Monthly Archives: January 2012

Basic black … it never goes out of style

The replacement fender and bumper arrived for the Altima damaged in the parking lot touch and go last week. Today we sprayed the parts in black.

The first two photos show the fender and bumper sanded and ready for the sealer that seals and protects the metal and primers underneath and provides a bonding surface for the paint above.

The next two photos, numbers three and four, show the parts after the application of the base coat, the color layer if you will. We use a two stage paint process at JMC AutoworX, and the paint is actually applied in two steps.

The first step the the color layer, more properly called the base coat. The base coat is what provides the color to the finish, but it dries to a dull, nearly flat finish, as you can see in the middle two photos.

The second step is the application of the clear coat. The clear coat not only provides a layer of protection to the base coat below, it also provides the gloss, the pop that is automotive paint.

You can clearly see the effect the clear has on the color layer in the last two photos. The paint goes from dull and lifeless to deep, rich and glossy.

You know, I personally would never own another black car. But let me let you in on a little secret. It is my favorite color on someone else’s car. Because basic black … that never goes out of style.


This poor little Honda Civic took a pretty good lick to the left front fender, causing some fairly extensive damage to the car. The first picture shows what the car looked like when it arrive at the shop.

This is more than a simple fender replacement as there was some damage to the structure of the car. While the car’s structure is straightened and put back into spec, I started work on the replacement fender.

The last picture shows the replacement fender in the booth being trimmed out. Trimming out a body panel is priming and painting the parts of the panel that you can’t reach once the car is assembled. In this fender’s case, that is the back and the edges.

Once the car’s structure is repaired, we will put the fender on the car, paint it to match, and this Civic will be ready to return to it’s owner … none the worse for its ordeal.

Filler up

After sitting idle for almost two weeks, I have finally caught up enough around the shop to put in a couple of hours on the Chevelle.

The plan for today … filling and smoothing. Body filler has received an unfair and unjust reputation, mostly because of shoddy workmanship or improper use. Body filler is a miracle product compared to the old days when minor dent repair and filling was done with lead. Body filler is quicker, easier and all around better than lead in every practical way. But it must be used properly. It’s not the product that’s the problem, it the people using it.

The first picture shows the left side seam, where the rear quarter panel is joined to the roof panel, covered in a layer of body filler. This how the body filler looks before it is sanded down smooth and blended into the the body. The second photo shows the right side seam after the body filler has dried, hardened and been blocked smooth.

Filler is applied across a broad area in layers until it is higher than the surrounding metal. After it dries, it is then sanded away using a block until the filler is blended smoothly into the lines of the car. After prime and paint, the repair is indistinguishable from the rest of the car.

Body filler is not only for filling dents and seams however. This car has been coated with a thick layer of Slick Sand high solids primer. The Slick Sand is like a spray on body filler, used to fill and smooth the metal of a car. Like body filler, after the Slick Sand dries it is blocked away leaving the body perfectly smooth. Or, as in the case of this Chevelle, it reveals areas where the waves and ripples are too great to be removed with the Slick Sand primer. Once again, body filler is the tool of choice to remove these imperfections.

Pictures 3 through 7 show body filler being used to smooth the dash. The dash of this Chevelle has been modified by Murphy Rod & Custom, removing the glove box and filling the holes where the various controls once went. As good as Kelly and Josh are, and they are very good indeed, you can’t weld up something like this and leave a perfectly smooth finish. It simply can’t be done. So body filler takes care of the final smoothing, making the dash as smooth and beautiful as the rest of the car.

Pictures 3, 4 and 5, show the body filler covering places revealed by the Slick Sand that need additional smoothing. The body filler is applied over the problem areas and allowed to dry and harden. After the filler hardens, it is blocked smooth. You can see me blocking the bottom section of the dash in the last two photographs, pictures 6 and 7.

