Aaron Widmar
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Tips for Repairing Your Car’s Peeling Clear Coat Film

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Flaking peeling clearcoat film on blue car door handle
Is your car’s clearcoat peeling?
Photo: The News Wheel

Your car’s exterior surface has a clear coat of translucent film that shields the paint underneath
from fading, chipping, and peeling. This protective lacquer is essential for maintaining your vehicle’s
colorful appearance. But, your car’s clear coat can begin peeling even with proper care simply due to
age and exposure to the elements. Here are some ways you can repair your car’s peeling clear coat.

Are You DIY Repainting Your Car? Consider these five suggestions…

What is the purpose of your car’s clear coat?

  • This protective film is applied to your vehicle during its initial production. It’s designed to:
  • Shield the paint so it doesn’t fade or peel from UV rays, oxidation, and corrosive substances
  • Gives the surface a tad more durability and hardness
  • Glosses the paint with an extra-lustrous shine
  • Protect the metal underneath from moisture that causes rust

15 steps to a shiny new clear coat

Step 1: Park your car in a ventilated yet protected area, like an open garage or carport.

Step 2: Wash the exposed area with a soft sponge and a gentle, car-safe soap to remove any dirt. Rinse
and dry the area thoroughly with a microfiber cloth so it’s dry as a bone.

Step 3: Use a fine-grit sandpaper or scratch pad (1500-2000 grit) to remove the loose flakes of the clear
coat so only the most well-adhered portions remain. Sand some of the remaining clear coat so the new
lacquer will blend evenly and stick to the old lacquer. Don’t scratch any of the exposed basecoat paint!

Step 4: Rinse and dry the exposed surface area again to remove all dust left behind from sanding.

Washing wiping car clearcoat with towel on door handle
Dry the area thoroughly after washing it
Photo: The News Wheel

Step 5: Tape off any surrounding elements that you don’t want to have the new clear coat sprayed onto,
such as the mirrors, windows, or taillights. You can use newspaper or wrapping paper on large surfaces.

Step 6: Gear up with protective equipment like a breathing mask and gloves.

Step 7: Apply primer an initial coat of primer if the clear-coat product you’re using isn’t a two-in-one
combo. Follow the directions on the can.

Step 8: Apply a consistent, even varnish of new clear coat by following the directions on the can.
Typically that involves shaking it vigorously, holding the can at least 6 inches away, and moving it slowly
back and forth.

Clearcoat replacement car fix spray paint patch
Be careful when spraying the clearcoat!
Photo: The News Wheel

Step 9: Allow the wet paint to dry for 10-15 minutes depending on the temperature outside.

Step 10: Repeat the application of the clear coat spray two more times for a total of three coats.

Step 11: Wait 3-4 hours for the final coat of lacquer to dry before removing the painter’s tape.

Step 12: Give the clear coat at least two days to cure. During this time, keep your car hidden from
exposure and off the road. Don’t drive it yet!

Step 13: Dip some ultra-fine-grit sandpaper (1500-2000 grit) in water and wet-sand any spots on the
paint surface where there’s an obvious boundary line between the old and new clear coats.

sandpaper fixing peeling clearcoat on paint
Sand the edges down to blend the new coat with the surrounding film
Photo: The News Wheel

Step 14: Give the area a thick coat of polish that will give the new clear coat extra protection, buffing it
in thoroughly yet gently.

Step 15: Wash and wax your car every few months to keep more of the clear coat from peeling — including the new layer you just added.

Tips for choosing the right clear-coat product

Many DIY home mechanics recommend using a 2K high-gloss aerosol spray instead of a less-durable 1K product to reapply your car’s clear coat. 2K is what the professionals use, which is an epoxy-based two-component blend that uses a chemical hardener; 1K is your basic air-dry spray paint that’s cheap and simple but far less durable.

Just remember that if you use a 2K spray, it’s highly carcinogenic and very dangerous, so protect yourself thoroughly with gloves, chemical respirator mask, and goggles. Alternatively, you can use a touch-up epoxy paint product if you’re worried about the aerosol fumes. Do your research to find a reputable product with a proven track record of quality that won’t yellow, fade, or peel.

A DIY fix is suitable for small areas, no bigger than a foot edge to edge. Anything larger you should take the car to a body shop for repairs by professionals. This is not a perfect solution and may not mend your car’s flaking clear coat — and even if it does, it may not look flawless like it once did.