What's The Best Way To Apply Aerosol Clear Coat?
It's important to take your time on each step of the touch-up process. You may have heard the saying "the key to a good paint job is in the prep work." While this is certainly great advice, it doesn't mean you should spend all your time prepping the area and just rush through the following steps. What it really means is: if you take your time to prep your project, it will make spraying your base coat and clear coat that much easier!
That being said, we get a lot of questions regarding the aerosol clear coat specifically. Here you'll find a few application pointers on how to make your clear coat look great.
- Assess the base coat. If it's bumpy or has any imperfections, the clear coat will not hide them, it will accentuate them. Fix an issue with the base before you apply clear coat.
- Practice makes perfect. We send a test card with every order, so use this not only for your color match test but to get a feel for how the clear coat sprays. Practicing on another surface before you start on the vehicle will help you avoid applying too light or too heavy of a coat.
- Plan for 2-3 coats. When applying multiple coats (recommended), it's a good idea to apply the first coat lightly. Doing so helps prevent shrinkage which causes cracks. All preceding coats should be full and wet!
- Measure your distance. As a rule of thumb, be 6-8 inches from the surface. Being too close can create drips or bubbling. If you're too far it will be very difficult to get the clear to lay down smooth. Note: if your clear looks rough, there's a good chance that you were too far away (wind will make this problem worse).
- Avoid moisture! Too much humidity can cause the clear to be foggy. No painting outside on a rainy day.
- Avoid spraying on a hot day. The optimum temperature is 72ºf, and applying the product in high temperatures can accelerate the drying process and cause the clear to dry before it lands creating a sandpaper-like finish. Note: Do not spray in direct sunlight. If the ambient temperature is 72º, a spot in direct sun will be much hotter!
- Use a spray can trigger. It's not a gimmick! They work to help you control the spray. And, they're reusable. So you can be prepared for next time.
- Your final coat of clear should essentially look like the desired finished product. Glossy and smooth. So, as you're applying that last coat be aware of how the clear is laying down. If you notice a small rough patch, go over that area again quickly until it looks glossy and smooth.
If you've applied these techniques and your final product isn't looking so great, here are a few tips on how to correct that.
- If your dried clear coat is dull, try polishing. I find this works about 70% of the time when the clear coat isn't looking glossy when dry. If the clear is really rough, polishing probably isn't going to be enough. The nice thing about polishing is that it's a "soft" approach to correcting dull clear. Meaning, you can polish it a lot and still have a very low risk of causing damage.
- Wet sanding. This option may be needed if the clear has a really coarse finish and polishing isn't working, or if there are drips that have dried and are visible. As always, use caution when sanding. It can be easy to accidentally cause more damage or burn through the base color if you’re not careful. The idea here is to lightly sand until you have a nice glassy feeling to the surface. Once you are confident the roughness has been fixed, you can clean the area and apply a new coat of clear. Note: The goal here is to try and preserve the base color — only sand away the affected clear coat.
- Wet sand and buff! This is the combination of the two steps above and is a very common trick to ridding your touch up of unsightly blemishes or imperfections in the finish (like orange peel). This is typically done on a gradient — moving from coarser sandpaper-like 1000 grit to 2000 and above. Once the sanding is complete and you're satisfied with the smoothness of the clear, you can move onto the polishing or buffing stage. This can be done by hand, but a power buffer makes things much easier.
As with any DIY repair, if you feel stuck or confused it's best to reach out for advice. You are more than welcome to reach our support staff for help.