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Complete Guide To Fixing Peeling Car Paint

The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Dealing with peeling car paint? Don’t let it get any worse than it already is.   

Peeling car paint is one of the things that really ticks people off. You don’t even have to be the owner of the car with peeling paint to be annoyed.

Peeling Car Paint? Here's A Guide On Fixing And Avoiding It In The Future!
Peeling Car Paint? Here’s A Guide On Fixing And Avoiding It In The Future!

So, with all that said, what we have here is a guide to fixing peeling car paint including the prevention of such an occurrence from happening in the first place.

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WeatherTech 8LTC57K Tec Care Gentle Car Shampoo
GYEON quartz Q²M Bathe - Car Wash Soap and Shampoo, Wax and Coating Safe, Highly Lubricated
Meguiar's G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash - 1 gallon
WeatherTech 8LTC57K Tec Care Gentle Car Shampoo
GYEON quartz Q²M Bathe - Car Wash Soap and Shampoo, Wax and Coating Safe, Highly Lubricated
Meguiar's G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash - 1 gallon
Meguiar's G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash - 1 gallon
WeatherTech 8LTC57K Tec Care Gentle Car Shampoo
WeatherTech 8LTC57K Tec Care Gentle Car Shampoo
GYEON quartz Q²M Bathe - Car Wash Soap and Shampoo, Wax and Coating Safe, Highly Lubricated
GYEON quartz Q²M Bathe - Car Wash Soap and Shampoo, Wax and Coating Safe, Highly Lubricated

Before we get started, you might want to check out Turtle Wax T-223 Super Hard Shell Paste Wax and some Chemical Guys Microfiber Towels because you’ll need it a lot for keeping your car’s paint in pristine quality.

Common Issues With Car Paint, What Causes Them And How To Prevent Them

Issues with your car paint can be very frustrating. It’s an inevitable issue that you will eventually have to face the longer you keep your car.

But, you can delay this for as long as you can by making sure you take the necessary safeguards to protect your car’s paint. This will ensure that your car will look great for a very long time with little to no repairs or touch-ups to keep it looking snazzy.

Here are some common issues leading to peeling car paint, what causes them, and how to prevent them from happening.

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Delamination

This can start small before spreading quickly. This usually happens when incompatible paint products are used during a repair or too much exposure to the elements. UV rays from the sun can also lead to this situation.

Peeling Car Paint Can Start When Delamination Is Present
Peeling Car Paint Can Start When Delamination Is Present

Want to avoid this from happening? Park your car under the shade.

Fading

Nothing lasts forever. This definitely applies to car paint. 

Fading Happens To Car Paint Over Time
Fading Happens To Car Paint Over Time

But not just that. UV rays from the sun, pollution, and debris can also contribute to this.

Once again, parking under the shade is a good way to prevent this from happening. You should also practice washing and waxing your car more often to protect your car’s paint.  

Peeling

Peeling car paint is the main reason why we’re here so we should include this in our list of common issues. Now, this is often the result of all the other common issues if you leave them unchecked. Still, it deserves a section devoted to it so you can identify and prevent this from happening.

Peeling Car Paint Looks Like This And Many Factors Can Contribute To This Happening
Peeling Car Paint Looks Like This And Many Factors Can Contribute To This Happening

Your car’s paint is protected by a thin layer of clear coat. This is the most durable protection your car has. But that level of protection isn’t invulnerable to damage from UV rays, pollution, or constant exposure to the elements.

Physical damage can also lead to peeling. Small dents and dings, scratches, and others are things you should watch out for.

Once again, keep your car parked safely inside your garage and drive safely to avoid those dents and dings.

Rust

Exposed metal parts are prone to oxidation. Oxidation leads to rust. Rust leads to decay.

Peeling Car Paint And Rust Go Hand In Hand.
Peeling Car Paint And Rust Go Hand In Hand.

The next time you have any type of body repair done, make sure all the metal parts are protected. Any exposed areas can take in moisture leading to rust and, when this happens, the paint can lift up off the metal leading to bloating, fading, warping, chipping, and, eventually, massive damage.

