What Causes Fish Eyes in Car Paint?

by Cricket Webber
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rear brake light detail on british sports car with image by Bo Widerberg from Fotolia.com

The term "fish eye" refers to a tiny crater that can form on a car's paint job during or after the car is repainted. Several substances can cause fish eye, but the main way to avoid these craters from forming on your car's finish is to be sure to clean your car thoroughly before painting it. Protect the car during the painting process, and ensure that nothing gets onto the paint. There are also additives for car paint, but these can cause other problems.

Skin Oil

Reduce the risk of contaminating your car's paint job with skin oil by washing your hands or wearing latex gloves. Even brushing up against the car's paint with your arm can transfer enough skin oil to cause fish eyes to form when you spray the next layer of paint onto the car.

Tool Oil

Oil and lubricants from sanders or other tools you use on your car between layers of paint poses the same risk as skin oils. Clean your car thoroughly between coats of paint and maintain your power tools regularly to ensure they do not leak fluids onto your fresh paint.

Engine and Road Fluids

Just as with other types of oily liquids, engine fluids and oil from roads can cause fish eyes to form on your car's paint if you do not remove the fluids properly before painting your car. Clean your car thoroughly before painting it and do not run the engine until you have completed all of the painting.


Silicone is found in car waxes and some cleaning products. Silicone is a slippery fluid that mimics oil if it gets onto your paint job before you paint the next layer. You can remove silicone with the same products that clean other oily substances from the car.

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