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So I decided to take on the tough project of fixing the clear coat peeling on my car (2007 Civic). Mind you this was my first time doing a project like this (painting car panels) so I didn't expect the results to be great, however, I was looking for improvements on my exterior and was willing to take that risk. My OEM color of my car is Night Hawk Black (B92P) and all the following was done using a rattle can and in my garage with the door open. I uploaded pictures so you can see what I mean. I also don't know if I posted in the correct sub reddit so please let me know this is the wrong one.

I started wet sanding a portion of my fender where there was clear coat flaking, and made it so that area was very smoothed out, once it was smoothed out, I taped it off preparing to prime it. I applied primer to that portion sectioned off with 2 coats (waited 20ish mins per coat) and did 4 passes per coat. Then I waited a bit over an hour letting the primer dry before fine sanding it again to smooth it out before applying my base coat color on it. For my base coat color (black), I went to Lordco for them to mix a paint that matched my car, and in that base coat color included clear coat mixture too. Then I applied 3 layers of base coat, with 4-5 passes each coat and waited 15ish minutes between each coat. For primer and base coat, my speed of sprays were pretty smooth and I was around 8-10 inches away from the panel. Results after the first coat looked really good, gloss was there, color looked basically the same as my OEM color on my car. As I applied more coats, gloss was still there but not as glossy as it was before. After the third coat the paint still looked fine, just more darker shade to it, still very similar to the car color itself. However letting it dry overnight, the paint turned almost like a matte black color, and when removing the tape prep, it made a solid paint line. I obviously knew I was going to have to deal with a paint line, however I just didn't realize it was hard to get off and blend the new paint with my OEM car color paint. I tried sanding, not going lower than 2000 grit, but the paint line wasn't coming off. So now It looks like half my fender was obviously painted but its a matte black type look with little gloss with a hard paint line.

I was wondering on what I did wrong here, and what to do next time going into this DIY project. I was thinking worse comes to worse I can redo the whole process and try a step differently for some improvement.

Do I regret doing this project? Maybe lol, but I just see this as a learning experience and a project that I can just say I attempted to do in the past.

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While I am BY FAR no expert in the paint department, I think there are several things you need to look at to get to a better end result:

If you can afford it:

  • Purchase a cheap High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) spray gun to use while painting. You can run these off of a pancake compressor without too much of an issue. Also use a water separator/dryer in line to take out all moisture and oil which may come through the line.
  • Buy some good clear coat. A rattle can clear coat can work, but putting out a little bit more money clear coat/reducer/hardener can get you much better results.

If you can't afford to lay out money as above:

  • Regular rattle can (ie: Rustoleum) clear coat isn't a great choice for an auto application. While it costs a bit more, you can get a rattle can from most auto refinishing paint suppliers which is a rattle can, but has a small compartment in the bottom of the can which you puncture to introduce the hardener into clear coat at the time of application. This will give you a MUCH better finish than the other cheaper brands at a fraction of the cost of buying the HVLP gun and compressor (if you don't have one already).
  • It looks as through you didn't do too bad of a job in the prep department. The only change you need to make there is to remove the old clear coat on the entire panel. As you found out the hard way, cutting it back to a line does not work. It needs to be contiguous. Using the body lines as your edge will mask the edge of the work as well as not allow for the old clear coat to continue to peel.

Regardless of which way you go above, prep-work is the most important part of getting a quality finish on the panel. Ensure you use something like Prep-All or acetone to complete clean the panel just before you go to paint. After the Prep-All, use a tack cloth (a microfiber towel works great) to clean up any other dust particles or contaminants on the body panel.

One other thing is you cannot use enough masking tape and paper. You might be able to get the panel to look good, but overspray can turn the rest of the car ugly. Don't be "that person", lol. Cover EVERYTHING not being painted. Tape/cover inside of your engine compartment from the edge of the fender. Even though you will probably have the hood closed, the clearcoat will spray between the hood and the fender, which will give you ugliness inside when you lift the hood. You'll thank me for that later :o)

The big thing here to realize is, the panel is going to look better following the above guidelines, but it is doubtful you will EVER get it to match what is on the car already. The rest of the clear coat is as old as what is peeling now. It will peel sooner or later as well. If you get good results on this one panel, you'll probably want to do the same for another panel, then one panel at a time (or whatever you feel comfortable with) you can transform and re-protect your car's finish with the new clear coat.

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