Everything You Wanted To Know About Clear Coat

clear coated black car

When automotive enthusiasts start exploring the world of car detailing, they begin to notice some recurring terms and phrases. One of them is undoubtedly the term clear coat or clear coat paint. What is a clear coat and what does it actually do? What to do when it starts failing? Some sources state one thing and others mention something completely different. If you’re looking for answers to these questions, you’ve come to the right place. 

Our mission is to find the most relevant and accurate pieces of information out there. Additionally, we want to provide you with the most helpful knowledge about the automotive industry. Here’s everything you wanted to know about clear coats and what our team of pros has to say about it.

What is a clear coat?

The clear coat represents the layer of transparent paint which covers the base coat or the colored coat. Imagine we were able to zoom in and see the section through the paintwork. Starting from the first layer and working our way to the final one, we would see the metal or body panel first. Then, there is the primer paint or undercoat as a very important element of the entire paintwork. After the undercoat, we have a layer of paint or a colored coat. Finally, on top of it all, we have the clear coat or the clear coat paint.

One interesting fact is that not all cars have a clear coat of paint. High-mileage or older cars made before the 80s for instance have a single stage paint system or uni paintwork. This means that the last layer of the paintwork is the colored coat with more of a matte finish. Today, most automotive manufacturers use the two-stage paint system which includes the application of a clear coat.

What is the function of clear coats?

Clear coats perform several very important tasks. First of all, they protect the colored coat against the harmful effects of the elements. Moreover, UV rays, humidity, road dirt, organic pollutants such as tree sap and bird droppings, and other contaminants can cause damage to the paintwork. For those reasons, a coat of clear paint is applied to the base coat to prevent paint fading and oxidation. In this way, a clear coat paint also contributes to the thickness of the paint.

Aesthetically-wise, a clear coat impacts the base coat’s level of gloss, shine, and depth. What’s more, it visually enhances the look of the paintwork and can certainly contribute to a car’s appeal and its overall value.

red convertible in the street

What to do in case of clear coat failure? 

As the clear coat is the layer of paint that is most exposed to environmental impacts, it can start failing over time. This usually happens because of neglect combined with harsh weather and driving conditions. To avoid reaching a point of clear coat paint blistering, cracking, peeling, and irreversible damage, all vehicle owners should pay attention even to the smallest car surface changes.


The first thing you should do to preserve the paintwork and value of your vehicle is to protect it. One of the most basic ways of protecting your four-wheeler is regularly cleaning your precious vehicle. Remember, contaminants and pollutants cling to the surface and can cause damage over time. Apart from washing, you can protect your paintwork by polishing and waxing the surface at regular intervals. When it comes to waxes, they belong to a more traditional way of protecting your vehicle for a maximum period of 6 months.

Nowadays, there are more advanced and technologically superior products that can shield the coat of paint for years. First, those are synthetic spray sealants, which protect metal and other surfaces between 6 and 12 months. Second, there are DIY ceramic coating products which create an additional hard protective layer over the clear coat which can last between 2 and 5 years and boost the paint’s shine and gloss. Finally, there are the latest graphene coatings. Unlike ceramic coatings that have silicon dioxide or SiO2 in their formulation, graphene coatings are carbon-based and provide protection for a longer period of time. However, these products are only starting to enter the market so it’s advised to pay more attention when opting for graphene coatings.

Clear coat repair

Hopefully, you’re reading this section just to learn more about the topic. But don’t despair if your clear coat needs work, there are still ways you can repair it. A very common problem that occurs because of neglect, weather conditions, or harsh chemical application is clear coat paint peeling. We always recommend asking a professional to help you repair the clear coat if you’re inexperienced. 

However, for those of you who feel more comfortable with DIY car works, we suggest reading our article on how to fix peeling clear coat before doing anything yourself. There you can find out more about things like how long to wait before wet sanding a clear coat or how to remove a clear coat properly. It might seem difficult at first but you can get great results if you follow the instructions carefully.

To sum up

A clear coat is the final coat of colorless paint that protects the colored layer of the paintwork and at the same time, the entire metal panel from damage. Apart from its protective properties, a clear coat paint also improves the appearance of the car by increasing paint gloss and shine. As a layer that gets in direct contact with all sorts of pollutants, it can sometimes fail and therefore requires regular maintenance. Always keep an eye on your vehicle’s surface and protect the value of your car in the long run.