Can the peeling clear coat on my car be fixed?

by Tom Zoebelein - Wed, Aug 21, 2013 4:02 PM

Can I repair my peeling clear coat?

I have written blogs for other auto body shops and one of the most searched and most read blog post topic involves peeling clear coat. This is probably because it happens to a lot of cars regardless of where you live, or what kind of car it is.

My friend was just over here the other day with his 2002 Honda Accord. I noticed that the clearcoat was starting to peel off a little on the bumper and on the corner of the hood. Now John hit a deer in the front several years ago and had to get a new passenger front fender, head light and bumper.

What is weird here though is the peeling clear coat is happening on an area that was not painted, the hood, so it is hard to determine if it is the age of the vehicle, or a result of the accident.

But even if your car has never been in an accident and after a couple of hot summers, the sun has baked your clear coat to the point of peeling. This is called clear coat delamination. The extreme seasonal temperatures of really hot days and really cold days often cause delamination because the two paints (the base coat and the clear) expand at slightly different temperatures and over time they can work themselves loose. This is especially prevalent in the early to mid 1990’s factory paints when the base coat clear coat was just hitting the main stream.

The bad news is once it starts you can’t stop it. At that point you have only two options:  You can learn to live with it or you can bite the bullet and get it fixed. So what if you can’t stand looking at it any more? Can you just have some more clear coat sprayed on it?

The  answer is no.

Cars today come from the factory with a single layer of base color and a single layer of clear coat.  This was driven partially by the EPA in an effort to reduce the Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s and partially due to advances in paint chemistry and an effort to build cars quicker better and faster. Two stage paint jobs also allow for richer metallic finishes on cars.

So what to do with your peeling clear coat on your car? Well unfortunately you are going to have to get it painted. Depending on the severity of the peeling and the condition of the paint underneath the body shop will most likely have to sand that entire panel down and spray on some more base coat then go back with a new clear coat.

If you were to sand and paint over the peeling clear coat areas, you will end up with more peeling clearcoat as the old finish continues to leave the panel. You will have to get all the old flaking and peeling clear coat sanded off the panel, and most times the paint underneath will get sanded through in spots in the process. You are gong to have to have that panel painted again with base coat and a new layer of clear coat.

The good news however is it will be easy to match the existing paint on your car, and a good shop can get it looking factory new again.

Also if this is peeling clear coat from a previous repair that you had done, check with the body shop to see if it is still covered under the warranty of the repair. That is what happened in my friend’s case. The shop that did the work is going to redo the bumper under warranty and he agreed to pay to repaint the hood.

Stay tuned for more posts on paint, repair work, and pricing.