To prevent this from happening, wash your car thoroughly after driving it through extreme conditions. This removes the vast majority of pollutants, salts, and other contaminants in the air that could damage your car’s paint.

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After drying your car off, apply some protective wax. This will ensure that water doesn’t come in direct contact with your clear coat.

Scratches

Think those little scratches don’t matter? Think again. Scratches, no matter how minute they may seem, can eventually lead to massive damage to your car’s paint. Think of those little scratches as gouges that penetrate through the clear-coat and onto the more vulnerable paint underneath. From there, it only takes a short while for the water to build up and reach the metal that eventually leads to rust.

To prevent scratches, drive carefully. Make sure you avoid tight areas, flying road debris, tree branches, or accidentally hitting the car next to you when you open the door.

You should also get Carfidant’s Ultimate Scratch and Swirl Remover to easily remove those scratches and watermarks.

Surprising Things That Can Damage Your Paint

What is car paint for?

To make it look beautiful? Maybe. To make your car look different from all the rest? Then why are millions of cars painted in the same color?

Your car’s paint actually serves a more functional aspect than making your vehicle aesthetically appealing. Think of it as a colorful armor for your car.

Your car’s paint is designed to protect the bare metal underneath it. Because that’s its main function, car paint is definitely durable. But that doesn’t mean that the protective layer is invulnerable. It definitely isn’t meant to last forever and you will need to protect it as much as it protects your car.

With that said, here are some things you should avoid getting onto your car.

Acid Rain

Acid rain is a broad term that includes any form of moisture with acidic components. This can include not just rain but also dust, fog, hail, and snow. All of these can have nitric or sulfuric components that react to your paint in a disastrous manner.

This accumulation of moisture can eat away at your car’s paint. Even after it evaporates, trace amounts of sulfur, nitric acid, and other harmful components can stay on all exposed areas of the car. This can also leave ugly stains and watermarks. 

Wash your car regularly after using it in the rain, snow, and other extreme conditions. If there are any stains or grime on your car’s paint, you can remove it using professional clay bars. All you have to do is wet the surface you are trying to clean and rub the clay back and forth until the ugly marks are removed or minimized.

Here are different types of automotive clay you can use for cleaning your car:

Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG Clay Bar & Lubber Synthetic Lubricant Kit, Light/Medium Duty (16 oz) (2...
IPELY 4 Pack 100g Car Clay Bar Auto Detailing Magic Clay Bar Cleaner for Car Wash Car Detailing...
Mothers 07241 California Gold Clay Kit Express
Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay 8oz
Chemical Guys CLY_402 Medium Clay Bar, Gray (100 g)
Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG Clay Bar & Lubber Synthetic Lubricant Kit, Light/Medium Duty (16 oz) (2...
IPELY 4 Pack 100g Car Clay Bar Auto Detailing Magic Clay Bar Cleaner for Car Wash Car Detailing...
Mothers 07241 California Gold Clay Kit Express
Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay 8oz
Chemical Guys CLY_402 Medium Clay Bar, Gray (100 g)
Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG Clay Bar & Lubber Synthetic Lubricant Kit, Light/Medium Duty (16 oz) (2...
Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG Clay Bar & Lubber Synthetic Lubricant Kit, Light/Medium Duty (16 oz) (2...
IPELY 4 Pack 100g Car Clay Bar Auto Detailing Magic Clay Bar Cleaner for Car Wash Car Detailing...
IPELY 4 Pack 100g Car Clay Bar Auto Detailing Magic Clay Bar Cleaner for Car Wash Car Detailing...
Mothers 07241 California Gold Clay Kit Express
Mothers 07241 California Gold Clay Kit Express
Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay 8oz
Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay 8oz
Chemical Guys CLY_402 Medium Clay Bar, Gray (100 g)
Chemical Guys CLY_402 Medium Clay Bar, Gray (100 g)

Afterward, use a microfiber towel to wipe the surface area dry. Do this to all affected areas.

You can also use a watermark remover or buff the surface with a finishing compound. All of these things you can do on your own or through the help of a professional car detailing shop.

