Clear Coat FAQ

HVLP Paint Spraying

What is clear coat paint?Clear coat paint is just like regular paint with no solids or tints added to it. Modern clear coat paints are formulated to have more gloss, more flexibility, protect better and be more UV resistant than the old solid color/no clear paints that used to be the industry standard.

Do I need clear coat? – Not necessarily. Cars have been painted with single stage, non-clear coat paint for many years with good results. Using clear coat however protects the color coat from damage and allows buffing out scratches and other damage without affecting the underlying color layer. Clear coat also allows you to change the gloss of paint, or add metallic elements to a solid paint job

What’s the best way to prep a car for clear coat? – If you are painting a base coat/clear coat job there is no prep. Spray your color coats, after the final one you just spray the clear over the top of it. Check the base coat for minimum amount of drying time, the maximum is usually about 24 hours.

If you are spraying clear over old paint, or redoing damaged clear coat on a project, the prep is the same as for any other paint: Wet sand smooth, feathering the edges of any old clear coat. Clean with a finish cleaner/de-greaser like PRE paint prep. Then, wipe with a tack cloth to remove any dust. Some paints are different though, so check the instructions provided.

Does clear coat paint peel or crack? – Clear coat can peel or crack just like any other paint, but it is usually much more flexible than other paints. The flexibility and resistance to damage is one of the reasons it was developed in the first place, especially the urethane clears.

Is it possible to apply a new layer of clear coat, or do I have to repaint my entire car? – Clear coat can be applied over existing clear coat, as long as it is good condition. If old clear coat is de-laminating, or otherwise damaged, it is best to remove it all and start over with a base coat. Urethane clears bond to the base coat while it is still drying. Spraying clear over base after more than 24 hours have passed is not recommended.

Can I wax clear coat paint? – Yes certainly. Almost all new cars have been clear coated since the early 1990s. Most waxes are perfectly safe for clear coat finishes. Abrasive rubbing and polishing compounds can damage clear coats, as can over polishing them. Unlike the thick single layers of the past you have to be more careful with thinner clear coat systems; it is possible to rub right through them if you are too aggressive with your buffer, or compounds.

Will a layer of clear coat help remove or cover up small scratches? – Yes. Clear can fill in minor scratches, as long as the color base coat hasn’t been scratched through. It will level the surface, and restore the gloss, as long as the underlying color is still good.

Will car washes damage clear coat paint? – They can and will, but not typically. Once upon a time, when clear coats were new, this used to be more of a problem, but now car washes have much better systems to keep dirt and grit from being recycled and causing scratches. Beware the end of wash manual rub down dry some places do. If the attendants doing the rubbing aren’t using clean soft towels they can easily cause scratches.

Is there such a thing as matte clear coat? – Yes. The popular Rat Rod and “Murdered Out” looks on many custom cars aren’t actually primer, or matte base coat. They are conventional base coat/clear coat systems finished with a matte clear. Eastwood offers clear coats in several sheens from glossy to flat.

Can you use clear coat on headlights? – Yes. Polish out any scratches, scuff the plastic and then spray. Make sure you are using a clear that will stick to the plastic though, most urethanes will work.

Can you apply clear coat over rust? – It can be, but normal urethane clear top coat won’t adhere very well. Eastwood now makes an aerosol Patina Preserver specifically to protect and preserve the patina of rust, faded paint and everything you get from a car or truck being used and abused its whole life. Also available to treat the rust is Clear Eastwood Rust Encapsulator.

What supplies do I need to spray clear coat? – For most clear coats you will need the paint, an activator, a spray gun, compressor, respirator and air/oil separator for the air hose. If you have sprayed paint with a gun before, spraying clear coat is no different than spraying color coat. You may need some fine grade sand papers, and other typical panting supplies like tack cloth and some way to clean up.

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9 thoughts on Clear Coat FAQ

  • You will need to scuff the paint to break the surface and spray another color coat, then go to clear coat.

  • After I sprayed clear on a motorcycle tank, a small bug landed on it and stuck…Can I wet sand clear and spray some more of the color coat to fix the divot and then clear it again ?

  • Hi Matthew, yes that would be the correct steps. Let the clear dry and wet sand out the bug/imperfection and then apply your clear coat on top.

  • My rattle can base didn’t match colour very well, so what grit shall I use to sand before re painting. I have 2 coats of clear on top . Only done last week. Hope you can help. Alan

  • Hi Alan, you can use 220 or 320, all depends on how delicate you want to be and your patience level. Either way you should try and get the base off and back down to primer where you can build back up. Hope that helps.

  • Unfortunately you would need to abrade the surface. Depending on how bad or how long it was on the surface you may be able to use a fine scuff pad.

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