Top 5 problems with auto paint shops and auto paint jobs.

by Tom Zoebelein - Sat, Nov 2, 2013 3:48 PM

Paint is the first thing we notice on a car that has just been repaired. Is it shiny? Does the car look like it did just before it was in an accident? If you’ve been in an accident and need your car repaired and repainted, you will want to make sure your shop is not cutting any corners with your car’s paint repair.
Or, perhaps you are shopping paint repair shops to re-spray a faded paint job on a used car even if you haven’t been in an accident; you deserve to have your car painted by good, qualified technicians in a top-notch auto body paint facility.

Here is our list of the top 5 problems you should look out for when selecting an auto body shop for your vehicle:

1.    The new paint color doesn’t match the rest of the car.

Sometimes when you pick your car up from the auto body shop it might be dark and too hard to seen any mismatching, or it might be on a bright full sun day and the mismatching is undetectable because the full sun is making the whole car too bright to observe flaws.

But then when you get it home, or the light is different, you notice it such as in the example in the photo above. That new fender or door just jumps right out at you. I have a really trained eye, I can actually tell if a car has been repainted by a lousy paint shop even when it is driving down the road.

Why paint mismatching happens at some auto body repair shops:
First of all it is not easy to match paint exactly, and unless you are at a custom shop or getting the whole car repainted, it is not going to ever match perfectly. However, it may be nearly undetectable to you. There are just too many variables in matching paint exactly.

All modern cars come with a tag on the car somewhere, usually in the doorjamb that contains a paint code. Most auto body shops are trying to get the cars in and out as fast as they can. The technician simply enters a paint code in their system, gets a formulation, and into the paint booth they go.

But sometimes the manufactures use a different brand of paint than your repair shop is using, or the paint is tinted slightly different in the paint manufacturing plant. Sometimes mismatching occurs because your car is a bit more faded than when it was new if it has been outside for a few years. All these variables can alter the paint match probability.

The good auto paint shops will compensate for this irregularity. They may tint the colors up or down in hue and values, or they may choose to tape off the car at a body seam where it will not be as noticeable. Your eye tends to see surfaces as a whole, so a good tech knows where to start and end the new color to make the whole thing blend.

2.    There is dust or dirt in the paint.

Auto body shops are high volume shops, and they paint dozens of cars each day. Cars are dirty and they trap dirt and debris into every crease and crevice. Also, Body shops pump out a lot of dust from sanding, grinding and welding. Now combine all that dirt and dust with a special pressurized self contained area (the paint booth), add in some fans, and some compressed air from the gun and a very sticky paint and you have the recipe for a lot of nasty bumps in your new paint.

Why dust in the paint happens at auto body shops:

In a year’s time, an auto body shop could paint a couple thousand cars. Cars are in and out of booths all day long, and the doors are opening and closing all day long. All paint booths have filters in them for the incoming air, but that does not stop dirt that is already in there.

How to avoid this from happening to your car:

A good painter will take the extra time to wipe the vehicle down and mask off every area that is not being painted, including the undercarriage of the car. This step will eliminate a lot of loose dirt from being blown into the paint.
A good shop will take great care of the booth. Paint booth filters are not cheap and not replacing them is an easy way to cut costs. Make sure your shop is a quality shop and one that takes pride in its own cleanliness and maintenance of things such as the paint booth.

3.    There are drips runs or sags in the paint.

Gravity is the enemy of any liquid that you wish to stay put. When fresh paint is applied to a nice sleek rounded surface such as a car, it wants to do as all liquids do, and run straight off the panels and onto the ground. Sometimes it doesn’t make it all the way, and just dries mid run off in the form of a large drip, or a sag in the paint. This is especially noticeable in metallic colors as the mica or reflective metal bits in the paint all bunch up and makes a very dark puddle near the edge of the panel.

Why drips and runs happen in auto body paint shops:

Painters are in a hurry to get cars in and out of the booth, and go home on time at the end of the day. They are just like you and me. So sometimes they rush things a little. Sometimes they lay on the paint a little too heavy, sometimes the gun settings are off a little, and sometimes they are taking short cuts because they know that they can.

How to avoid drips and runs from happening to your paint job:

Actually you can’t unless you painted it yourself. But what you can do is check the car thoroughly before taking delivery and before paying the final bill. This way if there is a problem, the shop will put it back through the paint shop and take care of the problem, because they want to get paid.

If you wait until you get the car home to say something, you will have to schedule an appointment. No matter what, you are going to have to wait to get the car back, but this tip will keep that time to a minimum of just a day, maybe two versus waiting a week to take it in, and then waiting for it to get repainted. This happened to a friend of mine, and it took an extra two weeks for his shop to get the car back in and fixed. As you can imagine, he was not happy.

4.    The car was not masked properly.

You can mask a car, and then you can mask a car the right way. Masking involves taking masking tape and masking paper and blocking out all areas where you don’t want paint to land when sprayed. But properly masking a car takes a lot of time and it is an easy place to cut corners. Have you ever been behind a car a red light and noticed that the exhaust system was the same color as the car in some spots? I see it a lot actually, and that is just a lazy tape job from the body shop. Every part of the car has to be taped off, including the underside.

Another area where short cuts happen is where the panel meets a rubber seal such as the edge along the windows. A short cutting painter will just throw a line of tape on top of the rubber, a good painter knows to lift the rubber away from the door and then tape it.

Sometimes the car will enter the booth partially disassembled such the silver car in this illustration. It would be really easy to just paint the hood and fender and paint right over all the wiring in the front. You would never see it. But a good shop, like the one above took the time to properly mask the area. They even took the time to cover the rear wheels that are far away from where they will be spraying, just to ensure that no overspray lands on them.

How to avoid common improper masking your car during paint:

Honestly the best advice here is to do your research on the shop. Read the reviews on sites such as Yelp and Look for angry customers and why they are angry. You can also ask to see the paint booth or the shop during your estimate. Go with your gut feeling. If it looks like this shop is cutting corners, get your keys and move on.

5.    There is no attention to detail.

I had a friend who got charged to paint a new wheel for his car as part of his collision repair. When he got the car back the wheel had never been repaired or re-painted. I have seen other instances where moldings were never replaced, or the paint wasn’t buffed to remove any contaminants. I lump all of these issues into a category called lack of attention to detail, or complete lack of caring.

I had a car fixed once and when I go it home I noticed that in the light you could see all the sanding scratched from the repair in the paint. All of this stuff is unacceptable, and good body shops should catch it.

How to avoid attention to detail issues with your auto body repair:

Great shops have some type of quality checks in place. It may be a location leader, a front office person, an estimator, a customer care representative. Good shops have people on staff to check every single car for accuracy and quality before the customer is called for pick up. Find out what your shops’ quality control process is. Or when you come in for pick up, go over the whole car armed with the knowledge from these tips.  Don’t take it home until its right.

Now you have the knowledge you need to pick a good shop, avoid some common problems, and you know what to look for before you pick the car up. Great shops want your repairs to be completely hassle free. Quality repairs ensure a hassle free auto body shop experience.