Ashes

Ashes Can Cause Peeling Car Paint If Left Unattended
Ashes Can Cause Peeling Car Paint If Left Unattended

Ashes that are left on the surface of your car paint can get wet. When this happens, a chemical reaction can occur and damage your car paint. This can either etch a mark onto your car’s paint or leave a dark stain.

Bird Droppings

This is the bane of all car owners worldwide. Bird droppings are acidic and can have the same effect on your car’s paint as acid rain. Bird droppings also contain seeds and grit that presents a new set of problems. You can’t just wipe it off without leaving minute scratches on your car’s paint.

Bird Droppings. Definitely Wash Them Off Immediately
Bird Droppings. Definitely Wash Them Off Immediately

Aside from the fact that it looks disgusting, it can also leave behind permanent damage. Bird droppings harden after being exposed to the sun and promote paint chipping if left unattended for a long time.

Use a wet towel and some gentle detergent to clean the area. Make sure you don’t scrub the area. If the bird droppings have hardened, soak them first, and allow the cleaner to sit for a few minutes to help soften it.  

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is caustic and can act as a paint thinner. This is especially true for brake fluid designed for older cars. These types of brake fluid are not silicon-based and can cause massive damage to the paint it comes in contact with.

As a general rule of thumb: make sure any type of brake fluid doesn’t come in contact with your car’s paint.

Related Article: Why Your Truck Is Leaking A Red Fluid (And Is It Safe To Drive?)

Use a towel to soak up the liquid. Use soap and water to immediately rinse and clean the area. Wipe the affected area gently with a clean towel or rag. Finish it up with a dry microfiber towel.

Bugs

Insects are another common culprit of damaged car paint. Similar to bird droppings, insect body fluid can be highly acidic and dissolve your paint. While insects most likely won’t harm the surface upon initial contact, they can cause damage over time if left in your car.

If you notice insects on your car, it’s best to remove them and clean the surface right away. Use a cleaning solution and allow the solution to sit for 30 seconds or so before gently wiping the area with a clean towel. As previously mentioned, don’t scrub—let the cleaner do the work and simply wipe away to avoid any further damage.

Coffee

Here’s one way to wake up abruptly: spill some coffee on your car paint. It doesn’t even need to be hot to cause damage to your car paint. Leave it unattended and you’ll find a sticky film of acidic residue from where the contents of your cuppa joe hit. That will eventually eat through the clear coat and soon enough through to the metal.

Of course, no one in their right mind would intentionally do this but it does happen. Especially if you’re the type of person who sets his drink on top off the roof before getting into the car. Anything could topple that plastic cup. A sudden breeze, a low-flying bird, some projectile launched by a kid, or even forgetting that it’s still on top of your vehicle before driving off. These are just some of the reasons why coffee is included in our list of concerns.

And if that should happen, immediately wash it off or wipe the area gently with a wet piece of cloth.

Dirty Rags & Towels

Make sure you use clean rags and towels when wiping your car’s external surface. Dirt on towels and rags, no matter how small can leave scratches on your car’s paint. Make it a point to use microfiber towels.

Don’t use dirty water too. Water in a bucket that you dip your towel into can collect the dust that was on the surface you just wiped with it. Use a hose and spray water to clean your car instead of a bucket.

Dust

Don’t let dust accumulate on the surface of your car. Not only is this unsightly and inviting to mischievous people to write “wash me” on your windshield, but it can also damage your paint job.

Related Article: Can You Drive An SUV On The Beach?

Dust can become acidic when wet. It can also act as a sponge for acids. When left unwashed, this can lead to corrosion and peeling car paint.

Gasoline

We need gasoline to make our vehicles run. As such, we often find ourselves in situations where gas could accidentally come into contact with our car paint. Gas overflowing, dripping, or leaking into and unto the car paint can leave marks when it dries up.

Related Article: Do Sports Cars Really Need Premium Gas?

You can easily address this by having your car waxed as a preventive measure to this happening to your vehicle. As soon as you have the chance, wash your car to remove the stains that the gasoline leaves on the surface of your paint job.

Salt

Salt is used on public roads to prevent ice from forming. It is also used to melt the ice that has built up over time. This safety measure is actually bad for vehicles who use the same road. But then again, it’s better to have a solution that saves lives than to let a problem fester that could have disastrous effects on commuters and pedestrians alike.

