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How to Fix a Damaged Clear Coat

Posted by CleanTools on

clear coat repair

Clear coat is your car’s first line of defense against damage. It protects your color coat from wear and tear, and it protects the metal body of your car from being exposed and vulnerable to rust and corrosion. If you don’t maintain your protective layer of clear coat, damage will only spread and require more intensive repairs.

If your clear coat has sustained damage, here’s everything you need to know about repairing it.

What Causes Damage to Clear Coat?

  • Physical abrasions: Dings and scratches can take out chips of clear coat—like when a rock flies up from the road and hits your car.
  • UV radiation: The sun causes slow, cumulative damage to clear coat over years by heating up layers of paint and causing them to separate.
  • Exposure to chemicals: Bugs, tree sap, gasoline, and other substances can break down your clear coat.
  • Improper application: Poor application of clear coat will cause it to chip and peel faster than it should.

Items You Need for Clear Coat Repair

  • Car wash supplies: soap, wash mitt, and absorbent towels
  • Sandpaper or automotive Scotch-Brite
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Automotive clear coat spray paint
  • Masking tape
  • Buffer & wax

How To Repair Clear Coat on a Car

  1. Prep Area

If you haven’t washed the car in a while, you should do so. If it’s fairly clean, just wash the panel you’ll be working on and adjacent areas.

Use masking tape to cover the edges of any adjacent panels that won’t be resprayed with clear coat. Make sure the tape goes inside the panel gap, but don’t let it contact the panel you’re going to repair—otherwise, you may accidentally peel your new clear coat when you remove the tape.

  1. Remove Peeling or Damaged Clear Coat

Use fine automotive Scotch-Brite to rub the most damaged areas first. Use light to medium pressure and try to knock off all the peeling flakes. If the color coat is exposed, use very light pressure and focus on the borders.

You can also use fine sandpaper. Start with 1500 grit and go up or down, depending on the hardness of the specific clear coat.

Don’t scrape with a razor blade or anything hard enough to scratch through the clear coat because you can create deep scratches that will require more repair.

  1. Create Blend Zones

After removing all peeling clear coat and scuffing the repair area, create a blend zone extending about 3-4 inches in every direction. Use the same Scotch-Brite or 2000-grit wet sandpaper and very light pressure to scuff the blend zone so that the new clear coat has a strong foundation to adhere to. Try to make the transition gradual and tapered toward to old clear coat so you have an easier time blending.

  1. Clean Area

Rinse the area with water and then wipe with isopropyl alcohol to make sure every bit of dust and debris is removed. Wait until the surface is completely dry before moving on to the next step.

  1. Mask the Area

Use masking sheets, plastic foil, old newspapers, or paper towels to cover any adjacent panels you don’t want to spray over.

For the outer edges of the work area, tape a piece of paper so that it covers the work area and ends somewhere in the blend zone, leaving some of the scuffed area on the outside. Then, fold the paper back so you’re left with a soft edge at the border of the work area. This way, it will be easier to blend in the new and old clear coats when you’re done respraying.

  1. Apply Clear Coat

Read the manufacturer’s instructions before applying an automotive clear coat. There should be information about:

  • How to mix in the hardener
  • How many coats you need to apply
  • What flash time to wait before applying the next coat
  • How far to keep the spray nozzle from the surface
  • How fast to move the can

It’s important to follow the instructions on your specific clear coat, but here are some general instructions to follow.

Shake the can thoroughly for a few minutes, release the hardener, and shake again. Put an appropriate mask or respirator on, and then spray for a couple of seconds to make sure the nozzle works well.

Hold the nozzle about 8 inches from the work area and add a light to medium coat, overlapping your strokes by 30-40%. Make sure you’re going back and forth and release the button before you finish your stroke. Keep your hand moving at all times.

Slow movement is always better than more product. Go lighter rather than heavier to avoid running and dripping.

Spray two to three coats and give them 10 minutes of flash time in between. When you’re done, leave the car overnight and inspect your results the next morning.

  1. Blend & Polish

After the clear coat has hardened, remove the masking tape, and be careful not to strip away the new clear coat you just applied.

On the borders of the work area, there will be an obvious line separating the fresh clear coat from the rest of the panel. Use 2000-grit wet sandpaper with light pressure, and be sure to keep the area wet. You can go up to 3000 grit and expand the blend zone slightly outward.

Now, polish the transition. Use a rotary polisher on a low-speed setting, with a medium cut pad and compound. Polish in a direction away from the new clear coat so you don’t peel it back. Hold the machine at an angle so the contact is on the narrow edge of the pad. Using no pressure, make individual passes, lifting and starting over from the repair area. Check your results every few minutes and stop when the transition is barely noticeable up close.

Choose CleanTools for All Your Automotive Repair

Keeping your car clear of things like bugs and bird poop will help prevent damage to your clear coat, and The Absorber is your best friend for effortless cleaning and drying. You can’t totally prevent the breakdown of your clear coat from scratches and UV damage, but when it’s time for cleaning, clear coat repair, and polishing, you can find everything you need with CleanTools.

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