How to Fix Peeling Clear Coat on your Car, A Detailed Guide

Whether you have an old or new vehicle, a peeling clear coat is always a concern. If you don't hurry, your peeling clear coat could become worse. Even a small spot project can turn into an overhaul nightmare! But don't worry, we're here to help. Here we'll discuss how to fix peeling clear coat and the most common causes. If you're worried about how much does it cost to fix a peeling clear coat, hopefully, our step by step instructions can help you out. 

What is a Clear Coat?

Just like clear nail polish, the clear coat on a car is a type of paint without any pigments, and therefore, it won't affect the color of the vehicle. A clear coat protects the paint against water damage, marks, and from the UV rays of the sun. If your car is new then it comes with a clear finish as most of the vehicles manufactured today are painted with a clear coat. 

A clear coat makes any vehicle shiny and new. It prevents fading due to ultraviolet rays damage plus, it covers spots and pits due to acid rain damage. New-generation car paints are water-based and thus will need a layer of clear coat.

Peeling Clear Coat, Causes, and Does it Really Matter?

As your car ages, the clear coat will eventually peel and come off. And because of the clear coat's many obvious advantages, you must fix peeling as soon as possible. If you overlook even a small area that's peeling and cracking, damage to the paint layer will eventually happen. Because there's no more topcoat, acid rain and UV rays can cause great damage and you'll have no choice but to pay for an expensive paint job.

  • UV rays – these are very damaging rays that can slowly burn through the clear coat causing it to peel. Old cars tend to have peeling coats because of UV rays and will need a thorough car clear coat repair.
  • Road debris – if you use your car often then the clear topcoat is also susceptible to scratching and peeling due to all kinds of debris on the road. From minute dust to large sand and pebbles, these can scrape the topcoat and cause it to loosen and peel over time. 
  • Acid rain – this contains pollutants that can also burn the top layer off. This is why it’s important to wash your car regularly to rinse off acid and other damaging chemicals away.
  • Factory defects – there are some cases when a car's clear coat was added much later and thus, the base coat is already very dry. When this happens, the clear coat may not be able to adhere completely to the base coat and it may flake off and peel. 

How to Fix Clear Coat Peeling

The best way to fix a peeling clear coat is to take your vehicle to a car body shop. A professional will remove the topcoat and a new one will be applied. This clear coat spot repair solution is long-lasting but can be very expensive.

If you are the DIY type, or you would like to save money, you can also solve this issue by following some easy steps. Take note that these are easy and affordable solutions to fix a peeling car coat but will never replace the work of a professional.

How much does it cost to fix a peeling clear coat?

It depends on the severity of the peeling problem, the make, and model of the car, and the area where you are located. It can take anywhere from $500 to $5000, with urban professional clear coat repair shops charging more than those located elsewhere. 

You need the following:

  • Pieces of sandpaper with 1000, 1500, and 2000 grit
  • Sandpaper with 200 grit
  • Fine grit scouring pad
  • Water
  • Alcohol or any solvent-based cleaning agent
  • Masking tape
  • A can of clear coat paint
  • A can of car paint (correct color code)
  • Tack cloth
  • Touch-up car paint repair kit 

Instructions on how to fix clear coat damage

Prepare your working area.

Before actually working on your car, you must make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area but has enough coverage to protect your car from dust, air, and rain. If you're working in a garage, open the garage door and windows to let fresh air in. Also, all your tools and materials should be close by.

Prepare your vehicle.

Wash your car by using a degreaser product or car shampoo that will remove dirt, mud, debris, and dirty water from the surface. Pay attention to the peeling area you'll be working on. This must be free from all dirt and dust. Use a soft, clean, and dry cloth to thoroughly wipe the area.

If you plan to solve your car's peeling problem and correct the paint pigment, you must locate your car's color code. Most manufacturers place the factory paint color code on the driver's side door under the latch. Sometimes, this is also indicated under the car's hood. If the code is not in these areas, check online using your car's manufacturer, model, make, and year. Once you find the right color pigment, you may now correct your car's base color plus deal with a peeling clear coat.

Use the proper safety gear.

You’ll be dealing with chemicals that emit noxious fumes and thus, you must always wear a mask. Wear gloves to protect your hands, especially when you’re using sandpaper and use an apron or coat to avoid splashes.

Sand the peeling area you’ll be working on.

What grit sandpaper to remove clear coat? Start with 1000 fine-grit sandpaper and apply this to the area. You may use a block of wood, wrap the piece with the sandpaper and start scrubbing in a circular motion. Work only on the peeling area and avoid scrubbing still intact areas. Stop once in a while to wipe the area with a clean, dry, and soft cloth. 

After using 1000 grit sandpaper, you will notice that a significant amount of clear coat has been removed. It's time to use a finer grit 2000 but this time, soak the sandpaper in water for a few minutes before working in the area.

At this point, you may choose from removing only the clear coat or the colored paint. If you want to move the colored area, use sandpaper with a larger grit. Scrub until you reach a bare metal to make sure that all the clear coat and paint have been removed.

Apply a solvent-based cleaner to the area.

Use a soft, dry, clean cloth to remove all dirt, dust, and debris from the paint. Use your hands to smooth the area and if you're satisfied, apply alcohol or any solvent-based chemical on the area using a clean cloth. If a solvent-based cleaner comes with your car repair kit, read the instructions first.

Use a scouring pad.

After the alcohol has dried up, use a fine-grit scouring pad to remove any more remaining clear coat on the surface. Use the same circular movements and finish with a soft, dry, and clean coat.        

Tape the area to work on.

One of the most common questions is how to remove a clear coat without damaging the paint? One way is to protect adjacent areas with intact clear coats with some masking tape. To make the tape less sticky, stick it on your clothes first. A sticky tape will only add more dirt and debris to your working area. Create a "protective zone" surrounding the area you'll be working on to avoid any mistakes.

Apply the first layer of clear coat.

Shake the can and apply your first layer. Check the paint can for special instructions, especially the ideal spraying distance. Once you’re done, let the area dry before proceeding with the next steps.

Treat the area once more.

Once the clear coat is dry, you may now proceed with treating it with fine-grit sandpaper. Perform the same steps and make sure that you never go beyond the protective zone. Once you're done move on to a finer grit.

Spray your second clear coat.

Add the second layer of the coat. Let this layer dry. If you’re satisfied with the outcome then you can proceed with all the other peeling top coats on your vehicle. You may treat the area with sandpaper to ready it for clear coat layer 3 if you wish.

Use a repair kit

Another way to repair a peeling clear coat is to use a car repair kit or a clear coat repair kit. This kit comes with all you need from the clear coat formula to the buffing cloths. Make sure to follow the instructions very well. There are many types of repair kits; some are average DIY kits while some are products developed for professional auto detailers.

Last words

Now that you know how to fix a peeling clear coat on a car, you can confidently DIY your way to a sleek and shiny finish in no time. But remember, this easy fix is not a long term solution. Consult a professional, especially for large peeling surfaces and for complicated clear coat and paint jobs.

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