A DIAGRAM OF MODERN PAINTWORK
I know what you're thinking, this diagram looks daunting, involved, and may even look confusing to the layman. In order to make sense of the "modern" paint job, let's dissect this piece by piece.
The diagram above will provide you with some tools within your arsenal of automotive detailing nomenclature, and may even serve as a great icebreaker at your next party! Okay, maybe not at your next party, because that would cause you to become the next pariah amongst a crowd of partygoers.
1. The first layer that you see from the top is known as the clearcoat. Historically speaking, the clearcoat wasn't ubiquitous until the mid 1980's. Once the majority of auto manufacturers started to introduce this technology the clearcoat was particularly designed to add resilience from the elements. Consequently, over time, the clear-coat will start to fade, dull and/or lose its original luster. It should also be known that a "modern day" (vehicles manufactured after the late 1980's) clearcoat is much thinner than vehicles of an older age. In this day and age, many popular manufacturers are starting to cut corners with respect to paint technologies by offsetting the amount of material in exchange for technology under the hood.
2. The second layer is known as the color base coat. This particular layer is also referred to as the "pigment" of the vehicle and contains all the properties which gives your automobile its distinguishable color. With the exception of metallic lacquer-based classic cars dating back before the 1980's, the clearcoat/basecoat system is the most ubiquitous throughout the automotive industry, and corners the market of most people driving on the road today.
More specifically, an overwhelming majority of vehicles on the road currently have acrylic polyurethane enamel paint applied. Why, do you ask? With the EPA continuing to govern the regulations surrounding the automotive manufacturing industry, acrylic polyurethane enamel paints are water-based, quick to dry, and greatly reduce the impact on the environment in comparison to vehicles before the advent of the basecoat/clearcoat era.
3. The third layer from the top is called the primer coat. Although this layer can't be seen to the naked eye, this can also be translated as the "undercoat" which prepares the vehicle for its first stage of paint. Much like painting your walls at home, the primer coat will help to ensure a strong adhesion to the first layer of real paint.
4. Finally, we come to the body panel. At one time or another, you might have seen a vehicle either driving down the road or could be stationed at a junkyard with a dark gray or even a black panel. This introductory layer is simply the skeletal framework that also serves as the genetic makeup for any vehicle. Interestingly enough, body panels can be fabricated using a large lineup of materials including aluminum, steel, carbon steel, and even steel alloy.
Some of the largest players within the automotive paint industry include companies such as Dupont, Valspar, Alsa Corp, and PPG. As you view the table above, you'll notice defects that come into direct contact with your clearcoat such as overspray, scratches, swirls, and other blemishes of the like. If desired, I recommend you reading my article entitled "Combating Paintwork Flaws & Defects." All of these harmful variables can wreak havoc onto your paintwork if not properly addressed within a reasonable span of time.
Lastly, it should be known that the "modern" clearcoat is as thick as a post-it note. A post-it note! As automotive manufacturers continue making breakthroughs with paintwork technologies, the clearcoat has become significantly thinner over time. Unfortunately, as of 2019, the amount of clearcoat is now even thinner than that of a post-it note, so preservation is the catchphrase that needs to be engrained into the heads of those who wish to keep their vehicles for the long-term.
Unless you have $15,000-$20,000 of dispensable income for a robust paint job, you should assume that the material that currently exists has a limited life, unless a legitimized form of protection is added. At the end of the day, an auto manufacturer is trying to cut cost. For this reason alone, Blackstone Detail continually preaches the necessity of new car care protection. Schedule your consultation and discover what it means to preserve your inseparable friend.l