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Summary
  • Clear coats could peel because of harsh weather conditions, road debris, exposure to strong chemicals, and improper cleaning procedures.
  • You can fix peeling clear coats by sanding them down and applying a new coat over them.
  • You can keep your clear coat in great condition by avoiding automatic car washes, cleaning your ride regularly, parking in a garage, and waxing your ride.

Your car’s clear coat has a huge impact on its overall look. It not only makes the paint look glossy, but it also provides some protection against the elements. Unfortunately, that means it could wear down, get damaged, or even peel off over time.

What Causes Clear Coat for Cars to Peel?

Familiarizing yourself with what causes a car’s clear coat to peel is one of the best ways to prevent it, so take note of the following.

Harsh Weather Conditions

Whether it’s too sunny or too cold, harsh weather can do a lot of damage to a car’s clear coat.

If you often drive or park under the sun, the UV rays can penetrate your ride’s clear coat and make it hard, dry, and prone to breaking apart. Freezing temperatures can also make the coat brittle, so don’t be surprised if you spot it flaking during winter.

Road Debris

When dust, dirt, and gunk stick to your vehicle for a long time, they can seep into the clear coat and erode it. Fortunately, washing your ride regularly can prevent this issue.

Consider conducting car cleanups more frequently during winter when coat-damaging snow and road salt come into play. In fact, you should wash your vehicle after driving it even for a short time just to get the road salt out of the frame.

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Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

Some household cleaners and run-of-the-mill car cleaning solutions can damage the coat. So make sure you invest in high-quality car cleaning products if you prefer washing your ride by yourself.

If you usually rely on car washes, consider avoiding automatic ones. Many use solutions that can degrade or damage a car’s clear coat.

Improper Cleaning Procedures

If you don’t clean your vehicle properly or don’t use cleaning products compatible with car clear coats, you might end up peeling your ride’s clear coat.

Leaving spots of dirt, failing to dry your car properly after washing it, and using strong cleaning solutions can also damage the clear coat.

Fortunately, peeling clear coat isn’t irreversible. There are steps you can take to make your car look as clean, smooth, and seamless as it once did.

How to Fix Peeling Clear Coat Car Paint

peeling car clear coat
Your car’s clear coat has a huge impact on its overall look.

Fixing your vehicle’s peeling clear coat involves five steps. Before we delve into them, here’s a list of the items you’ll need for the job:

Once you have everything, follow these steps.

Wash Your Vehicle

Before dealing with the peeled coating, you must ensure your vehicle is clean. If you don’t have time for a complete wash, at least wash the area with the peeling coat as well as the areas surrounding it.

Stick tape on the edges of the repair area to separate it from the surface with an intact clear coat. Make sure the masking tapes don’t cover the peeling area so that when you peel them off later, they won’t strip off the new clear coat layer.

Sand the Peeling Clear Coat

Use sandpaper or a Scotch Brite to rub away all the peeled clear coat. Don’t use too much force or you might scratch the car paint under the coat.

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Once you’ve cleared the area for coat repair, continue rubbing the edges to make a blend zone that extends 3-4 inches around it. It’ll serve as a good foundation for the clear coat.

After that, wipe the sanded area with a rag that has isopropyl alcohol to get rid of any remaining residue, dust, dirt, and debris. Wait for the surface to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Mask the Surrounding Area

Cover the parts that you don’t want to apply the clear coat on using masking tape or newspapers. Don’t skip this step, as it’ll help ensure the new and old coats blend well and create a clean and seamless look.

Apply the Clear Coat

You’re going to want to put on your respirator mask for this part and make sure that no outside influences can get in the way of applying the clearer coat. It’s a good idea to set up a partition to block the wind or prevent any dirt from blowing in because these factors can affect the coat.

Two to three coats are usually enough to cover the repair spots. Don’t forget to give each coat around 10 minutes to settle. Once you’ve applied all the necessary coats, leave it overnight to dry.

It’s a good idea to set up a partition to block the wind or prevent any dirt from blowing in because these factors can affect the coat.

Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Polish the Coat

If you’re satisfied with the new clear coat’s coverage, it’s time to polish it using a polishing machine for this. Adjust the settings to make sure it isn’t too fast or too rough.

You’re going to want to polish away from the clear coat to keep it intact, focusing on the edges to ensure a smooth transition between the new coat and the old one.

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How Do You Prevent Your Clear Coat from Peeling?

Here are some steps you can take to keep your car’s clear coat from peeling.

Avoid Automatic Car Washes

While the hard bristles in the rotating brushes used in automatic car washes might not damage car paint, they can damage the clear coat. It’s not unusual to see shred marks, scrapes, and scratched-in swirls where brushes made contact.

Also, the high-pressure jets that car washes use for rinsing can shred and peel the clear coat.

Clean Your Vehicle Regularly

One way to prevent your vehicle’s clear coat from peeling is to wash it regularly because doing so prevents dirt and debris from degrading the glossy finish.

When cleaning your vehicle, avoid using strong chemicals and other abrasive car wash products. Instead, invest in cleaning solutions that are explicitly compatible with clear coat. Using run-of-the-mill solutions might do more harm than good.

Park Indoors Under a Roof

As mentioned previously, both extremely cold weather and harsh sunlight can turn car coatings dry and brittle, making them more likely to crack and peel. Similarly, strong winds can damage clear coatings by whipping up dirt and debris and rubbing it against your vehicle.

Because of this, it’s best to park someplace with protective walls and a roof, like your garage and covered parking lots.

Wax Your Ride

Last but not least, wax your ride regularly to give its clear coat extra protection. This layer can keep dirt and debris away from the coat and reduce the damage brought about by ultraviolet rays.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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