When you look at your car, you see a paint color, and that's it. If you've got a few scratches, you might see smeared wax appear as whitish streaks, but other than that, it looks like that is all that's on the car.
But what exactly is on your car, what is supposed to be there and why? When you take your car to a body shop for paint work or repairs that will require painting, it's a good idea to know what each of these layers is. Understanding the auto body paint process a little better will help you keep track of what is being done to your car and spot questionable car work.
All car coloring starts with primer. Primer is that grayish, matte, paint-like layer that makes cars look unfinished and old. You do not want your car to undergo any painting unless primer is added first.
Small spot repairs (like repairing a tiny scratch) can be an exception, but these are so tiny that many times, all you're doing is adding a dab of color on top of the existing paint. For larger jobs, though, primer should always be the first step.
Primer helps the paint stick to the metal. You could paint the metal frame of the car directly, but the paint wouldn't adhere well. Primer acts as a go-between layer, covering up the smooth metal and providing a bit of a rough surface that paint will adhere to more effectively.
Primer also provides a nice, neutral base for whatever paint color you're going to use. If you want to paint your car white, a light gray primer will help that white paint look unblemished. Placing white paint directly on the metal could make the paint have a grayish tinge instead of clean white.
The paint is what adds color to your car and is usually available in whatever shades a car manufacturer decides to make that year. If you're having part of the car's body replaced, the body shop should match the paint exactly. When you see cars with paint that is slightly off compared to the rest of the car, the blotchy color is a sign of a fast, amateur, cheap or plain bad job.
Carnauba Wax, Sealant and Clear Coat
In the past, cars were given primer, paint and then a wax layer to function as a protective shield. The wax was clear when it dried, so it didn't dull the paint color. The wax also stopped UV rays and other environmental baddies from harming the paint.
Now, after a car is painted, a clear coat is added. The clear coat is like another layer of paint only clear and hard. The clear coat is what gives car paint that lustrous shine, but it also acts as a protective layer like wax.
However, just because the clear coat provides a protective layer doesn't mean that wax is no longer needed. Wax on top of the clear coat protects it from scratches and keeps the color bright. The result is a car that looks better for a longer amount of time.
You might hear the mechanics at your shop talk about sealant rather than wax. Sealant is essentially synthetic wax, so it functions in the same way. Sealant bonds to paint instead of covering it — think of sealant as a chemical sunscreen that soaks into the clear coat while wax is a sunblock that just rests on top of it. Whether you use sealant or wax, your car’s clear coat will be protected from harsh UV rays and other wear and tear.
If you need to get your car repainted, contact Jim's Body Shop, Inc., to discuss any questions you might have.