Removing Clear Coat: A Brief Guide for Students in Auto Body Technician Training

If you’ve ever seen a shiny-looking vehicle, chances are, clear coat is responsible for its dazzling exterior. A clear coat is a translucent paint layer composed of acrylic or polyester which is applied on top of a vehicle’s coloured paint, protecting a vehicle’s exterior from dust, scratches, or corrosion and preventing the paint from fading. Just like most substances, clear coat can fade or crack with time and make a vehicle’s body look dull or dirty in appearance. When a vehicle owner sees that their vehicle’s layer of clear coat is on its last legs, they’ll likely turn to an auto body repair technician for assistance. 

If you’re considering a career as an auto body technician, here’s what you need to know about clear coat removal.

Without a layer of clear coat, a vehicle’s paint can fade or corrode

An Auto Body Repair Technician Should Have These Tools Before Beginning

If you’re attempting a clear coat removal, it’s important to be equipped with the right tools before beginning this project. First, a cloth will be needed to clean the vehicle. It can be microfiber, foam, or wool. Next, a buffing compound and buffing pads will be needed to remove the clear coat. As an auto body repair technician, it’s important to ensure that the buffing compound is intended for clear coat removal and the buffing pads are 100% wool. 

Other necessary tools include sandpaper of a variety of grit levels, an electric polishing device, finishing polish, a spray detailer, and wax. Once you’ve gathered these tools together, you’re ready to begin the removal process. 

Preparing the Vehicle for Clear Coat Removal

Before a vehicle’s clear coat is removed, it’s important to wash the surface thoroughly using a cloth, soap, and water. Products should not be applied when dirt or debris appears on a vehicle’s surface, as this can lead to scratching or further damage. After the surface has been cleaned, it can be dried carefully with a cloth. Make sure that the vehicle’s surface isn’t scratched at this stage, as the paint is fragile when the clear coat isn’t offering as much protection. During this stage, 400 grit sandpaper can be soaked in water to prepare for the next step.

A vehicle should be washed and dried before beginning the clear coat removal

Remove the Clear Coat by Wet and Dry Sanding 

The sanding process can begin after the vehicle has been cleaned and dried. Take the wet 400 grit sandpaper and begin wet-sanding the clear coat material. This is a crucial step in which a canvas is created for the rest of the process, so those in auto body technician careers must be careful to sand the vehicle’s surface evenly. After the entire car has been wet-sanded with the 400 grit sandpaper, the vehicle can be wet-sanded with the higher grit sandpapers (800 grit, 1,000 grit, and 1,200 grit). The process is finished when the entire surface of the vehicle is completely smooth.

After wet-sanding, ensure that the vehicle is completely dry before moving on to the dry-sanding process. Dry-sanding can be completed with an 800 or a 600 grit sandpaper. During this step, it’s important to ensure that the result is completely even. Auto body technicians should be careful to sand at a 45-degree angle when going over scratches. Once the sanding process is complete and the tone of the vehicle’s exterior is even, the vehicle can be rinsed with a cloth and left to dry in order to remove sanding particles.

Buffing and Waxing: The Final Steps

Once the vehicle is dry, polish can be applied to the entire surface using the electric polisher. The polisher should be set at a lower rotational speed (1,200 – 1,400 revolutions per minute), and can be moved in a circular motion to ensure that all surface areas are accounted for. Next, the vehicle’s surface should be buffed a second time, applying the buffing compound intended for clear coat removal with the 100% wool buffing pad. This should be done carefully, as this compound is capable of burning the paint with too much pressure. 

The last step in the clear coat removal process is to apply wax to the vehicle’s surface using the spray detailer. Using wax to finish the job is essential, as wax helps to produce an even tone. Once the wax has been applied, the vehicle is ready to hit the road once again—restored to its shining former glory!

Are you looking for the right place to complete your auto body technician training?

Explore ATC Surrey’s auto body program today.


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