How apply Tesla touch-up paint?

How apply Tesla touch-up paint?

Took my pristine, low miles 14 month old Multicoat Red Model S in for its first annual service and got it back a couple days ago. This afternoon i opened the frunk to put stuff in and discovered four small dings in the hood. the first ever! They are all more like scratches - perhaps 1.5 mm wide and varying in length from 4mm to 8mm.

I suspect this happened when the Tesla service folks took the car for a test drive. The service center is in a fairly grungy industrial neighborhood near the freeway. When i picked it up the energy graph showed they had really floored it a few times. Of course, i can't be certain the dings happened while at the service center, but i am 99% sure. I drive carefully and dont get behind trucks or SUVs without mudflaps and stay off questionable roads etc.

However, I am not so sure i can trust the service center (or a paint shop that they might take it to) to do appropriate touch up, so I phoned the service center to just ask for some free touch up paint to do it myself. They agreed to that.

I have searched the Tesla forums and the Tesla Motors website for info on how to apply but with little luck. a google search for touch up paint in general yielded more info such as:
1. first clean the surface.
2. apply multiple thin coats of primer
3. apply multiple very thin coats of the touch up paint.
4. after dried, use rubbing compound to smooth out.
5. apply wax

Can i get away with just doing 1 and 3? at least one of the scratches goes down to bare metal and i understand primer should be used for that one. but if i dont use primer the worst that can happen is that the touch up paint wears off after a year or so and i have to redo? i can live with that.

The Tesla Service center took the car to a car wash (I am greatful for that) but the carwash put on Clearcoat. Something i never ask for when i take it to a car wash myself. Will the Clear Coat make it more difficult to clean/prep the scratches?

Any advice appreciated. I am not too rational at the moment as this is the first time in my life that one of my cars has been dinged while in for service!

DLebryk | 3 marzo 2016

You're never going to be happy with the job you do yourself with touchup paint. It is extremely difficult to get the levels exactly right. Clearly you are a detail oriented person and anything less than perfection will glare at you.

If the service center offered to fix the scratches, have them do the work.

You add that they floored the car two times. And it sounds like that makes you angry (or at least piled on to the scratches). How do you know they did that? There are plenty of ways an energy graph can have big peaks without flooring the car. And then if they actually did floor the car, why do you care? They didn't do burn outs (you'd find rubber in the rear end of the car) and flooring the car has absolutely no negative impact on the car. None - nothing - no damage. Unlike the potential problems with an ICE being constantly floored, the electric motor could care less.

Relax. Trust the service center. Go let them fix the damage you are 99% certain they did.

And yes you can get away with 1, 3, 4, and 5. But you are going to be at it for a long time. And you will notice the imperfections every single time you look at the car.

Yeah I get you, a 14 month old car with not one single scratch on it anywhere. Be grateful the service center is being kind to you.

compchat | 3 marzo 2016

Service center doesn't do body work. That is subbed out to a body shop. You may not realize this but I'm fairly certain that is the case. I would suggest:
1. Don't settle for touch-up. Ask that they repaint the hood (multicolor seems more complicated than primer, paint and clear coat). Make certain the body shop is Tesla Certified.
2. Ask for a free rental car
3. If they don't accomodate you make a claim with your insurance company.

You'll never be happy with touch up paint. Also you described them as "dings". If they are down to the aluminum they may have to buy you a new hood and paint it (at a body shop).

Oh and NEVER use a car wash or allow Tesla to watch your car. The paint is soft and easily scratched with any small particles in the towels or from the brushes in a car wash. If you take it to a car wash make sure it is brushless and bring them clean carbon fiber towels to dry the car (Amazon has them). If you love your car, wash it yourself. After all it is like a'd never take your baby to a car wash would you ?

Good luck.

Tropopause | 3 marzo 2016

Hmm, a car wash for babies...

rxlawdude | 4 marzo 2016

"The paint is soft and easily scratched with any small particles in the towels or from the brushes in a car wash."

This "soft paint" myth has been debunked, but continues to resurrect. Tesla paint is no more susceptible to damage than any other manufacturer that is subject to EPA and CARB regulations.

