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  1. #1
    Senior Member karburn's Avatar
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    Clear coat failure

    I recently bought a 2003 ML320 that has a very typical condition on the rear window pillars – the clear coat has failed big-time.



    My plan is to get the remainder of the old peeling clear coat off, then wet sand the two panels and see if they will polish up to any acceptable level. Then treat it like single-stage paint. If not, then I’ll get them re-painted.

    The question: Is there any way other than sanding to get the rest of the peeling clear coat off? I was not sure if it could be buffed off with a strong polish or if sanding is the only logical method. The goal is to get it off and still have enough paint left underneath to play with.

    Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks.
    Kevin Arburn
    Overland Park, Kansas USA
    1987 MB 560SL
    2006 Mini Cooper S
    2003 MB ML320

  2. #2
    Senior Member LincolnZephyr2006's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    Buffing with just polish and pads will not get it off. You will need to wetsand
    2006 Lincoln Zephyr- 28% Solar Guard Charcoal tint, Pioneer DVD player/In-dash, Boston Acoustics component 5x7's

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  3. #3
    Senior Member termigator's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    Maybe you can try a plastic putty knife. Not sure if that will make it any easier.
    The same thing happened to the B-pillars on my 02' Acura TL-S. They were nice and shiny in late 07' before I gave the car to my brother, who happens to neglect cars big time. I visited him a year later and the B-pillars looked like your pics. I know it's not my car anymore, but it still hurts to see that, after keeping the car in pristine conditions all those years.

  4. #4
    Senior Member karburn's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    The previous owner took good care of the car otherwise, so these pillars are an anomaly. I may try a plastic scraper, but otherwise it looks like a job for wetsanding.
    Kevin Arburn
    Overland Park, Kansas USA
    1987 MB 560SL
    2006 Mini Cooper S
    2003 MB ML320

  5. #5

    Re: Clear coat failure

    you can go over it with 400 grit then just spray over with a good polyurethane clear coat. that would look better. just make sure it's clean before you do. make sure to tape the edges and cover the sides to avoid overspray on the glass and other adjacent panels.

  6. #6
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    Quote Originally Posted by karburn View Post
    The previous owner took good care of the car otherwise, so these pillars are an anomaly.
    That's what I thought, kind of strange how just these pillars have the clear peeling off? Makes you wonder if they may have been re-painted for some reason?

    Before getting to deep into the project, take some kind of polish product and see if you can create gloss to a section of exposed color coat paint.

    From what I've seen in my own experience, the basecoat portion of modern paints does not polish to a high gloss or any gloss, it's flat or matte and it gets its gloss from the clear layer. If this is the case then it won't matter you sand or don't sand, if the colored layer doesn't polish to a shine or gloss then you'll have to either live with the issue or consider some type of re-paint project.

    Maybe just get a wrap for the affected areas after cleaning them smooth?

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  7. #7
    Senior Member karburn's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    Hmmm...a wrap? I wonder if the vinyl wrap places would bother with something this small. I'll do the requisite sanding to get the old clear off, then I'll try some 105 to see if the underlying (and now extensively oxidized) paint will come up at all. If not, I'll have the pillars sprayed with clear coat by someone willing to take on a small job. Most of the body shops in my area are only interested in insurance work.

    I wonder if there are any vinyl guys in Kansas City? Maybe I'll get a can of Rustoleum and have at it. (not)
    Kevin Arburn
    Overland Park, Kansas USA
    1987 MB 560SL
    2006 Mini Cooper S
    2003 MB ML320

  8. #8
    Senior Member karburn's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    Someone on another forum gave me a tip that is actually working: he suggested using plastic tape or duct tape to remove the remaining peeling clear coat. Press it down over and area, then peel it off. I tried it last night and even on a cold day with minimal effort, it took some of it off! I plan to try again soon, but with a hair dryer or heat gun to carefully warm up the area before using the tape trick.

    As far as a vinyl wrap, would black vinyl be best or would a clear bra type wrap work better - assuming that I can get the pillars to a more presentable state?

    As always, thanks for your comments and feedback.
    Kevin Arburn
    Overland Park, Kansas USA
    1987 MB 560SL
    2006 Mini Cooper S
    2003 MB ML320

  9. #9
    Junior Member
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike.Phillips@Autogeek View Post
    That's what I thought, kind of strange how just these pillars have the clear peeling off? Makes you wonder if they may have been re-painted for some reason?
    I have seen this happen to SO many newer SUV's... I only pay attention because my mother's Explorer did the same thing but only at the B-pillars. The rest of the car is immaculate. We fixed them by removing the pillars (don't know if that's possible on your Merc), wetsanding, and doing a clear re-spray. After curing, I hit them with 2000 - 3000 grit, and then a 3M rubbing compound and finally a 3M glaze. They came out pristine, and have been looking perfect for the last 5 years even after baking in the South Florida sun.

    Hope your job is as easy as ours was.

  10. #10
    Senior Member karburn's Avatar
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    Re: Clear coat failure

    I forgot to report back: I ended up sanding off the remaining clear coat, starting with 400 grit and working up to 1500. Then I used Meguiar's 105/205 with my Griot's 3" buffer with an orange pad for the 105 and a red pad for the 205. About an hour's worth of sanding then another 45 min to an hour with the buffer and the panels look like new. No more clear coat. If they ever fade, out comes the buffer!
    Kevin Arburn
    Overland Park, Kansas USA
    1987 MB 560SL
    2006 Mini Cooper S
    2003 MB ML320

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