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Most modern vehicles have a clear coat, which is a transparent paint that is applied on top of a color coat. The clear coat provides a protective layer on a car or truck’s finish and improves its appearance. Repairing minor paint damage is a lot easier if your vehicle has a clear coat, and it could help it retain its value. Should you choose to apply or repair a clear coat, you need to buy the right product for the job. Of course, that’s easier said than done sometimes, but we’re here to help. Check out our list of the best clear coats for cars in the buying guide below.
The Best Clear Coat for Cars
This clear coat dries quickly to provide a finish that is glossy and durable. The clear coat is weather-resistant and chemical-resistant and can be used over all base coats on any type of vehicle.
Acrylic clear coat
Flows smoothly and dries quickly
Weather-resistant and chemical-resistant
- BrandSpray max
- Weight2.1 pounds
The clear coat is applied after the paint as a final step and provides additional gloss protection. The special nozzle ensures that it goes on smoothly, and it is dry to the touch in 30 minutes. You can handle it within one hour.
Ideal for small touch up jobs
Goes on smoothly
Touch dry in 30 minutes
- Weight9.6 ounces
You get a gallon of clear coat and an accelerator. The medium accelerator is suitable for ambient temperatures between 65 and 80-degrees Fahrenheit, and you can buff the surface within four to six hours.
Acrylic urethane clear coat
Product comprises clear coat plus accelerator
Produces high gloss finish
It is a pre-reduced clear coat spray product that is “ready to spray” and does not require any mixing. It dries so quickly that you are able to apply a second coat immediately. It buffs to a smooth finish and can be wet sanded with no problems.
Suitable for DIY paint jobs on all vehicles
Pre-reduced spray that requires no mixing
Can be re-coated immediately
- Weight2.3 pounds
This clear coat will stand up to tough environmental conditions, and it will not turn yellow, crack, or peel. You can polish it 24 hours after application.
Gives a high gloss finish
Can be used on bare metal or paintwork
Does not crack or peel
- BrandKBS Coatings
- Weight9.3 pounds
It is especially useful for touching up paint spots to prevent them from getting worse. It is not suitable for larger areas.
For Toyota vehicles
Comes with brush and pen tip applicator
Useful for paint spots
- Weight0.32 ounces
The clear coat provides a strong barrier between the metal/paint and the environment, so it prevents erosion. There is no need to use a primer or an undercoat, but you may want to apply a rust preventative. It adheres very well to the surface of the bodywork and will not turn yellow when exposed to UV light.
Applied directly from the aerosol
Provides a barrier to corrosion
No need for a primer or undercoat
- Weight1.05 pounds
MCC Automotive High Gloss Clear Coat
Your vehicle will be easy to buff after application. The results are also very long lasting. Users like that it’s a somewhat affordable product that produces a nice, deep shine. The instructions are also very clear.
UV and chemical resistant
Provides a high-gloss finish
Long lasting and easy to buff
- ModelHS 5500
- Weight30.8 pounds
It can be used over base coats, but it cannot be sanded or buffed because this will damage it and the appearance will suffer. It is to apply and cures quickly.
Provides a satin finish
Can be applied over base coats
Designed for professional use
- BrandSHERWIN WILLIAMS
The clear coat is easy to apply and is dry to the touch within 30 minutes. The appearance of your vehicle will be enhanced by the rich gloss sheen.
Ready to apply
Acrylic lacquer clear coat
Touch-dry within half an hour
High gloss and durable
- ModelRM 262178 02
- Weight4.8 pounds
The Best Clear Coat for Cars Buying Guide
What to Consider When Buying a Clear Coat for Cars
Clear coats are not a new development but they are changing all the time. Therefore, it can be hard to keep up with industry trends and it can be tricky to know what to look out for when you are making a purchase. If you are considering buying a clear coat product to apply to your vehicle, here’s what you should consider.
Clear coats have got to be clear! A completely transparent coat will enhance your vehicle’s appearance without changing the shade of the base coat. Make sure that you are buying a top coat that is completely transparent.
