Single stage paints include acrylic enamel, acrylic lacquer, and synthetic enamel. Single stage paint is paint (or resin) with pigment added to it. A single stage finish has the color and gloss in one coating. Single stage paints were used up until the 1980s when two-stage paints were introduced.
When detailing single stage paint, paint transfer is common onto the pad or applicator since you’re polishing the pigment layer directly. Color transfer is a good indicator that your vehicle has a single stage finish. Single stage finishes tend to oxidize and fade over time, but you can achieve a dramatic makeover with a compound and a polisher.
Clear coat finishes, or two stage finishes, include a separate pigment layer and clear layer. Clear coat finishes became popular because they retain their glossy look well. However, clear coat finishes do require wax and occasional polishing to keep them looking their best! Clear coats can oxidize just like single stage finishes, so regular paint protection is key. Unlike single stage paint, there’s no color transfer onto the applicator when detailing clear coat paint because you’re not detailing the color coat directly. If you see no color transfer, it’s likely that your vehicle is clear-coated.
Clear coat finishes are on 95% of all vehicles being built today. The vast majority of car care products developed today are suitable for clear coat finishes!? These same products can be used on single stage finishes, too. But, if a product says it’s only for single stage paint, stay away from a clear coat finish!
Regardless of whether your vehicle has single stage or clear coat paint, ALWAYS maintain a coating of wax or paint sealant to preserve its beauty and value.