When I attended Fisher Body School at G.M. Training Center in the early 1970’s cars were coated with acrylic enamel or acrylic lacquer paint. Imron brand was the go-to paint for customized vehicles and show cars.
Quite frankly, the quality of factory paint back then wasn’t very good.
For example, orange peel was a common problem. Instead of a smooth surface, the paint would look bumpy like the skin of an orange. This was caused by improper application techniques as well as the nature of the paint.
Mitigation required fine wet sanding of the paint surface, rotary buffer with wool pad and rubbing compound, glazing to remove the swirl marks, and a hand wax.
Keeping these paints looking good wasn’t easy either.
Factory paints were soft and easily chipped and scratched. They were susceptible to marring from car wash brushes, oxidation (fading) from UV, and spotting and etching from acid rain.
Things improved in the 1980’s when formulators developed basecoat/clearcoat topcoat technology. Instead of painting cars with a single layer topcoat, manufacturers began using a two-layer system consisting of a basecoat containing pigments to provide color effects followed by a clear polymer coating layer that protected the basecoat.
These paints allowed for more colors, improved visual appearance, and greater durability (from three to five years).
Today’s auto paint is like rocket science.
For example, BASF’s iGloss technology uses a new clearcoat chemistry that combines flexible, elastic finish and strong weathering resistance of inorganic components with the high scratch resistance of inorganic glass-like, nano-clusters.
This combination allows repair of minor scratches via instant reflow. Here, the clearcoat springs back from external pressures such as the bristles of a car wash brush. BASF states recovery of 90 percent of scratch deformation.
Similarly, rocket science is now involved with protecting vehicles.
Here, wax has taken a back seat to paint protection film, ceramic and graphene gels, quick sprays, and car wash spray-on products.
All of which offer varying degrees of visual appearance, hydrophobic characteristics, durability, and price.
Arguably, vehicle protection will become more important in the future.
For example, formulators are working on car coatings that will allow highway infrastructure to “see” autonomous vehicles with dark colored paint. Similarly, camera lens and sensors will be coated or made from materials that have a strong anti-soiling effect.
Ride-hailing vehicles will have interior materials that are antimicrobial, anti-dust, and easy-to-clean.
Self-cleaning paint and coatings are already available in many
industries. For example, Sherman-Williams’ LOXON is a self-cleaning acrylic paint to prolong the lifetime of concrete and masonry.
There are also nano-particle-based paint coatings that render cloth, paper, glass, and steel self-cleaning.
Automotive paint with self-cleaning or anti-soiling effect is not commercially available…yet.
Bob Roman is a car wash consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.