Over the years our car has taken quite some damage in regards to scratches, small dents, and whatnot. We have gone off-road with it, have done multiple thousand-kilometer road trips (with the kids as well) from Portugal to Austria to Italy and Germany, and many more places, and over time pebbles and debris have gotten into the paint. So I decided it was time to give it a little fixer-upper.

When we originally bought the car in 2014, cash down, it was in fairly good condition. It was only a few years old and the parts were in great shape and the paint job was clean (or so I thought). Yet, despite taking good care of its functionality over the years (new tires, new brakes, oil & cable changes, etc..) the outer body had become worn especially from a larger scratch I had caused backing up into a pillar along with denting it on the same side. That was a fun story.

Anyhow, we took it to three places to get it estimated in regards to how much a paint job would cost – one was an official BMW dealer, one a chain that did paint jobs, and one a family run business. The estimates varied from roughly €3.5K – €5.7K and the feedback in regards to what would be done and how varied as well. After those visits I began pondering, I have some time on my hands and the car is a decade old, why not give it a try myself? I love learning, I love experimenting and taking risks. I’ve never done a paint job on a car before so why not our own?

So I put together a list of materials and convinced my wife that I would do it. I’m not that bad in self-taught carpentry and we both know that the car being a decade old would probably at some point just become a secondary car for us – and it’s not like we want to get a large five-figure sum out of it, so I made this project mine.

The pillar scratch

Just to give you an idea of what I was starting with. The photo above is the backside door that was caused by me parking alongside a pillar a while back. You can also see a few spots that were not caused by this but by off-road wear and tear.

The two photos below are the passenger door. I didn’t take a photo beforehand because I wasn’t planning on doing the scratch that was there from who knows what, however, I decided if I was going to do this then I’d do most of the severe scratches and get it done with. So in the photos below you can already see that I wet-sanded a significant portion of the door as a whole to cover a few smaller scratches and get it all into one patch.

Here another fun story. The frontal section of the car was apparently bumped into while our car was parked somewhere and whoever did it just was not there when we returned back to the car. The side had come slightly loose despite no real damage from the bump – no dents, scratches, etc. But it just would not stay on the side when pushing it back in, so I dropped a screw into it to hold it in place temporarily. The next day we brought it to the mechanics who basically did the same thing with a new screw because they suggested that replacing the frontal part for something that small would not be worth it. I could care less, however, I included it now in my fix list. So this was the starting point.

I also decided to include the hood which had a large scratch across it – which seemed like a key, and the logo had worn off over the years so I would replace that as well.

 

Now while I do have a generally good understanding of cars – for all you car lovers out there that might have done it differently, I know. This was me on trial and error mode.

Baseline set. Let’s get to work.

Marking off the work area and using filler to get into the scratches.

Readding filler to even out the contour.

After the filler (with hardener) was in place and had become really tough, I began wet-sanding and I decided to go slightly beyond just the damaged area to get a clean coat throughout the whole work area.

After that was done, and a few hours of wet sanding complete I began cleaning and making sure the contour of the door was actually was smooth and clean. After feeling comfortable with the result I began pulling off the tape and wiped down the sides.

The same with the hood.

And of course the front where the screw was located.

This whole process took quite a while. I find it important to work clean and diligently from the start of any project so as to be able to execute on the next steps without potential problems. Strategy and planning.

Then I prepped the car for a base layer of paint.

After two layers of base, I let it dry and then wet-sanded down the base with 1000 grit sandpaper to get it all smooth and clean. The doors turned out like this:

The front part I had to redo because I had come to close with the base paint and a small wave of dripping paint occurred. Trial and error I guess.

Then I started the first layer of color coating.

 

I then added another 3 lighter layers. The colors starting coming together, albeit a tad darker however the clear coat would put some shine into it. If you look closely at the photos below you’ll see where the new coating and the old coating overlap and the difference in shine.

After that was done and everything dried out, it was time to put on some clear coating – in total 3 layers.

That was it.

Overall very happy with the results. What I still need to do is a bit of waxing. I’ll probably put on a compound of sorts first and work that into the overall coating of the car and then use some polisher to clean it up. Wipe it up and then wax it up.

However, even at this point, it looks clean and I’m really happy with the results. You can still slightly see the dent on the door. I think if I would have spent a bit more time refilling it after the first rounds of sanding I probably would have gotten a nicer contour, but again, it’s a decade-old car and I didn’t need perfection, just new learnings. There are a few things I would do differently next time, but the project is now long closed.

 

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