Have factory paint jobs gotten worse or better?

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356
Location
KS
If you look at any new car today, even upscale cars, there is always always orange peel in the finish. Has it always been like this? I've heard that modern day thinner paint layers, automation and tighter controls on emmisions have meant paint jobs have actually gotten worse in terms of orange peel but the corrosion resistance of the modern paint finishes has improved. Any truth to this?
 
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7,492
Location
North America
Some of those 80s peeling paint jobs were pretty bad! I wouldn't mind if they went back to an early 70s paint quality - the kind that lasts for 40 years.
 
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609
Location
New Jersey
Originally Posted By: Kuato
Some of those 80s peeling paint jobs were pretty bad! I wouldn't mind if they went back to an early 70s paint quality - the kind that lasts for 40 years.
OMG. You need to be assigned to watch old episodes of CHiPS. Those 70's paint jobs were dull and not long-lasting. The GM lacquer paint jobs were beautiful in the showroom, but did not hold up that well. While maybe a car in a museum or a garage holds up for 40 years, on the main the seventies, sixties and eighties cars still on the road have been repainted. On the OP's original comment on orange peel, the point is taken. But new paints are very, very, very good. There are plenty of 04 cars that look like new.
 
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2,035
Location
Ontario, Canada
New car paint is pretty bad IMO. It wasn't as blatantly defective as some paint jobs have been in the past (peeling, patina etc), but they are much more consistent-- consistently orange peel-ish. Three stage wet, eco paints aren't very good compared to that hard, laquer finish of the past.
 

Kestas

Staff member
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13,958
Location
The Motor City
A couple of thoughts: EPA is forcing more environmentally friendly painting practices, which has forced the industry to turn to water-based paints, which aren't as good as they used to be. Corrosion protection comes more from the steel coatings now used (zinc or zinc alloy coatings, phosphate coatings, and E-coat primers), than from the topcoats used. A shiny paint job adds considerable cost to a vehicle. If people didn't care for beautiful, shiny, perfect paint jobs, they could save around $7000 per car and go with a battleship finish. Mercedes is toying with paint that has ceramic particles mixed in. The ceramic would make the paint considerably more scratch resistant. Some years ago at the North American International Auto Show, I saw some Mercedes vehicles with non-shiny (matte) paint jobs that looked underwhelming. I asked the guys putting on the show about it. They were trying to gauge customer reaction to it. I wonder if this had anything to do with the ceramic paint or with them trying to get the costs down with the paint regimen.
 

Nick1994

$50 Site Donor
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13,282
Location
Phoenix, AZ
I'm surprised too with the amount of orange peel in new cars. GM has terrible paint, my 96' Chevy truck's paint was wasted, my uncle has an 03' Silverado and it's paint has been peeling for years, and my step moms 10' Pontiac G6's paint totally went last summer. Not sure what corners they're cutting
 
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609
Location
New Jersey
Like so many BITOG topics, this one is overthought and overwrought. Today's single stage and especially base/clearcoat factory paint jobs are shiny, beautiful and wear like titanium. That is just not the way it was back in the day. There is some discussion about matte paint jobs and whether the public would accept them. Understand that matte paint jobs are MORE expensive than the shiny ones. If there is an idea out their to have cheap, matte paint jobs that save money, I am in.
 
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4,646
Location
The Garden State
I believe if you take care of the finish with occasional washing and waxing you'll maintain today's finishes decently. That's at least my experience with my Fords. For all three of my Fords, 1996 Contour, 2002 F-150 and 2005 Explorer the paint never had orange peel and to this day looks real good. The only sad case is my 2002 F-150 is the rust that is coming from behind the panels. It appears on lots of F-150 in the same spots from that time period here in "salty" NJ. It got worse since they began using the liquid brine salt. Whimsey
 

djb

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786
Location
Los Gatos CA
I've read that many European consumers prefer orange peel because it suggests a thicker, longer-lasting paint layer. This is more perception than reality, but perception is important for selling a new car. My observation is that water-based paints resulted in easily chipped coatings when they were introduced in the late 1990s, but that they improved by 2002 to resist chips but still have peeling issues.
 