Related Article: Are Heavier Cars Better In Rain And Snow?

Salt can cause corrosion if left far too long on any metal surface, painted or not. So, as soon as you reach home, wash your car thoroughly. Make sure you include the underside, tires, and wheel wells as these are the areas where salt collects the most.

Soda

Just like coffee, you don’t want to leave your soda can on top of your car’s roof before driving off.

Tar

Tar is also used on public roads to smoothen it. The sad thing is: on the hottest day, tar can melt and stick to the underside of your car. The excess can be kicked up to the lower part of your car that still has paint on it. And if this is left unattended, those tar specks can stick permanently to the paint.

What you need to do is dissolve that tar before completely removing it. Make sure you wipe gently to avoid scuffing your paint any further.

Tree Sap

Just like tar, tree sap can damage your paint when it hardens atop the surface. Fixing this has the potential to damage your paint even further so it’s all about weighing your options.

You’ll need rubbing alcohol and a wet washcloth for this. Just set it on top of the area with the sap and wait 30 seconds before wiping it off gently.

A more terrifying process is to scrape the sap off with a blade. Only do this if you have a steady hand and you can keep the blade perfectly flat.  

You could avoid this situation altogether by staying away from areas where tree sap might accidentally find its way onto your car’s paint.

Vandalism

The worst cause of damage to your car’s paint is vandalism. This is a deliberate act by people to cause damage to your property. Make sure you report it when it happens before fixing the damage.

Vandalism can be anything from keying your car, spray painting, throwing eggs at it and letting it dry, and others that people know will leave a permanent mark on your car.

After reporting the incidence, bring your car to a professional repair center and have it assessed by someone certified. This will help you file an insurance claim and have your car repaired or restored to its original condition.

There are more things out there that can damage your car’s paint. These are just some of the more common ones and how to repair it in your own home if you can.

Basic Repair

Ok, now that we know what to avoid

Let’s get to fixing peeling car paint. These are the basic things you can do to your car’s paint job if the damage is minimal or highly negligible.

In this section, we’ll discuss how to care for your car so you won’t have to deal with peeling car paint.

The most basic thing to keep peeling car paint from happening is doing some preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance includes washing your car regularly and applying wax for added protection.

Don't Let Your Car Get As Dirty As This
Don’t Let Your Car Get As Dirty As This

Washing your car takes care of most of the things that could damage your car based on the list we already discussed above. Use a hose to spray water instead of using a bucket which could let dust accumulate. This dust can be transferred over to the rag your using which when wiped across the car’s surface can cause scratches.

A power washer is also a good investment for keeping your car clean. Power washers can deliver jets of water much more powerfully than a conventional hose. It can also switch between clean water and soap for convenience.

After washing your car, dry it off with microfiber towels. Make sure you get all surfaces, moisture left unattended can cause damage over time.

Last but not least, have some car wax in stock to give your car that extra layer of protection against everything out there that could lead to peeling car paint.

That’s it. Keep your car clean and you’ll make it last longer, and that doesn’t just apply to the paint!

Intermediate Repair

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars if your car is in a slightly worse condition than just some scratches and peeling car paint. You can still perform some intermediate repairs beyond just cleaning or keeping it well maintained.

Areas With Peeling Car Paint As Large As This Need A More Drastic Approach
Areas With Peeling Car Paint As Large As This Need A More Drastic Approach

This section is reserved for doing small repairs to peeling car paint on your car.

Essential Items:

