Can you just do minor bodywork on an old car?

Well, the title pretty much says it all. It’s a 1997 Ford Winstar van, the white paint has all kinds of scratches and marks all over it, the side thingies are peeling off… can I just do this kind of minor stuff at home to make it look a little better without going into some kind of big expensive thing? That just seems so unnecessary. I’m not trying to impress anybody or make it look new, just to improve things to a minor degree. Thoughts?

What exactly are you looking to do? What are these “side thingees” of which you speak?

If the paint overall looks okay, you can probably buff out the scratches or fix them with touch-up paint. A detailer might be able to do this for you for fairly cheap. DIY “rattle-can” paint jobs can look okay too if you really put some time into it and are very careful, but white is really hard, both to paint and to paint over. As with any form of DIY body work, there always exists the chance that the vehicle will look worse than when you started.

I’ve seen pretty decent paint jobs done by Earl Schieb or the like. If you take the time to remove mirrors, trim, etc, and do as much of the sanding as you can, they can squirt some paint on it and it should look pretty good. Just an idea. I did this once for a woman who couldn’t afford much.

This is excellent advice. Having restored a few cars, I can tell you traditional paint and bodywork is very expensive. On an older vehicle such as you have, the Earl Schieb route is best.

It is an older vehicle not not worth much so you don’t have much to lose plus you might learn something. You can buy some metal sandpaper and give it a try first on a small spot. Work your way down to a really fine grit until you have a good base and then apply some light auto spray paint or use the tip of a white touch up paint to cover it. The latter is like nail polish and it won’t ever be confused with a professional job up close but it will stop rust from spreading and look decent for normal scratches. Auto parts stores sell these but be warned that there are as many shades of white as there are colors in the rainbow but you have a popular model and they should have one that matches closely.

You can also try rubbing compound on a car like that to take off surface blemishes but then wax it because it takes some of the protection off as well. That will go a long way with some elbow grease and most scratches aren’t all the way to the metal so it can remove those. If you have $20 and an afternoon to spend, you can make it look much better.

The other possible steps don’t cost much either but they require intensive redneck engineering with Bondo and primer before spray painting. Don’t let anyone talk you into that unless you fall into that category. It works because it is a primitive art.

No, this is very hard to picture… I don’t think it’s really possible… :wink:
I had to leave for a kickboxing class and couldn’t really take the time to describe things well. You know. Those long side trim pieces. Anyway, that class was a killer.

I’m not going to take this thing anywhere for anybody to work on cosmetic things and actually PAY them to do it!! Are all y’all kidding?? :stuck_out_tongue:

If you’re just covering up scratches, the auto parts store should have a collection of touch up paints in various colors. The side thingies sound like trim pieces that you can reattach with silicone adhesive. But if those things are loose, there’s likely going to be rust underneath them. They’re perfect places for water to hang around and eat away at the metal underneath. Since it’s an election year, another alternative is to plaster your car with the free bumper stickers.

Is your question one of a legal nature or an understanding of your own ability to accomplish such things?

Legally, you can leave your car in the condition its in, as long as it meets the inspection standard for your state or jurisdiction.

If you are asking about your ability to accomplish minor body repair of your car, well that’ doesn’t really fit in GQ. Based on your own apprehensiveness, I will say, “No”.

The side trim pieces can be reglued - options are at any auto parts store. If they have been flopping around and are messed up; you can replace them. Biggest step is preping the surface you are gluing to. Old adhesive needs to be removed and surface treated for any rust before attempting to reglue.

If the scratches are not too deep - go with the polishing compound (not the rubbing compound - too aggressive for someone inexperienced) and a buffer. Go very easy - you’re buffing, not removing the paint.

Otherwise, as posted above, remove all the trim and go for the cheapo paint job. They can turn out well and after complete curing; dilligent cleaning and waxing will keep things spruced up.

This work and expense will be completely negated by the birds, rolling shopping carts and parking lot door dings in short order however:D:D

With touch up paint, it can weather differently than the base paint, and look like hell a few years later, even though it was a perfect match when you put it on.

It’s hard enough getting the perfect match on the already weathered paint in the first place. That’s why I recommended the bumper sticker method. The aesthetic quality remains constant over time.

My brother once completely repainted his car with house paint. It didn’t take long. He just took a brush and slapped it on…

Anyway, he’ll probably get this van as a present. This may illustrate that the final aesthetic results aren’t terribly important. It would be a fun project. :slight_smile:

Then can I recommend…glitter spray paint?

Earl Scheib?? Is he still around? I haven’t heard of him since the 70s.

Best wishes,

Thanks for hiring me to paint your porch sir. I did this best job I could but you don’t know what you even own. It isn’t a porch, it is a Mercedes.

The Poor Mans Paint Job; How to paint your car for $75.00

I once helped a friend paint a schoolbus by hand. We used brooms dipped into 5-gallon buckets of paint. It actually turned out pretty good.

I used to see a lot of cars with bondo patches (it’s body filler putty) or a different color fender salvaged from the wrecking yard. I’ve seen cars driven with only the primer coat for years. Not sure why the owner never finished the paint job.

Since cars got so much plastic crap on them it’s rare to see shade tree repairs. People still salvage body panels and fenders from wrecking yards. The days of filling in a dent with bondo seem just about over. I don’t think it even sticks to the plastic junk on cars today.

For the side moldings, if they’re not in bad shape just get some 3M double-sided automotive trim tape, it’s very sticky and not unlike the factory stuff. You’d be surprised how much is held on with tape, plastic fasteners, and little metal clips. :\