The clear coat is a transparent layer of paint that can be used to cover the colored coat. The clear coat is usually the last coat of paint that is applied to a panel. The thickness can vary a lot per panel and per manufacturer. On average it can be between 30 and 80 micron. The clear coat is not always used, single stage paint is not covered with a clear coat.
Why use clear coat
A clear coat can be used for several reasons, a few of these are:
- To prevent oxidation of the colored coat
- To change the reflective index, changing the level and type of gloss
- To increase the overall thickness of the layer of paint
- To add a cheaper layer of paint while still adding protection of the panel underneath
Although paint has become a cosmetic item that adds to the “show ‘n shine” of a car, it was mainly used in the past to prevent the metal panel from rusting and suffering from exposure to the elements. Over time, the paintwork had become more and more important for the overall look. When colors where introduced, the aesthetic appeal of the paintwork grew. Today, the paint used to protect the panel underneath has become a cosmetic property that can help with the sale of a vehicle. The shape and dynamics of a vehicle are often based on the reflection of light and how this influences the look of a vehicle. Clear coat is often cheaper then the colored coat, so adding a few layers of clear coat will increase the thickness of the paint without adding to much to the overall cost.
What is clear coat
The clear coat is one of several layers of paint that covers the panel. It often begins with a layer of base coat which acts as a primer to help bond the paintwork to the material of the panel. It is then covered with a layer of colored paint, sometimes even different colors over each other. Eventually the colored coat is covered with the clear coat, the last coat to protect the paintwork. The base coat and the colored coat are actually matte, the colored coat have different finishes, but is usually glossy. The thickness of this transparent layer affects the way light behave inside the layer of paint, and directly affects the type and level of gloss you get.
Although it is very common, the clear coat is not mandatory. Some ways of painting a surface can be such as “single stage” paint, or “uni paintwork”. This means the colored coat is also the last coat. This type of coat finishes with a glossy finish and does not have to be covered with a clear coat. Some painted surface are not even finished with a clear coat, which results in a matte finish. This can proof difficult to keep clean, but attracts attention to some that want something different.
Clear coat failure
In some cases, clear coat can fail. This results in a patchy looking paintwork. It is sometimes compared to the surface “shedding its skin”. Unfortunately, this can not be correction. When clear coat start to fail, it can best be removed by a professional and re-painted.