skip to Main Content

Why Does Automotive Paint Peel?

Keep reading for the answer, as well as what you can do about it.

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.

Close search
Back To Top