Today’s Automobile Paint Finishes

By Frank Canna

The clear coat paint finish now used on just about every new car, truck and sport utility vehicle is a lot more high tech compared to the old fashion way automobiles were once painted. Years ago when you polished and waxed your car, it was not uncommon to actually see the color of your car appear on your polishing cloths. This is no longer the case with today’s clear coat finishes.

What this means for cars today is that the base color coat simply now gets a topcoat of clear paint applied during the final paint finishing process. In most cases, the clear coat is basically just another separate layer of paint that does not contain any color pigment. The additional layer of clear adds to protecting the color coat from harsh environmental factors, such as acid rain and other air-borne environmental pollution.

In addition to the added protection benefits, the clear coat finish also helps to produce an increase in the depth of gloss. This is especially apparent on dark colors, especially black. That is part of the secret of producing that almost wet look shine seen on many of today’s cars. Many automobile manufacturers actually add more than one layer of clear coat paint in order to achieve an even greater depth of gloss. In the future, multiple coats of clear will surely become the standard in automobile paint finishing.

The downside to clear coat finishes is that they can be very easily scratched. Since minor surface scratches appear to show up much more on dark color, that may be the reason why so many new cars are available in light metallic paint colors, such as silver, pewter and various light color tones of gray and tan. In most cases, the fine scratches and swirls that become visible on darker clear coat paint finishes, such as black, dark red and dark blue colors, are almost not even seen on the light color vehicles. Because clear coat paint finishes can be easily damaged, the use of a machine buffer is not recommended. The best way to avoid fine scratches and other surface damage, is to always polish and wax the clear coat paint finish by hand.

For those of you who recently purchased a new car, you will be able to use less aggressive products when polishing and waxing your car, such as either a Carnauba or Polymer Wax. When the age of your car is somewhere between three to five years old, it may be necessary to use a slightly more aggressive product, such as either a Cleaner Polish or Cleaner Wax prior to applying the protective topcoat of wax.

In summary, the best way to keep your car looking like new is to simply make sure it gets thoroughly cleaned, polished and waxed on a regular basis. Depending on environmental conditions in your area, this should be done at least twice a year and even more frequently, such as with the change of each season, when your car is exposed to harsh environmental conditions, such as excessive exposure to the ultra violet rays of the sun or rain, snow and ice.

Frank Canna has been in the detailing business for more than 20 years and is the owner of Mirror Finish Detailing, Williamstown, NJ. He can be reached You can also connect on Twitter @MirrorFinish.

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