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Hand-applied clear coats offer cost-effective solutions

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 07:00
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A unique method of paint restoration is allowing detailers to take high-profit business away from you. Get this business back without the expense of new equipment or training.

Less than three years ago, I did not think it was possible to formulate a clear coating that could be applied with a hand application — easy as wax, but with a coating similar to those you have sprayed on for years.

In the last several years, hand-applied clear coatings that can lay down as fine a finish as a spray job for restoring original color to the paint while leaving an often better-than-new shine have been developed and are being used by many detail operations. This clear coating can also make paint swirls, light scratches and scuff marks seem to disappear and can even bring back life to a surface where the paint had gone white from a burned out clear coat.

Now that I have your attention, let’s get to the details — how much prep work is required and how difficult is it to apply?

Prep work involves first cleaning the vehicle with a thorough pressure washing, then using a scuffing paste (like Presta's Scuff Stuff or Sherwin-Williams’ USP 90) applied by microfiber cloth or white 3M Doodlebug scrub pad, depending on the vehicle, with water and light hand pressure. Rub in a circular motion; if you have to rub up and down or back and forth to clean a difficult area, always finish with a circular cleaning motion. Rinse with water and finish the preparation by using a tack rag. To complete an average car (Toyota Camry, for example), it should take about 45 minutes. 

The application process will vary depending on supplier instructions, but all vendors agree you must have a wet enough coating on the surface to allow for proper flow out. Don't try to work it in; it doesn't need that. The objective is to have enough coating over the area you are working on so that it almost runs. If you don’t have enough, your finished application will have streaks. It is a learning process and may take four or five attempts before you become proficient.

Always practice on a scrap surface before attempting a quarter panel, door, trunk, hood or especially a whole vehicle. Hand application of the clear coating takes approximately 30-45 minutes. Touch dry time varies by vendor, but usually takes less than 30 minutes. Ready-to-go-out-the-door drying can take all day; but, the time can be greatly reduced by use of heat lamps.
If you have to paint over this "miracle" coating, don’t worry. Most vendors offer a coating that adheres to automotive coatings readily, and those automotive coatings can adhere to it. Painting over it, if or when it becomes necessary, is not a problem. However, there are now multiple vendors in the hand-applied category, most of whom are good at marketing but know close to nothing about the chemistry of the product they sell. Make sure you deal with an established manufacturer, not a reselling agent.

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