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  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips


    The majority of cars being manufactured today and starting since the 1980's use what's called a basecoat/clearcoat paint system. With this system, a clear layer of paint is sprayed over the top of the basecoat which is also the color coat or the layer of paint that has pigment in it. If the car has a metallic finish then the metallic flakes are also in the basecoat.

    The basecoat doesn't offer any gloss or shine and in fact it's dull or matte looking after it's sprayed. The basecoat gets it's gloss, shine, depth and reflectivity by the spraying of the clearcoat layer of paint over the top of it. This is why if a person removes too much clearcoat when buffing and they expose the basecoat it will appear to be a dull round or oval spot on a body panel. The part of the paint system that adds beauty has been removed revealing the dull or matte basecoat layer of paint.



    Just how thin is the clear layer of paint on a factory paint job?

    The factory clearcoat on a new or modern car measures approximately 2 mils thin.

    The average post-it not is around 3 mils thin.







    What does this mean?

    This means the factory clearcoat on a new or modern car is thinner than a post-it note.

    The next time you have a post-it note in front of you, feel a single post-it note between your fingers. Like this...







    This experience will drive home the point as to just how thin the clear layer of paint is on modern car with a factory paint job.

    It should also drive home the importance of using the least aggressive pad, product and even tools to get the job done.

    When I say, get the job done, the context of this usually means someone is buffing out a car to remove paint defects like swirls, scratches, water spots and oxidation to make the paint and thus the car look better.

    By using the least aggressive products you "get the job done" while leaving the most paint on the car to it will last over the mechanical service life of the car.

    If you're working on your own cars and you're reading this you're already ahead of the game by reading the AGO forum and probably being a member so you can ask questions and get help.

    If you're working on customer's cars take a professional approach as a service to your customers.


    If you're reading this and you're going to do the work yourself or hire a detailer then do some research and make sure you hire a detailer that knows this type of stuff because the factory clearcoat on your car is thin.


    Mike Phillips
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  2. #2
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Paint is thin

    When the clear layer of paint become too (from improper detailing) or if it's not properly and regularly washed and waxed one result can be clearcoat failure.

    Clearcoat failure is where the paint flakes and peels off. Your car will look like it has a rash. Like this,





    My friend Paul owns a body shop. He only does professional quality repaints. I asked him if someone brought him a car, for example an average sized passenger car and it needed ZERO body work. It only needs new paint. How much on average would he charge?


    He said about $3000.00


    Now this is for a high quality paint job to a mundane passenger car that needs no body work. Of course you can get a less costly paint job but instead,

    Learn to take proper care of your car's paint while its still in great shape.

    Only hire qualified detailers to do the work for you but - do hire them and have your car washed and waxed on a regular schedule.

    You can learn how to properly wash and wax your car here on AutogeekOnline.net, simply join the forum so you can post questions and get help.


    Click here to join the AGO forum


    Or if you're looking for a qualified detailer to work on your car, boat, motorhome, motorcycle, etc. then join the forum so you can create a thread that looks like this,


    Pro Detailer wanted in Stuart, Florida

    Then in the message of the thread state what you have that needs detailed and what you're looking for. We have a huge membership with lots of qualified detailers that can help you get the job done right.



    Mike Phillips
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  3. #3
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    Re: Paint is thin

    I have read varying information regarding where the UV protection actually resides within the CC itself

    Some state that it is contained in the top 20% of the CC

    Others claim that this does not make sense because the UV protectants themselves have a higher specific gravity and would sink to the bottom of the layer

    To complicate things the information on the Ceramiclear fumed silica CC is that the UV protectants rise to the surface


    Is all the inside info proprietary to the paint manufacturers and therefore we will never know?

  4. #4
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Paint is thin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenk4 View Post

    I have read varying information regarding where the UV protection actually resides within the CC itself
    Big picture?

    At 2 mils thin I treat it all like it's precious because it is...


    David Ghodoussi told me that the UV protection used in car paint has a half life of 5 years. This means if you bought your car in 2010 - by the year 2015 half of the UV protection originally used to make the clear layer of paint is now non-functioning.


