Today, approximately 95% of all cars, trucks, and S.U.V.’s coming out of the factory have a clear coat finish. But what is clearcoat? Clear coat finishes (also referred to as two-stage paint systems) are simply a layer of clear resin applied over the top of colored resin.
Automotive paints are a mixture of ingredients including resins, binders, fillers, additives, and carrying agents (typically solvents, sometimes water). Clear coat paint is simply paint, or resin without pigment. It is like a piece of plexiglass about the thickness of a good garbage bag.
Because this topcoat of “clear paint” is free of pigment, it can sometimes be softer than other paint systems. It will scratch, oxidize, and dull. It needs to be taken care of.
The top layer is clear, because of this light reflects through it and bounces back highlighting any scratches from behind. This tends to magnify defects making them easier for your eyes to see. Clear coat finishes are incredibly sensitive to scratches and swirl marks.
It is important to use products that have been designed for and are safe for clear coats. Although most clear coat finishes are much harder and more resistant to oxidation than traditional lacquers and enamels finishes, they still scratch very easily. For this reason clear coat paints should never be worked on with old-fashioned, harsh abrasive products like rubbing or polishing compounds. Many older car care products can scratch the new clearcoat systems.
To protect our cars form the damaging effects of the environment paint finishes today need to be polished and waxed with more frequency and care than has been given to paint systems in the past. Your car should be protected with quality polish and wax at least twice a year, dark colors more often.
Washing your car weekly is especially important if your car is a daily driver and parked outdoors for any length of time.
Even more than yesterday’s paints, today’s clear coat finishes look faded whenever the surface becomes contaminated by surface contaminants, things like:
As contaminants build-up on the surface they reduce the reflective quality of the finish by creating a surface with somewhat of a textured-feel to it. This in turn acts to reduce gloss thus causing the paint to look dull.
When contaminants build up (you can tell if you have bonded contaminants by dragging the clean face of the palm of your hand across the finish after washing and drying the car. If you feel little bumps stuck to the finish it is contaminated), the best, fastest and safest way to remove them and restore a smooth as glass surface is to use Meguiar’s Smooth Surface Clay Kit. Use the clay before you wax your car.
When it comes time to sale your car the dependability of automobiles is so good today that people expect a year or two old car will be in good mechanical condition. Therefore the appearance of the vehicle is now the major factor in the purchase. If your car doesn’t look as good as a similar car, they won’t buy it.