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The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Automotive Paint

Aside from owning a car, one of the coolest things you could brag about is painting your own vehicle. However, when you are already faced with the many choices of automotive paint at the shop, you might just be wondering what you got yourself into. As the attendant rolls off such terminologies as single-stage, two-parts, enamel or urethane from his tongue, you’d probably think he is speaking another language and that you’d best run for the door fast.

If you are really serious about painting your own car, you need to be aware and accept that it might be a long process. You need to do some research so you will know the ins and outs of the kinds of automotive paints you will need as well as the tools you need to use in applying them. So, below you will find some pointers that will help start you off in painting your own car. They might be just about paint, but they are the first things you need to know before you start doing any paint job.

Learn About the Basics

There are basically three ingredients that make up all kinds of automotive paints. These are the carrier agent, the pigment and the binder. The carrier agent is the solution where the resin ingredient of the paint is suspended. It is what liquefies this resin until its application, when it bonds chemically to the car’s surface or evaporates into thin air. This resin is otherwise known as the binder and it works like sap from a tree because it is that sticky and thick hydrocarbon liquid that toughens up when it comes in contact with air. Meanwhile, the pigment or what is also known as the tint is the one responsible for the color of the paint.

Knowing Urethane and Enamel

The resins in automotive paint are usually made up of one of three elements namely urethane, enamel or lacquer. The first two are the best options you can make, although they come in different varieties. These are acrylic, synthetic and hybrids made up of the two resins. In general though, enamel and urethane are the common terms for the chemical combination of hydrocarbon polymers that formulates the resins in paints. This chemical combination impacts the durability and look of a paint’s finish, the manner by which it is applied and its costs.

Getting Up Close and Personal With Lacquer

Lacquer, on the hand, is known to be easy to apply and dries up to a glossy finish that’s fit for any show car. However, it is hard to find and is largely illegal in a lot of states in the country. Compared to the widely-used paints nowadays, lacquer is also known to be disadvantageous because it requires high maintenance and tends to become brittle as years go by. You need to wax and buff it regularly, protect it from harsh sunlight to slow down its aging and pay it a lot of attention so it won’t go chalky and cracked in just a couple of years.

Environmentally, lacquer is also known as one of the worst pollutants because it dries up instead of bonding chemically to the car’s surface during curing period. This means that the liquid components of this type of paint evaporate into the air, leaving the pigment on the surface of the car. These liquid components such as toluene are highly toxic and are behind the laws that prohibit its use in many states. So, while lacquer might be great for show cars that do not leave the garage unless it’s placed for display, it is not a practical choice for people who regularly drive their cars out in the open.

No matter how high-quality your paint might be, it is most likely to appear bad on your car if it was not prepped the proper way. You also need to know that enamels, which are not as expensive as urethanes, are softer resins and will usually bring you a glossy finish to your vehicle. While urethanes might be better when it comes to durability, they are also harder to spray on vehicles.

Go for Two-Parts or Single-Stage

As soon as you have decided between using urethane or enamel, there are still more options you have to choose from. You will be asked if you want two-parts or just the single part or if you want a clear coat or base coat or a single-stage.

The One-Part Paint

The single/one or two part component paints are also known as 1K or 2K and these distinctions simply refer to the need or non-need of an activator for the paint to dry. You can spray one or single part products instantly, although they might need a solvent like thinner so it can go through a spray gun properly. However, this kind of paint is not usually used to paint a whole car.

The Two-Part Paint

Two-part paint products are those that need activators or hardeners to stimulate chemical bonding between the paint and the car’s surface, which is commonly known as drying or evaporating. Without activators, two-part paints have longer shelf life because they do not dry by themselves. They are also non-porous and weatherproof. You can actually just apply a 2K primer on your car and leave it without having to worry about the rusting of your sheet metal.

The Single-Stage or Basecoat/Clearcoat Paints

While basecoats or clearcoats dry to a semigloss or matte finish, single-stage paints results in a glossy finish even without the help of a clearcoat. What makes basecoats or clearcoats glossy are the succeeding coatings of clear paint. So, if you have to choose between single-stage and clearcoats or basecoats, you have to know that both are great in terms of quality. However, this will also depend on the color of your choice.

For basic yellow, black or red colors, you can actually save up on your budget and time by going for single-stage paint, as this won’t need an additional cost of a clearcoat. If you want to go for a metallic finish though, it is better that you go for the basecoat-clearcoat system even if there are single-stage paints available. The additional clearcoat layers provide more protection to your car against chips and scratches. Plus, it will allow you to do some wet-sanding for a super-smooth glossy finish. For pearl or metal flake colors, you should use the basecoat and clearcoat system as the pearl or metal flake treatments are applied right after the color and then succeeded with a clearcoat.

These are just among the basics you should learn about automotive paint. Professionals recommend that in doing a paint job, you should pick a particular brand for your paints and stick to this with all your other painting products. This way, the compatibility of every layer won’t be compromised, right from the etching primer up to when you apply the topcoat.

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