Blocking is nothing more than sanding with a block, a device to hold the sandpaper tight and straight, so it really digs in and scours away the high spots, while lightly skimming over the low spots. The block allows me to sand an area dead straight and true, hiding the imperfections below tiny fractions of an inch thick layer of body filler.

An area is blocked until the underlying metal just begins to peek through the filler. When that begins to happen you know you have remove the maximum amount of filler, leaving only that which is required to produce the dead even, perfectly straight bodywork a high-end paint finish requires.

Body filler is kind of like Brylcreem … a little dab will do ya.

Let me get this straight

This Versa, fresh from the shop with a new fender and door, has been cleaned up and is now ready to be returned to the owner.

Repaired with original Nissan parts, this little car is good as new with nary a trace of the rough handling it received.

A lot of damage

This new Nissan Altima arrived at the shop today, yet another victim of a parking lot mishap.

Even though this isn’t a terrible dent, it is in a bad spot, right on the crease in the fender, so it will be cheaper to replace it than to try to hammer the dent out.

I am not a superstitious fellow, but it is things like this that get old wives tales started. That old saying, “Everything happens in three’s” probably was started by something like this.

Three cars with damage from hitting a deer, followed by three cars damaged in a parking lot mishap. I wonder what will have happened to the next three cars I see?

Hi ho silver …

Yesterday I got this Versa trimmed out, another way of saying I painted all the parts that are hard to reach when the car is put together. Today … I painted the rest of it.

The first picture shows the car after the application of the color layer. Even though only the fender and front door were actually damaged, I blended the paint into the rear door and across the hood to hide the repair.

The second picture shows the car after the clear layer has been laid on. Where the base coat, the actual color on the car, dries to a flat and lifeless finish, the clear coat brings the sizzle to the finish. These two photographs show in stark detail how the clear makes the color underneath pop off the car.

That’s a pretty big improvement for a product you can’t even see.

White out!

Yesterday I got this Nissan Altima primed and ready for paint. Today … I painted.

The first photo shows me spraying the color layer on the car. The color layer, in this case white, is what give the car its color. This car had two small dents, one on each side of the roof, so I shot those areas then blended across the roof.

Blending is the technique to hide minute color changes. The human eye is simply amazing in its ability to distinguish subtle shades in color. The number of colors that the average person can see is somewhere in the millions. With that kind of resolution, it is obvious that if the color of the new paint isn’t dead on the money, the human eye can tell the difference … especially if they are directly adjacent to one another. Blending disguises the difference in color, if there is any, by blending the two colors so the eye cannot perceive the difference. It is an old technique, but sometimes you can’t improve on the tried and true.

Photographs two and three show the roof after the application of the color layer. Looks pretty good, if a little flat. The reason the color looks so dull and lifeless is because it is. A two-stage paint process, the process we use at JMC AutoworX, the base coat, what I call the color layer, dries to a nearly flat finish. It is the clear coat that provides the gloss, and protection, to the finish.

The last two photos show the same roof after the application of the clear coat. The clear make a big difference doesn’t it? It is the clear that give the paint its depth and luster, in addition to providing protection to the color layer underneath.

After the clear coat dries, we will strip the masking off, snap the roof rails back on, surprisingly undamaged by the door falling on them, and get the car cleaned up and ready to return to the owner.

And those nasty dents? All I can say is, “What dents?”

Glossary of terms

I throw a lot of terms around on this site. Primer, sealer, blocking … it can all be very confusing. To help those who don’t do this every day, I am providing a handy definition guide to help everyone understand the terminology. I will also post these in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section for future reference.


Acrylic (Enamel) (Paint): A common type of paint used for automotive finishes. Not as durable as a urethane enamel, acrylic enamels can be polished to a high gloss finish like a lacquer paint.

Base Coat: This is the actual pigmented color that covers your car. I frequently refer to this as the color layer in this blog for clarity.

Blend(ing): A technique for matching old paint to new. Blending feathers the newly applied paint into the existing paint so the eye cannot detect a change in color if one exists.

