Clear Coat is Not Shiny

The clear coat is a vital aspect of your car. It is the coat of paint that is non-pigmented, usually applied on the top of your base coat, causing it to pop. A shiny clear coat gives your car’s paint a deep and wet finish making it look glamorous. A brilliant clear coat will indicate the difference between a well-maintained vehicle and a neglected vehicle. It also gives a lasting impression.

Why is the Clear Coat Important?

Protection and Durability

The clear coat (view on Amazon) is the protective layer that shields the base coat and primer from harmful elements. Ultraviolet rays’ blockers are used in manufacturing the pigment to keep off ultraviolet rays from getting to the base. The UV rays are responsible for the dullness and fading of the paint. The clear coat also takes scratches, spots, and marks that could easily reach the base coat, preventing them from getting there. Fixing the clear coat is more easily done than fixing the base coat if the scratches sink into it.

Depth and Gloss

The clear coat determines the general appearance of your car. It gives your paint depth and a shiny mirror appearance. It gives the first impression of a car, and for this reason, it is very crucial.

Here are the Possible Reasons Why Your Clear Coat is Not Shiny

Insufficient Thickness of the Clear Coat

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Very thin layers of the clear coat will not protect your car from ultraviolet rays. Thin layers of not more than 50 microns give inadequate protection. The ultraviolet rays are harsh to your paintwork and reduce the lifespan of your paint prematurely. The clear coat thickness should be sufficient enough to provide adequate protection from the UV rays. This is a long-term cause that can occur in weeks, months, or even years.

Poor Quality Clear Coat Paint

The choice of clear coat paint you settle on will largely determine the finish. Choose a high-quality paint that will leave it with a clean, glossy appearance.

Wrong Reducing Agent

The wrong reducing agent results in the thinning of the paint layer. A thin clear coat layer will appear dull.

Too thick Clear Coat

While too thin, a clear coat layer exposes the surface to ultraviolet rays, which eventually dulls the clear coat, too thick clear coats mattes faster if the temperature is unusually high.

Moisture in the Air Supply Line

Moisture content within the air supply line is a common reason for your coat not to be shiny. Paint does not adhere well to surfaces with water or moisture because water hinders the chemical process causing a matte finish. Humidity in your car is caused by poor drainage and filtration in your piping system, causing increased moisture content.

Improper Hardener and Paint Mixture

Incompatibility between the hardener and the paint, topped up by low-quality paint and hardener, is a sure recipe for disaster. An improper ratio of paint and hardener will give you a bad finish. When mixing, consider the viscosity of both and how long the hardener has stayed.

Presence of Humidity after Painting

Keep your car in a dry room after finishing your paintwork. Areas filled with humidity are not conducive to drying the car. High humidity areas cause chemical reactions between hardeners and the moisture resulting in flaking off the clear coat.

Short in between Layer Application Time

In between time between the base coat layer and the clear coat, the layer should be adequate enough to allow the layers to dry, more so when using water-based paints properly.

Too Thick Base Coat

Too thick bases result in solvents being trapped in films. Apply light base coats and give it time to dry to ensure no solution will be trapped inside completely.

How do You Fix a Dull Clear Coat?

The clear coat is the paint’s top layer that is exposed to harsh environmental elements. Over time, ultraviolet rays from the sun dull the clear coat, making it a rough texture. This, however, can easily be fixed to look shiny again if you have the right materials.

Here are steps to getting your shine back.

Items required:

  • Water
  • Microfiber towel
  • Wax and grease remover
  • Clear coat spray paint
  • 600 grit sandpaper
  • 800 grit sandpaper
  • 1200 grit sandpaper

Step 1

Use 600-grit sandpaper for sanding your clear coat surface. Use water to wet your sandpaper as you sand. Using dry sandpaper creates residues under the sandpaper that could further damage your surface by causing deep cuts and scratches in your paint. Use a running water hose to ensure that water is sufficiently provided to wet your sandpaper. Evenly sand your clear coat surface ensuring that you don’t touch into the base color coat. Do not sand forcefully; a light sanding will keep you off the base coat.

Step 2

After using the 600-grit sandpaper, introduce and use the 800-grit sandpaper and the 1200 grit sandpaper. Remember always to use a wet sand paper to avoid piling up residues under your sandpaper. Finish your sanding, rinse off your surface with clean water, and let it dry.

Step 3

Use wax and grease on a lint-free rag or a microfiber towel to thoroughly wipe your surface. The towel should come off the surface, looking black the first few times due to the grease wiped off the car. If not, then your grease remover is not sufficient enough. It should remove all the old wax and greasy fingerprints. Also, avoid touching your surface with your bare hands since fingerprints have natural oil that would mess up your clear coat by forming bubbles.

