4X4 AdviceCar Advice

Bush pinstripe damage – advice from a professional

Bush pinstripes are a part of off-roading. We talk with professional detailer, Darren Hosking, about how to prevent them and what to do once you’ve got them. 

DARREN HOSKING runs The Detailing Pros, and aside from spending his time being flown around the country to work on exotic cars he is also a keen 4WD owner and club member. Here are his views on bush pinstripes and bush damage.

Is it best to polish out or leave scratches?

If the incident which caused the scratches/pin stripes was a once off event then they can be removed, however, this can only be done one or two times in the lifetime of the vehicle so any intention to do it again would mean leaving them in the paint and polishing them out later on.

There are products on the market which are effective at covering up the scratches temporarily which means you don’t have to look at them, but the results are short lived which means reapplication is required as often as  necessary to maintain the finish on the paint.

Holding a yellow post it note between your thumb and pointer finger represents the average thickness of modern day factory paint. This includes primer, base coat (colour) and clearcoat.

We are only able to work within that top layer of the non pigmented paint when removing scratches.  If indeed we do remove scratches we are in turn refining (removing) the clear coat to a level below the depth of the scratch.

One or two aggressive “cut ‘ n polishes” with a rotary buff can reduce the clearcoat to such a level that clearcoat failure or burn through is highly likely.

Products generically known as glazes as well as some waxes contain ‘fillers’ which are fine ingredients which have the effect of filling in and/or act as covering up the scratches. One  or two subsequent washes will be enough to remove the products and reveal the scratches again.

What’s paint quality like these days?

We often say that the better the paint the better we can make it look, the quality and quantity (thickness) of the paint makes a massive difference to what can be achieved when polishing. All manufacturers have made changes since the GFC in order to reduce the cost of building their cars, and we have noticed this across the boards when it comes to paint. Rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for, ie. Euro prestige paint is usually the nicest paint to polish but also be aware that the top of the line dual cab 4×4, more than likely has exactly the same paint quality and thickness as the base model, sometimes 20 or 30 thousand dollars cheaper!

Darren’s Triton has been polished and ceramic coated. Here it is parked in Birdsville a couple of years ago. Dirt removed easily with a waterless wash and microfiber from a ceramic coating on the surface applied 3 years prior, so that wasn’t as much effort to clean as you’d think!

What if the scratches are too deep?

Again, rule of thumb is; If you can run over the scratch with a fingernail and it catches then it is too deep to polish out of the clear coat. Having said that some scuff and scratches actually look worse than what they are so getting it assessed by a professional detailer before going off to the painters would be advisable as repairing a simple scratch will often mean repainting the entire panel if not the adjoining ones as well in order to colour match correctly.

Localised touch ups such as stone chip repairs can be quick and effective however the nature of scratches and pin striping is the length of the damage in the paint and the attempted repair can actually look worse than the original scratch.

How about DIY scratch repair?

We are often asked to repair the damage done when the owner of the vehicle attempts to fix the scratch themselves with products bought over the counter from an Auto parts store. Advice given by a salesman who is paid to sell, sell, sell, is rarely going to end well for the consumer.

Most common mistake made by DIY is using an aggressive rubbing compound or even sand paper and then not being able to remove the damage to the paint that they put in , essentially making it worse. By using the most effective yet least aggressive method of polishing to achieve a desired outcome we can maintain the integrity of a factory paint job while leaving the most amount of paint on the vehicle as possible.

Hints and Tips

Prevention is better than the cure. 4WDriving is an extreme environment compared to what the vast majority of road vehicles are subjected to during their life. Most accept this and cop the consequences to their paint and panels accordingly. Being proactive rather than reactive, meaning getting the paint protected prior to leaving on a big trip, rather than fixing it upon return is money well spent. Many options including Waxes, Sealants, Ceramic Coatings, Vinyl Wraps, Paint Protection films, Body Armour and more, now exist to keep your paintwork in better condition than what it would be without it.

Pre sale details are a regular service that we provide. The most common result is a faster sale at an above average price rather than a premium price. We prepare the vehicle as best we can to reflect a well looked after car rather than one that has obviously been ‘detailed’.

This LC200 was massively scratched…but has been fixed. You know it’s a serious detail when the front comes off and there’s dirt under the car…

The Detailing Pros, Melbourne

Further reading


  • amiaq

    I throw mud on my 4WD to make it look tough!

    • fuzha

      lol, ensure to wound up the windows 😉

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is the editor of PM4x4, an offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/