Block: A flexible object around which sandpaper is wrapped. The block prevents the introduction of imperfections into the surface caused by hand sanding and allows the sandpaper to remove more material from high spots while skimming over low spots, producing a smooth and even surface.

Blocking: The process of using a block while sanding.

Body Filler: A product that dries to a hard surface suitable for sanding and shaping. Body filler is designed for smoothing and filling of shallow dents, not for major repairs.

Booth: See Paint Booth.

Buffer: A high-speed tool used to apply and remove polishing compound. See Polishing.

Candy: A thinned base coat applied over the regular base coat to produce a deeper, richer color.

Catalyst: An ingredient that causes a chemical reaction by interacting with the resins of the paint allowing it to cure .

Clear Coat: The final coating applied over the base coat to protect the finish and provide the gloss.

Enamel (Paint): A general term for paints that dry to a hard, durable finish. Acrylic enamels and urethane enamels, along with hardware store type spray paints are all enamel paint.

Epoxy Primer: An undercoat  that can be applied over etching primer or bare metal to seal the body from moisture and provide a barrier to damage, such as rock chips and scratches.

Etching Primer: An undercoat that is applied directly to bare metal. The etching primer bonds directly to the metal surface to provide rust protection and adhesion to the following layers. The etching primer and epoxy primer work well  together as a single unit.

Filler: See Body Filler.

Flake: See Metal Flake.

Gloss: The luster or shininess of paints and coatings are generally classified as the gloss. Common definitions are flat, semi-gloss, or gloss; the latter having the highest reflecting ability.

High Solids Primer: A product used to remove the tiny imperfections from cars. Typically used under the most demanding finish, such as our High Performance Finish, a high solids primer provides the smoothest base possible for the base coat and clear coat. It functions in the same capacity as body filler, but is used over the entire car and is applied as a spray.

Lacquer (Paint): A type of paint characterized by fast drying times and the ability to be polished to a rich and beautiful gloss. Poor durability and chemical resistance has led to their replacement by enamel paint.

Long Blocking: See Blocking.

Metal Flake: Tiny bits of various colored flakes that can be added to the base coat to give extra sparkle to the paint. Metallic paints get their name from the inclusion of metal flakes.

Metal Work: A general terms for heavy metal repairs, such as cutting out rusty areas and replacing them with new sheet metal.

Paint: A general term for the various undercoats, base coats and clears that taken together forms the finish on your car.

Paint Booth: An environmental control chamber for the application of various sprayed substances that make up the paint on your car.

Paint Gun: A tool used by painters to apply sprayable substances to a vehicle. A paint gun is typically powered by cleaned and dried compressed air.

Pigment(s): The substances that are mixed into the base coat to give it its color.

Polish: The act of using a high speed buffer along with various polishing compounds to increase the luster of a paint finish. This is typically the final step of painting a car.

Polishing Compound(s): Substances that contain ultra-fine abrasives used to restore or increase the luster of a paint finish. Polishing compounds are available in various coarseness’s depending on the amount of abrasion needed.

Primer: A general term for an undercoat that is applied to seal and protect the metal or plastic before the application of the sealer and paint. 

Sanding: A general term for the use of sandpaper for smoothing, cleaning and the removal of imperfections. See Blocking.

Sealer: An undercoat that is applied over all previous layers before the base coat is applied. The sealer fills any tiny sanding scratches and provides a consistent color base in one of seven shades of gray. The sealer and base coat  work together as a unit to provide the color for your car paint.

Slick Sand: See High Solids Primer.

Shoot: A slang term for using a air powered paint gun to apply the various undercoats, base coats and clears. Typically would be used as in, “I have to go shoot this car.”

Tack: To remove any residual dust with a tack cloth.

Tack Cloth: A lint free cloth impregnated with a chemical that leaves the cloths slightly tacky. A tack cloth wiped over a surface will cause any dust or loose particles to adhere to the cloth so it is removed from the surface.

