What You Should Know About Clear Coat Paint Finishes

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Jul 222012

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:

Airborne pollution

Acid rain

Industrial fallout

Airborne overspray

Bug splatter

Bird droppings

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.






Feb 072012

What should you look for when you have had your car repaired after a wreck?

Bam! You’ve just had an accident and your car is a twisted wreck.  You have your car towed away from the scene and taken to a body shop. Now weeks later your car is ready to be picked up.  It looks nice but did the body shop do a good job repairing it?  What is hidden underneath that shinny new paint? What should you look for?

You should have a good understanding what the body shop is going to do to your vehicle right from the start.  Make sure that you know what the shop is going to repair and how they are going to repair it.  Ask about the shops’ warranty.  Make sure that you understand everything and get it in writing before you give the shop the “go ahead!”  When you return to pick up you vehicle, bring the paperwork with you and make sure that the shop correctly did everything that they promised.

If you are satisfied with your first impression, it’s time to take a closer look at the repaired parts.  Open and close the doors, they should open and close smoothly with proper alignment. Look at the gaps between the body panels, if they are obviously uneven it is a sign that the parts were not aligned properly.    If there is extensive front-end damage it can be difficult for a body shop to repair it properly.  One thing to check is the distance from the tire to the fender.  If it is wider on one side and narrower on the other, something was not fixed correctly. You should also turn on the headlights and check their alignment.

A car with extensive front-end damage may have had the frame bent.  A bent frame must be straightened on a device that body shops call “the rack.”  The mechanics at the body shop use it to pull the frame rails until they get the frame straight.  Sometimes a poor job will leave “butcher marks” on the frame which can be seen by looking under the car.

Visual inspections made by an untrained person might prove difficult.  It is recommended that you take your car to another body shop to have them check it out and to have them give you a second opinion.  A trained body man can immediately spot problems that an untrained person could not begin to see.

A clean car is paramount.  Appearances do matter. Body shops are one of the dirtiest places around, and with all the dust generated from sanding it is a real challenge to keep a car clean.  Your car should have been washed and vacuumed.  A good shop will make sure your car is clean before returning it to you.  Many will even clean the engine compartment. There should never be any old parts left in the trunk!

If possible pick up your car during the day so you can inspect the paint in the sunlight to make sure that all the paint matches.  One of the most difficult jobs in a body shop is paint matching.  Entering the manufacturers paint code will get them about 95% of the way to matching the paint on a vehicle.  To get the last 5% takes someone who really knows what they are doing.  Examine the paint for imperfections such as specks of dirt trapped in the finish, hair, or runs. Most factory paint jobs have a degree of “orange peel” texture, whether you like it or not.  It can be tricky for a body shop to match it.

What happens if your car was not fixed right?  Sometimes after a repair a problem may develop months later.  Tires not wearing evenly is a common problem on a car that has had extensive front-end damage that was not correctly repaired.  Find your paperwork and receipt and take your car back to the shop.  Show the manager the tire wear pattern.  The shop should fix the problem under warranty. (Many warranties are 12,000 miles or one year)  Most legitimate shops will honor their warranty.  If the job was not done right getting satisfaction from a “Fly-by-night” shop might be tough to get.

Padula’s Auto Body & Repair is a family owned and operated, South Florida body shop that has over 25 years of experience and accepts all major insurance companies. We are located south of Atlantic Blvd. on Dixie Hwy. in Pompano Beach.

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