Tropopause | 4 marzo 2016

I have fewer road-knicks in my Model S paint than I did in my previous ICE car paint.

Wilber | 4 marzo 2016

Hi All:

Thanks for your replies. I have now settled down a little. I should clarify my original posting:

1. While i considered the car pristine i hadnt bothered to wash it in about 4 months and was looking pretty funky. So, the dust, dirt and stuff could have obscured these nicks if they were already on the car before i took it to Tesla Service. So I am not 99% sure they did it. Only about 90% sure.

2. While in my younger days i was particular about how my MGs or Beemers looked and really did wash them often and keep nice, i am not so worried in my old age. So, for instance, since these new dings are pretty hard to see since they are so small, i figure if i do an amaturish job with touch up paint, it will not be a big deal so long as i am careful to apply the minimum amount of paint. My goal is not to restore the paint to 'like new' but just to make sure metal isnt showing and that the nicks are not obvious to the casual observer.

3. The Tesla service center took it to the San Rafael 2d street Brushless car wash. So no brushes touched the paint. But, I realize that some people do not like the way these brushless places clean your car as they can still leave subtle marks, but i am no longer so picky about the car, and have taken the car there a few times myself and been happy with the result.

So, my plan is to do some testing with the Tesla touch up paint on a tin can to get my technique down. And, if i am happy with that to touch up the dings. If not happy with that, then Barsottis Body Shop in San Rafael has told me they can help me to it for a very small fee. And they may provide some other things to help make it look reasonably good. (like rubbing compound)

church70 | 4 marzo 2016

Personally I would bring it to the body shop and they won't be able to make it look perfect either and less you paint the whole hood hood I am guessing that would be around $800 but not good for the environment and there might be some plastic bottles laying around lol inside joke
Or if you take it to a really good detailer they can use wax and probably do a very good job of hiding it

compchat | 5 marzo 2016


I don't think that the "soft paint myth has been debunked."

The paint doesn't have the same amount of solvents in it compared to regular car paint. Therefore it doesn't harden as well nor is it as easy to mimick in the average body shop. Also each car with the same "color" has a variety of colors in the paint thus making it difficult to match.

For instance my titanium color is actually composed of ten different colors which need mixing before use. I know this because I am in the process of getting a repair on my bumper cover and the manager of the body shop showed me around the paint room. He showed me how the paint was analyzed and then how they have probably 60 different pressurized containers that mix the paint before it is applied (my simplification). Each titanium car has slightly different mixtures of 10 (for example) different colors and have to be matched using computerized codes. In any case it's not cheap to get a hood painted (or a bumper cover).

My point is that Tesla has a special paint process and an underlying base coat which is applied to an aluinium body. While not unique it is not common.

My 2013 blue Tesla was full of swirls direct from the factory. My 2015 titanium model s was almost perfect. No swirls just one small area of defect (reflected odd in the sun).

Ruizmeza | 5 marzo 2016

I did touch up a small spot on the door. Dont do it yourself if you are someone who is going to be looking at it every time you get close to the car. It will never look like a professional job.

I am more a relaxed type of person and take the small chips on the paint and the swirling and all that as part of the experience of owning a car, so for me it was just fine.

PhillyGal | 5 marzo 2016

@Wilber - Practice is a good idea. The official Tesla touch up paint has two application options - a thin pen like tip and a brush. I used the thin pen like tip for a thin line scratch we had and regretted it. While the application was a thin line, it was raised. I much prefer the look of the other scratch I covered with the nail polish brush applicator.

Thin line scratch was from a stupid strip of metal a car kicked up in front of me while driving through a construction zone - it was harmless to run over with my tire after it landed in front of me and I couldn't avoid it - but my own tire kicked it toward the construction barrier and the mofo boomeranged right back to the side of the car!
The other was more a scrape my husband was responsible for when we first got the car - he had brushed the wheel well up along our garage opening and didn't even notice himself doing it. I just happened to be standing outside the car and saw it happen in slow motion.

