Failing Clearcoat Experiment - Starting December 2020


Staff member
Dec 14, 2002
New Jersey
I bought my 96 Ram with clearcoat failure. It’s Driftwood satin metallic (code PFA), and faded, with bad clear.

I was trying my hand at some body work, because the truck is a good opportunity to learn. As discussed here:

It isn’t/doesn’t need to be pretty, has earned its marks over 439k miles, and runs like a top, comfortably.

There are spots that have clear failure, and I had a bit of remnant paint and 2k clear. The clear is trash in 48 hours. So I figured why not experiment with not quite clear “repair”, but at least an attempt at stabilization. For the record, I have had good restoration shops sand and re-clear paint successfully. The roof of my lapis blue 1982 MB 300CD is an example. Spent its life in SOCAL, and it was crazing.

I wanted to try some very, very rudimentary approaches. This isn’t intended for quality work, it’s intended to see how clear products will last, or won’t, on failed surfaces.

Approach 1: sand, paint, clear. I had very little paint, so only tried this one place. I used 320 grit paper, And in the end, especially the edge of the paper, to chip up failed clear to get to tight paint. Feathering is key here... as is getting the level up. Due to light and temperature, I was trying to get through this relatively quick - in reality the hood/cab needs a full repaint, but this “experiment” will do for now.

Near point:


Scuffed further and tried to feather the hood clear. Then applied basecoat. First few rounds were about building up. I painted the hole, then used a towel to remove paint on the edge or further out. Final coat got a wider spray with some “blending”. The low level in the paint can made it come out darker yet, no matter how I mixed.


Then sprayed it over with 2k clear. In the end, it looks ok, better than the failed clear I guess. The spots where it was better feathered look like a better blend. Some spots Incouldnt stop from being quite abrupt, at least without much more time.

You can see both here:


Definitely a lip, but some smoother than others.

Approach 2: scuff only. The issue with this is that scuffing with fine paper, the remaining basecoat still lightens up a bit. So it’s a brighter spot. The clear darkens it a bit it seems. This spot was right next to the other spot that I painted, so I can compare them in time. Honestly, I didn’t feather this one as well.


Its the lighter circle just inboard of the other repair.

Approach 3: no prep. This truck hasn’t been waxed or coated in forever, and so I used the last bit of 2k right on the failed spots just to see how it adheres and comes off in time.

I left the failed clear on there as I assume it will chip in time, and I wanted to see if the new clear would wick under.

These two you can see just the fewest droplets at the bottom, darkening the paint in the first picture, then on the whole spot in the second.



My other curiosity was if the clear would “seal” the exposed metal. In hindsight, I should have sanded it to bright metal, but oh well... since there is exposed metal, this is one that need more repair to stabilize the metal.

I put it on some other failure spots, like here, half exposed, half sprayed.

I have zero expectations for any of this, just don’t have the time or inclination to paint the cab currently, and had some remnant material that was going to waste otherwise.

The truck will be out all the time, so if/as anything changes, I’ll try to document. I figure this might be helpful to someone with a low value or beater car, who wants to get more use out of it, and might find value in topping clear (if mildly successful) to buy a bit of time.

Not recommended for anyone who wants to get a proper paint job or keep their vehicle long-term. This is viable here because it’s just a high mileage of truck.
Great. When I was in high school they offered a 2 week body work class from someone that had done it for 35 years I done it and learned a lot but still not very good at it so this is helpful for me to learn more as well. I think you’re doing a great job for a starter. Hopefully it will hold up well.
It's more work to touch that up than it is to sand it down and repaint.

I don’t know. I don’t think I could ever get the whole hood done consistently and evenly as a DIY job on the vehicle. But I can touch up spots in minutes.

As noted, I only did it because I had some remnant 2k clear which only has 48hr pot life. I wouldn’t do this and waste a can of clear for a few spots.

If I was serious, I’d pull and mask everything myself, then go to Maaco and get the cab painted for $500 or whatever. This was just to see how the clear spreaded over might fail, or might not.