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Why Is My Car’s Paint Peeling?

Is your car’s paint peeling?
Here is the reason why & a solution

If you have a vehicle with peeling paint it can be a very frustrating thing. With modern cars, this is becoming less and less common. But, if your vehicle is from the 80’s or early 90’s, there is a pretty good chance that this could happen to you. Below we take a look at why paint peeling happens, and what we can do to help you fix it.

Causes of Car Paint Peeling

There are normally three layers of coatings on a modern automobile: primer, paint, and the clear coat. The primer acts as a base layer for the paint, assisting with adhesion, provides a predictable surface for coating, and provides additional protection for the underlying metal. The paint is the color coat. The clear coat provides a hard “shell” that protects the paint from oxidization, minor scratches, and increases the longevity of the aesthetic benefits of the colored paint. Car paint peeling (also called de-lamination) occurs when one or more of these layers lose adhesion with the surface under it. Primer may lose adhesion to the bare metal, paint may lose adhesion to the primer, and the clear coat can lose adhesion to the paint. When this happens, large sections or flakes of paint can slough off the vehicle.

There are two primary causes for car paint peeling. The first, and most often associated with large-scale paint de-lamination, is the improper preparation of the painted surface. All three major domestic manufacturers have had paint problems in the late-1980’s through the mid-1990’s due to changes in painting processes which resulted in the failure of either the primer, paint, or clear coat.

The second most common cause of paint de-lamination happens when the seal of the clear coat, paint, or primer get compromised by a chip or scratch. Once the barrier has been compromised, moisture and other contaminants can begin working their way under the coatings and create a starting point for de-lamination. There are reported instances where a small chip in the clear coat has caused catastrophic adhesion loss to the clear coat when the vehicle was pressure washed. The pressurized water gets under the coating and quite literally blows off hard, brittle shell of the clear coat. However, this scale of clear coat failure due to a chip is rare, and is indicative of other quality issues with the paint.

How can you fix it?

Over the last 10 years or so we have slowly become experts in fixing peeling paint and understanding exactly WHY the paint is peeling in the first place. This is because of something that few shops will admit, but we used to have many vehicles we repainted get returned with peeling paint! We would go over our jobs again and again and slowly began to pinpoint how the smallest details can keep paint from adhering properly. From this, we learned how to repair peeling paint right the first time. Here is how we do it.

We mentioned above that pressure washing can be a cause of paint peeling. We use this to our advantage and start every paint peel repair at the detail shop. We pressure wash the affected area until all of the peeling paint is blown away, then we move the car down to the paint shop for repair.

This is when our paint techs begin sanding. They work from the centre of the peeling area and work outward in concentric circles to find the outermost area where the paint is not adhering. Once they find the extent of the damage and remove all of the affected paint, they continue with prepping the area, priming, painting, and clear coating while blending into the existing paint. All of the paint codes come right from the manufacturer, so the paint match is a guarantee, and our painters are very skilled at blending the new paint into the old, making a seamless repair.

Do you have peeling paint?

Send us a note through our contact form and include a picture if you have one. We would love to give you some free advice about how we would fix it to help protect your vehicle from rust and premature decay.

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. Had my bumper replaced after I hit a deer. A year later the paint started to chip away on the bumper, showing black ( rubber? Bumper underneath) took it back to the shop , they said they would repaint…! It’s now been six months waiting, while it chips more. Shall I just repair myself?

    1. Hi Joan, why wait on a big body shop? We can get it done for you in no time. One of our staff will get in touch with you asap.

  2. Clear coat chipping off of fender from left taillight to right (approx. 3ft). About 10″ from top to bottom.

  3. I just got my car back from getting it painted a different color and found areas that are already chipping and peeling off. Very upset and frustrated.

  4. Hello, I am an 81 yr. old widow with a 2001 Toyota Camry. I’ve put a lot of money into keeping the car running but the clear coat on the hood has been blowing away every time I drive it. I can’t afford to have it painted professionally. I’m living on one S.S. check a month which does not leave any cash left over. It is also peeling on the side of the roof and on top of the rim over the back passenger window. And I’ve noticed some cracks and possible rust on the roof where it has been peeling. I’m thinking of using some acrylic paint and painting over the edges on the hood where the peeling stops hoping to stop the peeling process at that point. But I’m worried about what can be done about the roof and window areas which already may be opening up and may start to leak rain into the car. Is there some kind of compound that I can seal these openings with that might stop the damage? Will acrylic paint stick to the hood?

    Thanks for any info you can give me.


    1. Hi Pat, we do not recommend painting your own car with spray paint products from the hardware store. You would be surprised how affordable it can be to have touch ups done in our shop. Just give us a call and we can get you on the right path!

  5. I bought a new 2018 Chevy Tahoe. On June 25, 2018, and now 2 months later, I see my bumper has a chip.. like it just fell off.. my question is, should I take my truck back and asked for a new one ? Or should I let them repair something I have nothing to do with?? It won’t be the same as factory job, and we’re talking $65,000 here!! Please let me know what I should legally do.. thanks

    1. Hi Ed, we cannot give any legal advice, but your options are pretty obvious. Go to the dealer and show it to them, and I am certain they will repair it under warranty. If warranty doesn’t cover it, bumper repair is something we can do here and it will look 100% original, in and out in one day.

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