You will need some or all of these

Performing The Repairs

  • Section the area that needs repair. You can tape the perimeter of that area so it does not affect the surrounding paint. As a general rule of thumb, leave an allowance of 2 to 3 inches from the edge of the damaged area to the inner portion of your cordoned area for allowance.
  • Peel off as much as the loose paint as possible with compressed air and a piece of cloth or clean rags. If you’re handy with a blade, you can also use that to chip off the paint. 
  • After the affected paint is removed, sand the area. Start off with 180 grit if there is rust present and work your way down to finer weight. 
  • Clean the area thoroughly. Remove the grit, paint, rust, and other contaminants that could damage your new layer of paint. 
  • Tape off areas that you don’t want to get hit with overspray. This includes the immediate area outside of the perimeter of the damaged paint, windshield, rubber lining. 
  • Prepare the area with a surface prep solvent. This is for areas with exposed metal. This is also the perfect time to add a little bit of rust-oleum
  • Add primer apply 2 to 3 coats and wait 10-30 minutes per application. 
  • Sand the area with 600 grit sandpaper for basecoat until it is completely flat. 
  • Apply the paint. Wait 10 minutes per layer to dry. Two to four layers should be enough unless you have really thick paint on your car. 
  • Sand with 1000 to 1200 grit sandpaper to make the area smooth
  • Wet sand if needed with 1500 to 2000 grit to get a more professional result. 
  • Finish off with clearcoat when everything is done.

 And that’s it. You’re done! Time to show your finished work off.

Advanced

If there is massive peeling car paint evident in your car. Maybe it’s time for the experts to step in and have a look. This is also applicable to cars that have figured in an accident.

If The Peeling Car Paint Is Too Much, Let The Pros Handle It
If The Peeling Car Paint Is Too Much, Let The Pros Handle It

Take note: this is going to be a very expensive

Panel Repair

If the affected area is only a panel, all you have to do is remove that section or mask off the surrounding areas before doing the necessary repairs.

Straighten the metal underneath or buy a replacement panel to make things easier.

Related Article: How To Stop Truck Doors From Rattling?

This is usually applicable to cars made in the 50s down. These cars were made in a modular fashion so panels can easily be removed to repair them.

Cutting Out Rusted Parts

Cars with rusted areas will need somebody repair before being painted. Overlaying paint on the affected area will not solve the issue and could fester in the long run. The best thing to do is to cut out those areas and replace them with metal patches.

Don't Let Rusted Parts Affect The Entire Body, Cut Those Panels Out
Don’t Let Rusted Parts Affect The Entire Body, Cut Those Panels Out

Related Article: Why Do Pickup Trucks Rust So Much?

You will need the help of a metalworker for this if you don’t have any knowledge of handling a spot welder and working with metal. You can’t just cut into the metal without a solid plan. Heat can cause warping and affect the surrounding areas.

Whole Body Repaint

Newer cars have a unibody construction. Because of this, peeling car paint can easily spread to other areas if it is left unattended. Left long enough and there could be irreversible damage.

Get a whole body repaint if these conditions are met:

If you fix it early on, it might not be that obvious. If the peeling car paint is all over the length of the car’s body, a whole body repaint is the best solution.

Should your car have extensive peeling car paint due to physical damage or damage incurred over time, a whole body repaint is advisable. This is also the best time to do other repairs like fixing the body panels or repairing worn out rusted parts.

Here are some paint-related articles to help you decide on your paint scheme:

In Conclusion:

Peeling car paint is not something to be ignored. This is a sign of eventual damage taking place especially if left uncared for. You should be concerned at the first sign of peeling car paint and plan your next course of action to address the issue at hand.

Related Questions:

Is It Advisable To Have My Car Paint Baked When I Go In For A Repaint?

Yes. This is actually an industry-standard manner of painting cars. It helps make the paint adhere better to the metal surface and that makes it last a really long time. With that in mind, why shouldn’t you right? Take note though that this is going to be expensive but then again the value is worth more than what you pay for.

With All The Dangers To My Car’s Paint Present Outside Should I Still Even Drive It?

Yes. A car is an object that serves a specific purpose. That’s how you should treat it. And like all tools, continued use will eventually cause some wear and tear. Just because you paid a lot for your car doesn’t mean you should just keep it locked up in your garage. That’s a big waste of the money you used to buy it. Instead, take care of it as much as you can when you use it to get the most out of it.

Can Shaving Cream, Silly String, And Shoe Polish Damage My Car Paint?

Yes. Shaving cream? Silly string? Shoe polish? Seriously? You don’t want any of these substances to come in contact with your paint job. How does this happen? Well, you can be sure it wasn’t by accident. These substances are often used in acts of vandalism done deliberately to damage your property. Call the cops and report the incident immediately to catch the perpetrators before you wash these substances off.

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