How To Apply Clearcoat

What’s the hardest coat to apply, primer, basecoat, or clearcoat?

If you guessed clearcoat, you would be right! Most people think it’s very easy, but if you don’t apply it correctly you can expect early peeling or even orange peel! Let us show you how to apply clearcoat properly!

How To Apply Clearcoat

First of all, why do you need clearcoat?

Maintaining the exterior of your vehicle is extremely important to extend the life of your cars paint. Without this extra layer of protection you’re opening up your basecoat to all the elements that can peel the paint away or wear it down. This can lead to rust and other damage you really don’t want to see on your car!

Clearcoat also helps create that shiny look you want on your car! Without clearcoat the paint rarely matches up perfectly when doing touch up paint, if the rest of your car has clearcoat how could you expect your touch up paint to match without it?

Assess the area and the basecoat

If you’re using clearcoat you’re either redoing the clearcoat and hopefully the basecoat looks fine. If not, the basecoat is probably in really bad shape. Make sure to redo the primer, basecoat and clearcoat at the same time. If you don’t your touch up is going to look poor in the end result.

If you’re redoing the clearcoat a lone, never go over the existing clearcoat and expect a good result. To quickly remove the old clearcoat you’ll want to take very fine sandpaper around 2000 grit. Soak the 2000 grit sandpaper in water for an hour. This will be considered a wet sanding. Lightly but firmly sand the damaged clearcoat until the peeling clearcoat is gone, be careful to not damage the base coat. Make sure to wash the area so no bits get stuck onto the car when you reapply clearcoat.

Special Note: Make sure the can of clearcoat is the right temperature! We recommend getting the can to a temperature of 80 degrees. Doing this prevents orange peel months down the road. Take the can of clearcoat and submerge it in water around 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes before spraying!


Touch up paint/clearcoat is all about preparation. Part of that is practicing applying the clearcoat! We send a test card with each order, if you’d like to practice more use a large piece of cardboard to practice on! Get a feel for how it sprays and comes out of the aerosol can!

Cover the area around the peeling clearcoat

Use masking tape, newspaper, or another item to cover the surrounding area. This is fairly straight forward, but we’ve heard some stories…. so please make sure you do this!


You’ll need to plan for several coats. If you’re spraying a large area, you may need multiple cans of clearcoat. When doing a regular touch up repair you always use more clearcoat than basecoat or primer. You’ll usually want to plan for 2-3 coats.

Apply the first coat lightly, this will help prevent cracks in the clearcoat. The next 2 coats should be full coats and look wet to the eye!

Keep your distance! But not too far! Keep the can of paint 6-8 inches from the surface. Like spraying anything, if you’re to close it’ll cause drips. If you’re too far it won’t lay on evenly.

Avoid windy, hot, or days with a lot of moisture. Do not paint on an overly foggy day, or a rainy day. Do not spray on a hot day! 72 degrees Fahrenheit is the premium temperature. Don’t spray in direct sunlight. Even if it’s 68 degrees outside, the sun will heat your car panels up much higher than that!

Use our spray can trigger in our kit! It barely costs a thing and isn’t there just to increase price! It really does help, it helps control the spray and the trigger. They’re also reusable so you can keep it around and use it on other projects!

You’ve done it!

Great job! Your final coat should look like a shiny polished finished! But remember, you need to wax your car 30 days after to really bring out the shine and color!

Did you mess up?

Hey, sometimes we mess up. That’s okay, let us tell you how you can fix these common mistakes!

  1. Your paint looks dull or lacking shine. This is most likely because you did not wax, polish or buff your car! Doing one of these will surely help and we always recommend a good wax 30 days after finishing your project.
  2. If the finish looks coarse or has lines through it, we recommend wet sanding the area as we mentioned above. Also if you have drips in the clearcoat. Use 1000-2000 grit sandpaper, we always recommend 2000 grit when wet sanding. Soak the sandpaper in water for 30 minutes and keep adding water as you go. Lightly sand the area. Remember, the goal is to only get rid of the clearcoat, not to damage the basecoat! Be careful and have patience. Once the clearcoat is off, reapply!


Quick Steps to How To Apply Clearcoat:

  1. Assess the area, remove existing clearcoat with wet 2000 grit sandpaper making sure to only remove the clearcoat. Taking special care to not damage the basecoat.
  2. Make sure the can is close to a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Practice and prep, clean the area after wet sanding. Practice spraying clearcoat on cardboard to get used to spraying.
  4. Use masking tape and something like newspaper to cover the surrounding area.
  5. Add 2-3 layer of clearcoat. First layer lightly, the next two add heavy so it looks wet!
  6. Keep the can 6-8 inches away from the panel you’re spraying
  7. Environment: Avoid windy, hot, or high moisture days.
  8. Use a spray can trigger.

Still not sure how to apply clearcoat or have general questions? Call us at 971-770-2372 or email us and we’d be happy to help!

Watch our How To Guides on YouTube!

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