Clear coats used in auto paint applications can generally be broken down into two main types; topcoat clear and inter coat clear. Many custom car painters and auto enthusiast in general do not understand the difference in the two and when to properly use each. It is the goal of this article to concisely explain the difference in the two and when to use each for the best results.
Intercoat clears typically are comprised of the same types of resins and many of the same additives as basecoat colors. Of course they do not contain pigment or they wold not be clear. However, the resins and additives pass on some of the same great benefits you get from base coat such as fast dry, improved metallic and pearlescent application, and low recoat sensitivity. Smart custom painters use inter coat clear to apply their custom blended pearl powder and metal flakes and to protect certain layers in complex graphics and art work. Intercoat clear is superior to topcoat clear in this type application. One other note-able application of inter coat clear is its use as a blending agent for custom “fade” jobs or in blending basecoat colors for spot repair. For this type application the intercoat clear is blended with basecoat color to weaken the strength of the basecoat color making it more transparent and hence helping to slowly transition a color change. Another great use of inter coat clear is providing a fresh bed of paint for the metallics to lay into for making a blend repair less noticeable to the naked eye. While inter coat clear is sometimes used as a final clear for door jambs, underhood, and trunk applications it should never be used as the final clear on items that are exposed to the elements. For these applications topcoat clear must be used to have a durable, long lasting finish.
Topcoat clears or clear coat as they are usually referred to are the last layer application in a base coat clear coat application. They are meant to protect the basecoat layer and also give the finish its final gloss appearance. Most are two part polyurethane finishes which make them well suited for items where the finish will be exposed to the elements. A quality clear top coat is a critical part of modern car paint finishes.