Spray the clean surface with coat spray paint while keeping a distance from the surface of about 6 to 8 inches. Slowly paint avoiding runs by making your coats light. Let the paint dry in between layers as instructed. Three layers should be enough. The time the paint will take to dry will depend on the paint. Let the paint completely dry before you handle it.

The clear coat must be buffed and waxed to keep the paint looking good and fresh and maintaining its showroom condition. Buffing and waxing your car brings back its shine and beauty giving it an awesome appeal and polished look. Be sure to regularly clean and wax your car to uphold its shine level.

You Need to Know This About Your Car

If you want to avoid car problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.

A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.

How to Sand and Buff Clear Coat

Materials needed:

  • Buffing compound
  • Electric buffer/polisher
  • Buffing pad
  • Finishing polish
  • Soft foam buffing pad
  • Sandpaper (1200,1000,800 and 400grit)
  • Spray detailer
  • Wax
  • Variable speed polished


Step 1

Put the sandpaper in water. Soak all your sandpapers in clean water for not less than 30 minutes.

Step 2

Clean your car. Working on a clean vehicle will be a lot easier. Ensure that your vehicle is free of any debris or dirt by thoroughly cleaning it using soap, sponge, and water. Use a lint-free cloth or a microfiber towel to towel it dry. You can as well try air drying.

Step 3

Sand the clear coat. Use your wet 400 grit sandpaper. Sand the clear coat. Don’t be in a rush, take your time and sand the whole surface until it is smooth.

Step 4

Use 800, 1000, and 1200 grit sandpapers. Take your time doing this to get the best results. The smoother the surface, the better the sanding results. Use the 800-grit sandpaper, graduate to 1000, and then eventually the 1200 grit sandpaper. After you are done, the surface should feel and look smooth.

Step 5

Tape the areas that you are not working on. Use masking tape to cover all the delicate areas that you are not working on. For example, edges of panel, molding, and the lights.

Step 6

Prepare the sandpaper. Get your fine-grit sandpaper and the courser grit sandpaper. Start with the courser grit sandpaper as you move to the fine. However, some people prefer to start right away with fine-grit sandpaper.

Step 7


Do not put your full body force on the surface when sanding. Begin sanding lightly to avoid sinking into the base coat. Ensure that your sandpaper does not dry of causing build-ups under it, resulting in scratches. Have water ready for this purpose. Be careful not to penetrate the base coat.

Step 8

Sand Tactfully

Hold the sandpaper at 45 degrees for removing scratches, and straight lines, for normal sanding. Sand evenly and methodically. Do not forget to keep your sandpaper and surface wet. No dryness.

Step 9

Wipe dry the surface and use finer grit sandpaper. At this point, the water on your surface is probably turning whitish. Dry it off to check your progress then proceed with the finer grit sandpaper. This is to smooth out the rough texture caused by the coarse grit paper. Repeat the same procedure as that of coarse grit sandpaper. Sand until you attain a uniform white appearance then remove the tapes.


Step 1

Apply polish. Put the polish on a foam pad or electric buffer evenly. Turn on the buffer and start polishing. Regularly move the buffer around to avoid overheating specific areas. Use a variable speed polisher because it regulates the speed. It gives the best finishing. Use a wool buffing pad and wipe off the buffing remnants. Avoid using an excess compound.

Step 2

Buff with a finishing polish and soft pad. At this stage, there should be no scratches at all, maybe just elegant swirls. Use a soft buffing pad (available at local automotive stores) and a finishing polish. You may now use the buffer at a higher speed, but be careful not to concentrate on one area. The buffer should consistently be wet, supply it with sufficient finishing polish, or you’ll have a repeat job.

Step 3

Use a spray detailer to clean. Clean the buffed areas using a spray detailer to remove all the residues left behind. Ensure that it is perfectly clean.

Step 4

Look for overlooked spots on the coat. If there are any areas overlooked while buffing, start buffing again until you have an even surface that is well buffed and glossy.

Step 5

Apply a coat of wax. Only use high-quality wax to give you that look you’ve always wanted. The wax is also an extra protective layer.

If your clear coat base dries up looking dull, you should polish. Polishing works really well on finished surfaces, where the coat dries without a glossy sheen. It is an easy way of correcting dull clear coats.

A clear coat is very vital in maintaining the general shiny appearance of your car, which is usually the first to be noticed and the protection of your paint layers. The clear coat has to be properly maintained because it bears the brunt of your car’s paint inadequacies. Clean and wax it frequently to maintain its shine.