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5,466
Location
Buckley, Wa.
My Ridgeline is stellar in the mechanicals so far....but I must admit that the paint job could be better. It's black and therefor reveals any flaws in the paint. The lower sides are thinner in application and not nearly as glossy and smooth as the upper portions. A few drips can be seen in the right light as well.
 
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36,461
Location
ME
I saw a black Suburban that had, what I thought was, "controlled orangepeel." It had a uniformly crinkly finish with a nice gloss clearcoat on top. I figure if you're going to have orangepeel, have it look uniform and nice. Speaking of clearcoat, how much money is saved by the OE by leaving it off? I ask because some "fleet white" cars don't have it, and some real junkers like the "Ford Escort Pony" came with dull paint as well.
 
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609
Location
New Jersey
Originally Posted By: eljefino
I saw a black Suburban that had, what I thought was, "controlled orangepeel." It had a uniformly crinkly finish with a nice gloss clearcoat on top. Speaking of clearcoat, how much money is saved by the OE by leaving it off? I ask because some "fleet white" cars don't have it, and some real junkers like the "Ford Escort Pony" came with dull paint as well.
You are not saving money per se. If a single stage paint is applied, there is no advantage to adding clear coat. Clear coat paint is dull by itself and not durable, and must be completed with clear coat. Single stage paints are easy to touch up and lend themselves to compounding and polishing. Clear coat is more expensive.
 
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13,616
Location
Frisco, TX
Originally Posted By: djb
I've read that many European consumers prefer orange peel because it suggests a thicker, longer-lasting paint layer. This is more perception than reality, but perception is important for selling a new car. My observation is that water-based paints resulted in easily chipped coatings when they were introduced in the late 1990s, but that they improved by 2002 to resist chips but still have peeling issues.
Orange peel is the byproduct of mass-production paint processes. A good body shop can get you a "thick, long-lasting" paint job like OEM without the orange peel. In fact, most body shops can easily surpass an OEM paint finish. The only exceptions might be some of the very high-end exotics that are meticulously examined by hand and corrected, but I have been to enough car shows to know that even brand new Ferraris have orange peel. Orange peel is actually a good way for me to tell that the car probably has the original paint. Body shop paint jobs are often too perfect.
 
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593
Location
Al
Current factory paint is a lot better and longer lasting than paint jobs on 60s and 70s cars. GM silver paint on my 1979 Grand Prix was complete trash. The silver paint burned up and oxidized in about 4 years time and the car was washed and waxed regularly and garaged! That experience permanently cured me of purchasing GM POS cars.
 
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7055

Thread starter
Messages
356
Location
KS
Did cars from the 60's and 70's have orange peel on them though? I have heard that they didn't but I was not around.
 
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3,558
Location
SE Pa
Yes, orange peel has always been present to some degree on just about every car. But how it is handled varies. Coating technology has improved enormously since the '60s. Many years ago, if you spilled alcohol on Duco, you had a problem. The later lacquers were a bit better, but still had UV issues. Applicators got around these problems by laying down a heavier coating, to permit more corrections as the paint aged. Today's urethane paints are really durable. My body man didn't like the recent changes in some water-based products, but they haven't seen a problem with durability. Paints are so good today, people forget how hard it was with silver paints. Good urethane auto paint is quite expensive. The issue has always been how much paint a manufacturer is going to "spend" per vehicle. That affects how to deal with orange peel. Chrysler owners from the mid 80s into the '90s know all about not enough paint. They were too worried about it peeling off the car to even think about orange peel. But as you move up market, you get the highest grade coatings, and more of it. That extra coating depth allows more margin for corrections, including removing residual orange peel. Some owners of near exotics and exotics will spend four to five figures with top detailers to bring down the clearcoat to remove every last hint of orange peel. These cars do not have thin coatings. The cars look beyond incredible. I had my detailer do that on a much lighter scale on our R129 when we got it. That car has the paint depth to do it. But I don't think I'd ever even attempt that with our '11 Chevy truck. The paint is very good . . . but there just isn't enough there for serious corrections. Like everything else, the more you spend, the more you get. Corrosion resistance is more a matter of the panel content and prep than the coatings. You can chisel the paint off an old Volvo and it will take forever to rust. If you nicked a late '70s Honda, rust spread like the plague.
 
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