- Level of gloss
A car clear coat will enhance the appearance of the base coat by providing a layer that the light bounces off. Some clear coats have a higher gloss than others and it is possible to get a matte clear coat. In general, it is best to purchase the highest gloss coat that you can. This will ensure that the light bounces off it and creates a luster to the paintwork.
- Method of application
If you are serious about your DIY automotive paint jobs, you may already have a spray gun and all the associated equipment. In which case, you can buy the clear coat in any kind of container and transfer it to your spray gun. On the other hand, if you are attempting this for the first time and have only a small area to cover, a clear coat supplied in an aerosol can would be the better option.
- Ease of application
You should choose a product that is as easy as possible to apply. Many clear coats come in aerosol cans that have nozzles that make it easy for a novice to spray the coat evenly on the surface and achieve a reasonable result. This will help you to avoid bumps and blotches.
- Environment of application
Clear coats can be very sensitive to ambient temperature. If you do not have a garage or other enclosed space where you can carefully control the temperature, you will need to make sure that the clear coat can be applied in all sorts of temperatures. Relative humidity can also be an issue.
- Resistance to damage and yellowing
It is best to choose a clear paint that is tough enough to withstand some wear and tear when you are out on the road. You may see it described as "scratch-resistant." Also, some clear coats can become yellow with time as they are degraded by UV light. By choosing a coat that has UV protection you can avoid this issue.
- Price and value for money
It is best to carefully read the features of the clear coat in order to determine which will provide the best value for money. This is not necessarily the most expensive product.
Clear coats can break over time and can become flaky which detracts from your car’s appearance and from its value. It is best to choose a durable product that comes with a warranty for several years.
Benefits of Applying Clear Coat to Your Car
You may be wondering why you would bother to apply a clear coat to your vehicle at all. There are, in fact, some significant benefits of doing so. Here are some of the main ones:
A clear coat deepens the pigment of your vehicle’s base coat. It gives the paintwork the appearance of being wet and having a higher quality finish.
- Protection from UV light
All vehicles are exposed to UV light in sunlight. Over time, it causes damage to the pigments in the paint which fade and lose their vibrant appearance. The clear coat is harder and more resistant to oxidation. Therefore, cars that have a clear coat applied can look like a new car even though they are several years old.
- Protection from contaminants
There are plenty of pollutants and contaminants in the air and environment that can damage automotive paintwork. The air contains atmospheric pollutants including particulates and acids that can corrode the bodywork of your vehicle. Rain can also be acidic and bird droppings can cause localized areas of damage. A clear coat provides an added layer between the base coat and the environment and protects the appearance of your vehicle.
- Minor repairs
If your paintwork does develop some minor areas of damage caused by road debris or acid rain, it is easy to deal with these if you have a clear coat. All you have to do is buff them out and the paint layer underneath is not affected.
- Protection from scratches
Debris from the road, including tiny stones, can get flung against the bodywork of your vehicle. The damage that they cause may be too small for you to see initially but they can soon develop into localized areas of corrosion. These are unsightly and significantly reduce the resale value of the vehicle. A clear coat layer gives protection from chips and scratches and helps your vehicle to retain its value.
- Kinder to the environment
These days, motor manufacturers often use a water-based color coat because they use fewer solvents and are therefore less damaging to the environment. However, they are not strong enough to withstand the weather and atmospheric conditions on the road. A clear coat is needed to protect it.
Types of Automotive Clear Coats
Clear coats have changed considerably in recent years and it can be hard to keep up. They can have a big impact on the way your car looks so it is worth the effort of finding out more about them. If you decide to add or repair a clear coat yourself, you have plenty of products to choose from. Here are the broad categories of clear coat that you have at your disposal.
- Top coat clear coat. This is the basic category of clear coat that is applied over the colored base coat. It provides a glossy appearance and is easy to polish.
- Glamour clear coat. This is a type of clear coat that dries slowly and therefore allows you to carry out more leveling. It is also more resistant to the presence of moisture.
- Turbo clear coat. This is a rapidly drying type of clear coat that is commonly used by collision repair workshops. It needs a little more polishing to keep it looking glossy.
