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I have a 2005 Toyota Corolla. Within the last couple of months I have noticed an unusual condition related to the paint surface. A couple of photos:

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At first, I thought it was just the paint coming off or fading. But when I look at it now, it looks more like some kind of coating is peeling off. The paint below it seems to be reasonably OK.

So what could this be? For reference, I am in California (US). It has always been parked outdoors. For the last two years I am in a high humidity environment, about 1 mile off from the Pacific Ocean, so there are onshore winds. I have only noticed any problem within the last few months. Before that it looked OK.

My guess would be that it is some kind of protective coating. I have not put anything on the paint but the new car dealer might have.

The big question is, what can I do to clean this up reasonably?

I don't want to further damage the paint?

  • It looks like a poorly applied clear coat. Do you know if the car was ever repainted? – CharlieRB Sep 27 '16 at 16:20
  • No it wasn't. It is the original and I bought it new. – user3169 Sep 27 '16 at 19:37
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Background

Clear coat is used on paint as a clear protective layer to the paint. The clear coat is what gives the appearance of shine to the cars paint job. The clear coat is typically more robust than paint as it is what is intended by the manufacturer to be exposed to the elements.

Issue

The clear coat is separating from the paint leaving the paint exposed to the elements that will do further damage to the paint job over time. The clear coat peeling illustrated in your photo's is severe. It covers a wide area of the paint and will continue to grow and flake more over time unless you somehow intervene by fixing it.

Solutions

There are multiple solutions to this problem. None of them are easy if you plan on doing it yourself. There are 'budget' paint jobs available from some body shops but you will need to have your expectations in proper order. You will get what you pay for. This isn't to say the work won't be OK, it's more to say that the work will not be of the highest quality. It would, most assuredly, be much better than the current appearance.

A temporary alternative would be to get as much of the clear coat off as possible and buff the paint with a buffing wheel and very low grit rubbing compound followed by buffing with wax. This would make the pain shiny, to an extent. You will be removing some of the paint in this process by buffing. So when you have the results you are OK with you would want to stop with the rubbing compound and move to the wax stage.

Some Links to Tools and Videos

  • Here is a link to some buffing wheels. I have known people to put buffing wheels on drills and angle grinders so if you have something to turn it, you don't have to buy it.

  • A link to low grit rubbing compound

  • Here are some videos on repairing clear coat. You will see the extent that some of the individuals goto in order to perform a quality job. It's a lot of effort and most of them are repainting which requires time, energy, patience and research in order to be successful. This is not your path IMO but it's good for you to know what the repair looks like in terms of effort and potential cost.

  • This guy does it the cheapest possible way. Cleans up the surface and uses spray can clear coat right over the damage. You may want to use a power washer to get ALL of the peeling clear coat off if you choose this rudimentary method.

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