    To me, this is why you should always use the least aggressive product and process to get the job done because by doing this YOU LEAVE THE MOST PAINT ON THE CAR


    It's that last part of what I wrote above that everyone leaves out or forgets to say.



    Mike Phillips
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  5. #5
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    ***Bump***


    When it comes to sanding on factory clearcoat paints,

    Remember...

    1. Sanding removes paint.
    2. Compounding removes paint.
    3. Polishing removes a little paint.


    You only have a limited amount of paint on the car and even the best in this industry, sooner or later will sand or buff through a factory clearcoat finish.


    Here's an article I wrote in 2009 that really clarifies why you DON'T want to wet sand or dry sand factory clearcoats.


    Wetsanding - Fresh Paint vs Factory Paint


    Hand sanding the Titanic circa 2000




    Mike Phillips
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  6. #6
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    Re: Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    Thanks for this information! It really does help understanding why you should not go to far compounding the clear coat!


    Sent from my iPhone using AGOnline

  7. #7
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    Quote Originally Posted by DirtyConcepts View Post

    Thanks for this information! It really does help understanding why you should not go to far compounding the clear coat!


    Your welcome.


    And thank you for commenting on this thread.

    Considering I wrote this article in 2014 and thousands of people have read it I'm always surprised no one ever makes a comment.

    It is probably what I consider one of the Top 10 Articles I've ever written simply because the pictures enable the average person to wrap their mind around just how thin the paint is on their new car.


    I also use this article to inform and even WARN people that are "thinking" about WET SANDING the factory finish on their car. For most people... this is not going to turn out well.



    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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  8. #8
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    Re: Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    This is a New Mazda 3, not touched by the dealership.

    They are getting very thin nowadays!




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    Quote Originally Posted by theshineshopaut View Post

    This is a New Mazda 3, not touched by the dealership.

    They are getting very thin nowadays!

    Crazy huh?


    And if Dr. David Ghodoussi is correct, that is - if the long term testing the paint companies have conducted have shown that in order for the entire paint job to hold up over time the clear layer needs to be at least 2 mils in thickness, (actually thinness is a more accurate word), then the car manufacturers have gotten the science of the ecoat, primer and color coat down to less than 1 mil according to your readings.


    Now think about the above every time you see someone on Facebook wetsanding a factory finish.


    Mike Phillips
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  10. #10
    Senior Member LSNAutoDetailing's Avatar
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    Re: Clearcoats are thin by Mike Phillips

    I went out today and looked at a 2019 Mustang GT Prem with the FP pack 1. I took measurements and saw 4.0 - 4.7 mils. Very thin!!! I also brought my Scangrip Colormatch light and saw a nasty buckle rash in the passenger rear quarter panel. I said, "thanks but no thanks..."

    Today's lesson: paint is thin... and it's getting thinner. Secondly, detach yourself from the car your buying and think of it as a business decision. This car with 104 miles on it had more paint blems than my 2016 Mustang EB which is PRISTINE!!!

    I treated this vehicle as if I was doing a VIF. I had my clipboard, VIF Form, my Scangrip light and Delfesco PTG. I didn't care if they thought I was crazy.

    There was a scratch on the rear qtr panel, I would have fist tried removing by hand with an applicator and some 105. If that didn't work I'd have to try some 3000.. all on a new $46k car. The salesman saw my light and paint meter and said, wow that's what we take to auctions... he said, you must be in the business. They didn't think I was nuts, instead they realized they were dealing with a very informed person. Third lesson, don't be afraid of what people think of you. If you're OCD, they'll have to deal with it! It's your money. I graciously passed... and am ready to look at another. And I'm patient... I can wait for the perfect one.

    Again, paint is thin.. do your homework... A $699 Delfesko PTG and scangrip light are the best tools to have in a tool box. Because when you decide to chase a scratch, it's bad news when you burn the clear... No undo's there.

    Paul_G www.lsnautodetail.com IDA CD-SV

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