At 1stCertified Collision Center, we paint cars for customers every day for people who live all over CA. Some of the more basic tasks associated with applying clear coat might be something you can do yourself. But, anything a little more involved or elaborate should really be performed by a collision repair facility that has the right training, experience and equipment for the job.

If you’re a gear head, or restore classic cars as a hobby, you probably know a lot about clear coat and its purpose in the collision repair industry. But for those who do not, here are some answers to your basic questions about clear coat.

Q: So first off—what exactly is clear coat paint?

A: Clear coat paint is just like regular paint, but with no solids or tints added to it. Today’s clear coat paints are devised to have more gloss, extra flexibility, provide superior protection and be more UV resistant than the previous solid color/no clear paints that were the industry standard for many years.

Q: Do I need clear coat?

A: 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

Q: Can clear coat paint peel or crack?

A: 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.

Q: Is it possible to apply a new layer of clear coat to my vehicle or do I have to repaint it entirely?

A: Clear coat can be applied over existing clear coat, as long as it is in 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 is not preferred.

The layers of coating

Q: Can I apply wax over the clear coat paint? 

A: Absolutely. 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 now have to be more careful with thinner clear coat systems.

Q: Will a layer of clear coat help remove or cover up small scratches?

A: Yes. Clear coat 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.

Hopefully some of these answers will assist you to better understand the role that clear coat paint plays and how it can keep your car looking beautiful if applied correctly and maintained properly.

Sources: Refinish News, Wikipedia and