How to repair a flaking clear coat

Updated April 17, 2017

The paint on your vehicle is the first thing you and others notice, so when the clear coat starts flaking, it's time for repairs. The clear coat is the top coat on your car's surface that is made to protect the base colour coat of paint. When the clear coat begins to flake, this allows harmful ultraviolet rays and rain to reach the base coat. Base coats are thin, and when the UV rays dry the base coat, rust can set in quickly. Repair a flaking clear coat and protect your car's surface.

Sand the surface of the car with 400 grit sandpaper. Keep your hand flat on the surface of the car while sanding. Sand hard enough to remove the clear coat but not hard enough to sand the base colour coat. Sand until the car looks dull. Rinse the sanding dust off of the car and let it dry completely. If there are any shiny areas on the car, sand them until they are dull.

Use the 800 grit sandpaper to sand the entire car again. Keep the 800 grit sandpaper soaking wet so build-up doesn't scratch the base coat of paint. Hold a water hose over the sandpaper while you are sanding to make sure it stays wet. Sand the car to smooth the deeper scratches made with the 400 grit sandpaper. Rinse the car when sanding is finished. Let it dry completely.

Place masking tape over any areas that won't be sprayed with clear coat paint. Cover the window glass, tires, lights, door handles, mirrors, trim and key holes to keep overspray off of them. Wipe the car's surface with wax and grease remover and a microfiber towel to remove wax particles from previous wash and wax applications and to remove grease left from your fingerprints. These things can alter the finish of the clear coat after it has dried.

Spray four to six clear coats of paint onto the car's surface, holding the sprayer 6 to 8 inches from the surface. Use left to right strokes, not up and down, and overlap each stroke by half. Use thin coats instead of thick coats so the paint doesn't run. Even with clear coat, runs can be seen once they are dry. Wait 10 minutes between each coat and one day before handling the car's surface.


Never sand or spray paint inside a closed building or garage without proper ventilation.

Things You'll Need

  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • Water
  • 800 grit sandpaper
  • Wax and grease remover
  • Microfiber towel
  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Clear coat spray paint
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About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including,, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.