It doesn't take a professional to repair your sun-damaged paint job – you can do it yourself easily with a bit of motivation.

Our advice is to read through this guide, buy the few tools and supplies necessary that you don't have, and go for it.

Read More >> How Do You Touch Up Car Paint Yourself?

What Do You Need To Know About Car Paints?

Before you go diving into your paint correction project, let's educate ourselves on the basics of car paint:

Lacquer

Vintage cars are painted with lacquers. The key to fixing paint jobs on vintage cars is evaluating the damage. 

If the paint job is extremely rusted, you might want to consider using an abrasive paint remover disc to remove the paint and try again. Ask our forum if you have any questions specific to your vintage paint job.

Enamel

Different types of enamel paints include:

1. Polyurethane enamels

Budget paint shops like Maaco typically use this single-stage paint because it's cheap and easy.

2. Acrylic enamels

Acrylic enamels are the high-gloss paints most commonly used on your average Toyota or any other modern-day vehicle's paint job.

3. Epoxy enamels

Epoxy enamels are a two-part formula, the first part being either acrylic or polyester, and the second part being a poly-resin hardener.

Now, why would we want to educate you on different car paints? For one, look at all the toxic chemicals have! 

Always wear a respirator/cotton mask and safety glasses when sanding or resurfacing your car's paint. The respirator/cotton mask is less necessary when using polishing compounds and waxing, but we still recommend safety glasses at all times.

Read More >> What Are The Best Respirators To Use For Painting?

What Supplies Will You Need For Repairing Sun Damaged Car Paint?

High-grit sandpaper

Use anywhere from 1500-3000 grit sandpaper when wet sanding your paint job. A quick pass with

Polishing compound

Polishing compound/correction compound works great for correcting sun-damaged paint.

Simply hook up an electric buffer or pneumatic dual-action sander with a buffing attachment, and go to town on the paint job at a higher RPM (2000 RPM).

We recommend Meguiar's correction compound is our recommended polisher for yielding the best results. 

Carnauba wax

Carnauba wax is an excellent reflector of the sun, and lack of wax could be one of the reasons why the paint job is sun-damaged in the first place.

Applicator pads

You'll need some hand applicator pads for applying wax and polishing compound, and electric buffer/sander tools require the corresponding applicator pad.

There are two main types of applicator pads: one for applying correction compound, and one for applying wax. 

You'll notice the wax applicator is smoother and has fewer fibers. Polishing compound applicators are dimpled or textured to dig a bit further into the paint.

Microfiber towel 

Microfiber towels work great for drying off the car after the car wash, and they are necessary for wiping wax and rubbing compound clean after application.

Clay bar

Some sun damage might come out simply by using some spray wax and a clay bar.

The clay bar used with either soapy water or spray wax is a great way to thoroughly clean the paint and prepped it for more drastic measures like wet sanding or buffing with a polishing compound.

Read More >> What Are The Best Electric Paint Sprayers For Repainting Cars?

Did you know: It can cost anywhere from $150 to $500 to fix a car's paint job depending on where you go.  Just another great reason to learn to DIY it!

How To Repair Sun Damaged Car Paint (5-Step Guide)

Before you dive into correcting the sun damage on your car's paint job, take a look at our step-by-step guide so you know how the process works.

(You can click on any of the links below to jump ahead to that step.)

  1. Wash the car
  2. Wet sand
  3. Polishing compound
  4. Carnauba wax/ceramic coating
  5. Inspect results

Step 1 - Wash the car

Take the car to the car wash, or perform a DIY car wash to clean off the surface of the paint. A clean surface is essential to paint restoration and can damage the paint job by sanding or buffing it with dirt and dust specs on the surface. 

Do you know how to wash the car at home? It's easier than taking your car to the car wash, and it wastes less water if you do it right. So

Dry the car off with a thick microfiber towel if you wish.

You can also bust out the spray wax/soapy water and a clay bar during this step to more thoroughly remove the grime.

