ATC Blog

Paint to Protect: Part II – Tips & Techniques

In our last installment, we discussed the major contaminants and hazards that can damage a car’s finish. Bird droppings, dirt, insects, stones, tree sap – even such seemingly innocuous things as sunlight and water – will harm the paint on a vehicle. This time, we discuss how professional collision-repair technicians and vehicle restorers who have received training from a certified collision-repair school fight against the harms they can cause.

In order to combat years of abuse that causes damaging wear, car manufacturers have changed the actual chemical composition of automotive paint itself. The delicate enamels and lacquers of years past have given way to durable polymers that can endure incredibly extreme conditions – from bright summer sun to harsh winter road salt to wide swings in temperature and humidity.

Modern automobile finishes represent some of the greatest strides made in vehicle manufacturing. Many of the largest changes coming to the field involve the overcoat or clear-coat more so than the actual paint itself. New advances in clear-coat technology protect the paint and underlying bodywork from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, severe weather conditions and road contaminants such as salt, tar and acids.

Newer clear-coat finishes offer a greater degree of protection from damage caused by road debris caused by hail, salt and gravel. Applied in sufficient thickness, modern clear-coat actually absorbs most damage from minor chips and scratches before they damage the paint itself. Most small nicks can simply be buffed out.

Currently, researchers are developing coatings that can even “heal” themselves. Recently, Nissan began using a “self-cleaning” paint formula called “Scratch Shield” and a “self-healing” clear coat that allows small scratches to fix themselves in days. A new formula under development uses small polymer molecules and metal ions that act as a glue to link them into chains.

Like Nissan’s offering, this coating uses an elastic resin that softens when exposed to sunlight and flows back into minor chips and scratches to keep the underlying paint protected. Under UV light, the polymer will “melt.” This soft polymer then fills gaps and scratches before re-solidifying. Unlike the Nissan formula, this material “healed” itself in a matter of seconds under laboratory conditions. If further testing goes well, this product will first be approved for industrial applications before appearing in the automotive field.

While significant changes have come to both paint formulation and clear-coat technology; change has come to manufacturing and finish-application processes as well. Almost all modern vehicle manufacturers now apply a vehicle’s finish in a nearly sterile environment. Body panels are first cleaned and treated, removing any trace of manufacturing or environmental impurities. Once panels are free of oil, dust or dirt, industrial robots apply paint, followed by clear-coat in an even, uniform coat. This eliminates potential human error and drastically reduces the chance for bubbles, ripples, or waves to form.

To learn how collision-repair and vehicle-restoration experts with advanced technical training use these tools to protect paint and body, click below to download our free eBook!


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