Getting Familiar With Your Vehicle's Paint

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Whether your vehicle needs a touch up or a full body paint job, it's important to know the differences between enamel, lacquer, and urethane auto paints. You also need to know what kind of paint is on your vehicle now if you want to match the new paint to the existing paint. Otherwise, the paint may not adhere, or you may not get the finish and color you want.

Acrylic Lacquer Auto Paints

While vehicles painted with acrylic lacquer auto paints generally require more than one coat, the paint dries quickly. If your vehicle has this kind of paint, imperfections can be rubbed out, allowing for an easy fix for surface blemishes.

Like acrylic enamel paints, acrylic lacquer paints dry to a glossy finish, but are a soft paint that wears easily and isn't as resistant as other paint types to chips and fading. Acrylic lacquer paints are easier to apply then other auto paints, but because of the high lead content, auto body repair shops generally no longer use it. Although some auto body shops that restore classic cars still use it, the paint is expensive.

Acrylic Enamel Auto Paints

Vehicles painted with acrylic enamel auto paints usually need only one or two coats of paint applied to the body. While acrylic enamel paints dry more slowly than lacquer paints, the gloss finish is durable and more fade-resistant. Acrylic enamel paint hardens when it dries so that the paint job lasts longer. Also, if you don't want to strip the paint down to the metal, a new coat of enamel paint will adhere to the paint surface underneath.

When it comes to compatibility, you can use acrylic enamel paint on a vehicle painted with acrylic lacquer as long as you properly prepare the surface. But if you apply acrylic lacquer paint over acrylic enamel, the paint can wrinkle.

Urethane Auto Paints

If you own a newer vehicle, the factory paint job is urethane-based. Urethane paints are easier to apply and wear longer than most acrylic auto paints. They cover a vehicle's surface better than acrylic paints, providing a durable, chip-resistant finish. The paint also adheres well; therefore, it can be sprayed over other types of paints – even lacquer paint.

Test for Paint Type

You can test for your vehicle's paint type on an inconspicuous spot or on the area that you want repainted. Wet a clean white cloth with lacquer thinner and then gently rub the spot. The paint is enamel if the color rubs off or the paint begins to wrinkle. If you have to rub the spot really hard before the color comes off on the cloth, the paint is lacquer. Urethane-based paint won't rub off.

To find out whether there is a clear coat finish on the body of your vehicle, sand a spot where you won't notice with fine sand paper. If the residue that comes off is white, your vehicle has a clear coat finish. But if the residue is the color of the vehicle's paint, it isn't covered with a clear coat finish.

Matching the Paint Color

To get the current paint color, look for the paint code information for your vehicle – usually located on the door jamb inside the driver's door. One of the paint codes listed is for the exterior paint color of the vehicle. Once you have the number, a dealer can give you the name of the paint. If you can't find the paint code placard on your vehicle, give the dealer your VIN number (vehicle identification number) instead. Contact a company like A.O.K Auto Body & Glass for more information.