For example, bird droppings and hard water spots might not come out by simply going through the car wash

You may also want to use fallout remover to get rid of those seemingly impossible hard water spots lingering on the hood and other body panels.

Step 2 - Wet sand

Wet sanding is always an option when performing paint correction, however, wet sanding is not always necessary. We recommend trying paint correction on the area first to see if skipping the wet sanding process is possible.

With either a sanding sponge or the sander of your choice, get a high-grit piece of sandpaper (1500-3000 grit) soaking wet, make a quick pass with the sander to take off the layers of paint that have sun damage. 

Let us emphasize that the sandpaper should be completely soaked in water to avoid leaving swirl marks in the paint job.

Note: This is the part where you need to determine whether or not repainting is necessary. If the paint damage is really severe, it may be a good idea to sand the surface smoothly, and repaint using an automotive paint gun.

Take into mind that when wet sanding, you are slowly shaving off the car's clear coat.

You might also want to apply some clear coat after wet sanding, and before polishing. 

Easy does it when sanding, polishing, and waxing. Don't press into the paint job if you are working with an electric or pneumatic buffer.

Place the machine on the panel, turn it on, work in a circular motion, and let the machine do the work.

It's easy to shave off too much paint and create problems that will need touchup work.

Another 'no-no' to avoid is letting the buffer run into door handles, trim, and transition bends in the metal as it can shave paint off and knick things up. 

Step 3 - Polishing compound

Polish the car to perfection using a polishing/rubbing compound and either hand applicator or buffer.

Using a polishing compound is very easy. Simply add a few drops to the applicator pad, place the buffer flush with the body panel, and turn it on to a speed of about 2,000 RPM.

After making a pass with the buffer or your hand applicator, wipe the residual polishing compound away with a thin microfiber towel for the best results. 

Keep in mind that this step is typically the most time-consuming step.

Pay attention to detail when performing paint correction with polishing compound. Focus on each individual body panel, and try to make each one perfect before moving on to the next.

You'll be surprised at the magic rubbing compound has on your paint job. It's really the only thing you need to correct the paint in most situations. 

Step 4 - Carnauba wax/Ceramic coating

After the paint is corrected to its original shine, or after you have repainted the area and polished it out, carnauba wax is a great solution for protecting the paint from UV rays and dirt.

Waxing either with a hand applicator/microfiber towel or buffer is generally a quick procedure. The trick for applying wax with a buffer is running it at lower RPM (600-1000 RPM)

Remember, applying wax to your paint job is a temporary fix. 

A more permanent solution would be having a professional install a ceramic coating covering your whole paint job. Ceramic coatings make life easier by protecting the paint job from scratches, paint chips, UV rays, etc and it last for years instead of months.

Car owners: The other nice quality of ceramic coating your vehicle is that you basically just have to douse it with water for a perfect exterior detail – that means no more need for carnauba wax.

You could also opt for a liquid polymer sealant as the final step that bonds to the clear coat. 

Step 5 - Inspect results

Inspecting your work is especially important when performing paint correction for a customer.

Park the car in different shades of sunlight, and shine a light directly onto the surface to uncover small imperfections that may need to be corrected before the job is perfect.

Other Valuable Resources On How To Repair Sun Damaged Car Paint

Every car is different when it comes to paint correction, so don't hesitate to ask our page or another professional for advice on the best procedure for cleaning up the paint job on your car.

Are you repainting?

Here is a list of some quality paint guns for cars.

Don't forget to match your car's paint with the paint code located inside the driver's door. If in doubt, contact your local car dealership or auto parts store to help you get the right paint for the job.

We're confident in your ability to do things yourself, and we're always here to answer your questions on our page. And hey, if you don't feel capable of the job – that's okay too. 

Sun-damaged car paint isn't the end of the world. Keep driving safely and, and don't forget to buckle up.

We'll see you in the next instructional article. In the meantime, good luck repairing your sun-damaged car paint! See you next time.

The best way to prevent paint damage is by avoiding extreme weather conditions.

Car owners who genuinely care about their cars tend to park them in an enclosed area or at least cover them when not in use. 

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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