If you like your mower and want to continue to do so I can offer a few reasons why you should treat the physical appearance with the same concerns as the mechanical:
*Preventative Maintenance and care for the outside and under your deck will extend the use of your machine by years.
*Washing and putting away your machine between mowing sessions will keep it clean looking but often, that's not enough. A good wipe down with a neutral solvent like Denatured Alcohol will leave the mower stripped of any contaminates and allow you to apply gentle abrasive polish to take away your scratches and discoloration. A final, good quality automotive finishing wax will bring back the original luster...and protect it for many weeks during operation. *Routine polishing and waxing will keep a higher residual value of your machine (at top dollar) in the event you'd like to sell, trade, barter or trade in for money or to upgrade to another machine.
If the physical appearance of your current mower is too far gone and the scratches and blemishes are too deep, then it's time to consider a disassembly, and the process of filling, sanding, priming and painting the machine. I would recommend a good, heat and fuel resistant paint if you're going to use 'rattle cans' or a mid line acrylic enamel if you have a compressor and spray gun.
It does help, to a point..... something (probably wife/child related) happened to the "hood" of the mower and it has horrible scratches in it. The scratches don't look too deep but I can clearly see through the red to whatever primer is underneath. I have tried waxing to make it better but am afraid to "polish" it as it looks like the paint is VERY thin.
I'm afraid in this case nothing can be done other than repainting the hood.
I have a few paint tutorials 'floating' around on other forums as they originated from being a retired shop owner and custom painter (nearly 40 years). I will say right from the get-go that I don't have all the answers though!
You don't really need what I have in the way of equipment. My shop is small but totally catered to body work and painting. I have seen some pretty amazing rattle can paint jobs where the individual took great steps in preparing and shooting the paint. That and a few polishing sessions (and clear coats) made the project look better than factory. I'm sure you could produce the same results if you give it a try.
Mrbeal, any paint job you undertake is only as good as the prep work. As the saying goes "It's all in the prep". I personally don't own any spray equipment. I have been using rattle cans for years with pretty good results. By prep, I mean sanding the original paint for better adhesion, priming, and painting.
Here are some before and after pics of some tractors that have been either totally repainted or some pieces painted with rattle cans.
The last 4 Gravely pics show the rear fender pan which was primed, and painted with 3 coats of Gravely touch up paint. Then wet sanded with 1000 grit and then 2000 grit. Then painted with 3 coats clear high lustre laquer. It was then wet sanded again with 1000 grit and then 2000 grit. It was then buffed to a high gloss.
Good Eye!!! Just happened to slide that out of the way for the pic session.
This tractor was an eBay special. It was in a barn in central Ohio. I just happened to bid on it figuring that I would be outbid. As you guessed, I was the only bidder. So, off I went from eastern Pennsylvania to central Ohio. Nice thing though, it fit in my wife's minivan. Steering wheel and all. I just took all the seats out and rolled it right into the back. Since I already owned an identical tractor, I measured the one I had to make sure this one would fit.
These pics are from the day it came home. I put a little gas in the tank, checked the oil, jumped the battery and it fired right up.
I guess I'll have to charge up my camera batteries and try getting a HQ but small file size pic posted of the scratches..... I DO know enough that preparation is the hardest part of painting, I've just never done it. A gallon of denatured alcohol is cheap enough and so is sandpaper. WORST case scenario, I repaint it and it looks like crap.