JayInJapan | 5 marzo 2016

I used a toothpick to touch up my road dings. You can dip it in the paint and get just what you need by scraping off the excess on the side of the paint canister.

barrykmd | 5 marzo 2016

Tesla touch-up paint really exists? Almost a year after purchase, it's still not available in gray. Not that it matters now, as my car remains in captivity at the body shop, almost 6 weeks now, due back-ordered parts. Hope it doesn't take as long as touch-up paint.

Firebolt | 5 marzo 2016

Agree with above comments regarding the inherent "imperfections" associated with a do-it-yourself job. If you're the type who will obsess about the quality of the job, then get a professional to do it. If not, you could even consider going to an art store, such as Aaron Brothers, and find the right type of paint brush for your scratch - appropriate thickness and stiffness of the bristles, etc. Good luck! | 5 marzo 2016

I've had very good luck with Dr Color Chip which works differently than standard touch up paint and is easier to get good results. I wrote up a article with pictures (although they don't do it justice) on applying it to my MS.

It will not work on clear-coat scratches, but is perfect for small rock hits. Not as good as a total repaint, but who does that?

Wilber | 5 marzo 2016

church: thanks for the single use plastic bottle idea. Next time i go to MacDonalds I'll drop by Walmart and pickup a dozen single use bottles. Those will be more fun to practice touch up paint on than a pesky recyclable can! :)
thanks for the idea about a detailer. there are some good ones in my area, so I'll try contacting one or two of them to see what they can do.

Compc: thanks for the explanation of the complexities of Tesla paint! Hope they get that titanium correct for your bumper! You've helped confirm that getting the entire hood painted is both expensive and risky (color wise). You remind me that my car paint wasnt entirely pristine. a couple days after delivery i disovered a circular area about 2 inches wide on left passenger door where the paint looks quite dull. An obvious manufacturing defect. But, since you can only see it at a certain angle in certain light, i didnt bother to tell Tesla about it. I got used to it. So, guess i can get used to hood dings that have been touched up also...

Gruiz - I hear ya. makes plenty sense. I think if i meditate and exercise more i wont be so 'type A" when it comes to the car. That is my plan for the Spring and Summer. And, with the good advice i am getting on this forum i anticipate the touch up results will be acceptable.....

PGal: thanks for the heads up about the two applicators. I had read about them, but what i read made it sound like the pen was the best approach. But, your real world experience is more important! so definitely will try both in my testing and watch to see how 'high' each is. That is frustrating having constuction stuff attack your car like that! i think one of my dings may be similar in that it is like a scratch going from right to left as tho some small piece of metal hit the car from the side. My condolences for having to watch hubby abuse your baby!

JayJ: excellent idea! I'll definitely include toothpicks in my test!

BarryK: my condolences for being without your S for six weeks and counting! I suppose you dont have an S loaner and instead are suffering with a fossil fuel vehicle. I had to drive a noisy shakiy dirty slow FFV for five long days while my S was in for annual service...

Fireb - thanks for the tip about art stores/Arron bros. will ad that to the list!

TeslaT - thanks much for the link to Dr Color. will definitely check that out!

thanks all for you great advice. Nice to have such a supportive Model S Community!
- Wilber

SoCal Buzz | 5 marzo 2016

@compchat, those "carbon fiber" towels might leave a mark!!

@wilber, try a professional polish and see how it looks. I would bet that dull area is just in the clear coat and can be fixed using random orbital machine and very fine polishing compound. Most swirls, etc. are on the surface and can be corrected.

compchat | 5 marzo 2016

@SoCal Buzz,

Yeah, I meant microfiber towel not carbon fiber. My Errr.

rxlawdude | 6 marzo 2016

@compchat - "The paint doesn't have the same amount of solvents in it compared to regular car paint."

You know this how? An "analysis" of DRY PAINT by a body shop will have NO SOLVENTS, as these evaporate during the drying process.

You then cite one of the "specialty" colors that has a "complex process" to produce. Okay, so perhaps that's the price one pays for "specialty" colors and more expensive paint repairs.

Nothing in your post in fact refutes that the "Tesla has soft paint so you need to cover it in [insert the expensive coating or plastic wrap here]" is complete and utter BS.

tweety102880 | 30 luglio 2019

How long is the touch up paint goid for before going bad?