How to Clear Coat Paint

by Richard Kalinowski

Clear coat is regularly used to seal painted metal, providing shine and important UV protection. Clear coat is prized for its longevity. However, over time clear coat can lose its shimmer or even wear off entirely. Since clear coat paint is primarily applied to cars, weathering is a major concern. Touching up your automobile's layer of clear coat paint every year will help erase signs of winter road salt discoloration and yearly UV damage. You can also apply clear coat periodically between touch-ups to deal with more severe damage to your car's finish. Clear coat paint is responsible for giving your car a smooth, glossy outward appearance; it is important to take great care when clear coating, ensuring the best results and aesthetic value.

Clean the area you plan on coating. Use soap and water to remove dirt and grime. For tough-to-clean spots apply some "rust solvent," available at most automotive stores (see Resources). A rust solvent can help remove caked on oil, grease, and even trace amounts of rust from cars and trucks.

Wait for the surface to be dry to the touch before you proceed with the next steps.

Protect non-metallic surfaces with painter's tape. While clear coat paint does not harm your car's windows, windshield wipers, headlights or other non-metallic parts, it does little to enhance the luster of such items. In fact, the extra gloss associated with a thin layer of excess clear coat can sometimes look out-of-place on such items.

Shake a can of clear coat paint vigorously for at least two to three minutes or longer if recommended by the manufacturer.

Point the can's nozzle toward a piece of scrap metal or a hidden part of the car for testing. Spray the test patch with the clear coat and make sure the liquid comes out clear and without any bubbles or foam. If the product does not spray properly, continue shaking and try again in two to three more minutes.

Hold the nozzle about 9 inches from the surface of the automobile.

Spray the car's surface with a thin layer of clear coat paint. Make sure to work in even, straight lines. Paint World, Inc. recommends allowing for a 50 percent overlap between each straight line of clear coat paint, noting that this will reduce the ugly "tiger striping" effect of a do-it-yourself clear coat.

Wait at least 10 minutes for the first coat to dry. Though the surface will dry enough for more coats after 10 minutes, it will still be tacky for up to an hour, so you shouldn't touch it.

Apply a second coat if needed. A second coat is ideal if your car's clear coat is visible chipped and damaged; in the case of seasonal and UV damage, one coat is often sufficient for bringing back the car's original sheen.


  • close After applying new clear coat, you should avoid car washes or waxing for the next 30 days; this can diminish the fresh coat's effectiveness.

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About the Author

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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