- Higher solids clear coat. This may be suitable if you want a thicker film. However, it will take longer for it to dry as the solvent fully evaporates and it is the most expensive.
- Euro clear coat. Some consider this to be a superior type of product but others are not so sure. You need to apply heat to speed up the drying process.
The Best Clear Coat for Cars FAQ:
Q: What is clear coat paint?
A: Put simply, it is paint or resin that has no color. It is just like any other automotive paint but with no pigment. Typically, the bare metal of the bodywork of a car is covered in three coats. The first is the primer, the second is the color coat and the third is the clear coat. The clear coat is not essential but is desirable, as it provides an added layer of protection. It usually has a gloss appearance. The thickness of the clear coat is usually between 30 and 80 microns.
Q: What causes clear coat peeling?
A: There are a number of factors that can cause the clear coat on your car to peel. Here are a few potential causes:
- The factory that applied the paint may have done so incorrectly. Sometimes, the interval between applying the base coat and the clear coat is too long so the base coat has become too dry. Ideally, it should still be tacky and correctly prepped. If this does not happen, the clear coat will not adhere correctly to the base coat and will peel and flake off.
- Small stones and debris on the road can get thrown against the paintwork of your vehicle. This can cause tiny chips and abrasions which start-off localized peeling. This soon spreads out to become larger areas of damage.
- The most common cause of clear coat peeling is damage by ultra-violet (UV) light. UV from the sun is a powerful oxidizing agent. It can degrade the clear coat layer, burning it and making it white and rough. Regular waxing can protect the paint from sunlight damage by forming a protective layer.
Q: What’s the best way to prep a car for clear coat?
A: There is no point in taking the time to choose the best clear coat for cars if you have not prepped the surface correctly. There will be times when you have re-sprayed your entire vehicle and need to apply a clear coat over the top. This requires hardly any prep. You simply spray the color paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions and then spray the clear coat over that. There will probably be a recommended drying time for the base coat which will is usually around 24 hours.
The preparation is different if you want to spray a clear coat over old paintwork or if you are repairing areas of damaged clear coat. In this case, you need to wet sand the area smooth and make sure that you feather the edges of any existing clear coat. Then you need to thoroughly clean the area with a finish cleaner or with a de-greaser. Finally, remove any remaining dust by wiping with a tack cloth. Now your surface is ready for the clear coat.
Q: Is it possible to apply a new layer of clear coat, or do I have to repaint my entire car?
A: This depends on the condition of the existing clear coat layer. If it is in good condition, then it is possible to just apply another coat. However, if the existing clear coat is flaking and delaminating, it is best to remove the whole paint layer including the base coat. You need to apply the clear coat before the base coat is completely dry. If more than 24 hours have passed since the base coat was applied, you may not get a very good result.
Q: Can I wax clear coat paint?
A: Waxing is fine for clear coats and can be useful for providing an extra layer of protection. Most waxes have been formulated for use on cars with clear coats but it may be worth checking the manufacturer’s instructions. However, you do have to be careful about which cloths you use and how hard you rub, especially on newer cars. The modern clear coat systems are very thin compared to the older versions and it is possible for you to rub them completely away if you are too enthusiastic.
Q: Will car washes damage clear coat paint?
A: Car washes will not damage a clear coat but dust and dirt will. Therefore, if a car wash picks up debris and rubs it against your car’s paintwork, you could have a problem. Modern car washes have sophisticated systems that stop dirt and grit from getting caught up in the brushes and rubbed against the car. The same cannot be said of manual car washes and some take more care than others. The manual drying process at the end of the wash can be especially hazardous. If the car wash personnel do not use clean soft towels for every vehicle they are best avoided.
Our Top Pick
Our pick for the best automotive clear coat is the USC Spray Max 2k High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol. One of the best things about it is that you do not need special equipment to apply it to your vehicle. It comes with two acrylic components that need to be combined, and then all you do is spray it on the desired surface. The flow is smooth and produces results that are similar to that of a spray gun. The clear coat also dries quickly to a high-gloss finish. It is durable and resistant to weather and chemicals.