Trim Out: The act of applying an primers, sealer and paint to the part or parts of a body panel that cannot be reached after assembly.

Two Stage (Paint)A paint system in which the color is applied as a base coat followed by a clear coat to provide gloss and protection.

Undercoat: Any of the primers and sealers that are applied before the base coat.

Urethane (Enamel) (Paint): A type of paint used in most automotive finishes.  Urethane paints are very durable and require the use of a catalyst.

Wet Sand(ing): Sanding of a surface while the surface is wet. The water provides lubricating properties to prevent the removal of too much material and washes away sanding dust so that the effects of the sanding process can be seen.

Just a little trim

The replacement parts for the Versa arrived at the shop today. You may recall that last week two cars with smashed door arrived at the shop at the same time, both a victim of being backed into in a parking lot. This Versa was one of those two cars.

We didn’t have time to paint the car today, but we did get the parts trimmed out.

When new factory parts arrive they are already coated with a bare metal primer. This primer could be scuffed or damaged in shipping, so in order to give my customers the best possible paint job, I always sand and seal the parts, just in case.

The sealer seals all the layers below it and provides a color base for the paint. The sealer comes in seven shades of gray, from white, to almost black. Each paint color specifies one of these seven shades to ensure a accurate color match.

Trimming out a car is applying primers, sealers and paint to areas of a body panel that are difficult or impossible to reach after assembly. It is just another way to ensure that rust can’t get a finger-hold anywhere on the car, and that the finish looks its absolute best.

Doing the best job we can on every job we do is how we roll here at JMC AutoworX.

That had to be annoying

This Nissan is in the shop to have a couple of dents repaired, dents caused by a garage door falling on the car. What is surprising about the damage is that it only happened on the edges, not all the way across. I don’t even pretend to understand how that could happen. It doesn’t really matter I guess, I don’t have to understand how it got bent, only how to repair it.

Because the car is white the dents  didn’t show up on the camera, so the first picture shows the two areas sanded and covered with a layer of body filler. Body filler has received a lot of negative attention in the past. This is generally because of improper use, trying to use it for purposes for which it was never intended. But in this case, it is the perfect tool for the job. To try to pull these slight dents out would be prohibitively expensive, but a thin skim of body filler will fix the problem with minimal cost.

Body filler is designed to work as a thin layer to even shallow dents and dings, like these. The filler is smeared over the dent in  thin layers until the filler is built up beyond the height of the surrounding metal. After it has dried, the filler is then blocked to remove most of the material, smoothing and shaping the filler to match the lines of the car.

You will notice in the second photo how rough and ugly the raw filler is. This is the way the filler looks before any blocking takes place. The next two photos, numbers three and four, I am actually blocking the car. Blocking is nothing more than wrapping sandpaper around long flexible blocks which are used for sanding. You can see the sanding block in my hand in these pictures.

The block evens and smooths the surface of the filler because the extra length of the block causes the high places to be removed faster by allowing the block to really dig in, removing more material. At the  same time, the length allows the sand paper to float lightly over the low places removing less material. The sanding process continues until the filler is perfectly smooth and even with the lines of the car.

The fifth picture shows the car all taped off, ready for primer, and the top being cleaned of any wax, dust and oils. That little blob of greenish-gray is all that is left of the filler after blocking. Now only factions of an inch thick, smoothed and shaped to match the rest of the roof, it is ready to be primed and painted. The roof color looks flat in the rest of these photos because the clear coat has been lightly sanded to rough up the surface for better adherence.

The last three photos show the two areas that were repaired sprayed with a  primer. The primer seals the layers below and provides a coating so the color and clear layers have something to bite into. Pictures six and seven show the primer still wet and slightly glossy, but it dries to a nearly flat gray, as you can see in the last photo.

The car was blocked and primed yesterday. Today we will get the repaired area painted and cleared. After the paint is good and dry we will snap the roof rails back on, get it cleaned up, and this car will be ready to go back to its owner sometime on Wednesday.

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