Peeling paint is a highly visible cosmetic issue that can be distressing for many car owners. It often starts when the clear coat begins peeling off in a small area, causing alligator cracks. Over time, this area of peeling paint typically begins to spread, causing widespread chipping and cracking. To help you understand this mystifying issue, read on for an explanation of why paint can begin to peel off of a car's frame and how it can be fixed.
Why Does Car Paint Peel Off?
The paint on a car has multiple layers—primer is applied to the bare metal, multiple layers of paint are applied over the primer, and then clear coat is applied over the final paint layer. Normally, all of these layers should tightly adhere together. When any of these layers separate, it's called delamination—this is the root problem behind peeling paint.
What causes delamination to occur? Sometimes it's simply manufacturer error—cars made in the late 90s and early 2000s often suffered from this problem simply due to the difficulty manufacturers experienced when they switched to new painting processes. It can also be caused by a poor DIY paint job in which the correct type of primer, paint, or clear coat was not used.
In some cases, damage can cause delamination. A small chip in the clear coat can lead to peeling paint if you pressure wash the car or use an automated car wash. The high-pressure water can slip underneath the clear coat, and the moisture can cause it to slowly detach from the paint layer underneath. That's why it's a good idea to have clear coat scratches fixed as quickly as possible—you will be able to avoid further damage to your car.
How Do You Fix Peeling Paint on a Car?
The only acceptable way to fix peeling paint is to sand the affected area down to the bare metal and repaint it, starting with primer. The reason for this is that it can be difficult to tell which layers have delaminated. Reapplying only a peeling clear coat layer would be inadequate if the primer was detaching from the bare metal underneath—paint would still continue peeling in that area. In the case of paint peeling due to manufacturer error or a DIY paint job, it is very likely that the entire car will need to be sanded and repainted to correct the problem.
Because repairing peeling paint on a car requires extensive work, it's best to take your car to a car body repair service to have it performed. You want to ensure that all of the delaminated area has been completely sanded away so that the problem does not occur again. When the entire area has been sanded down and repainted, the peeling problem will be solved for good, and there will be no risk of any scratches or delamination allowing it to spread again.