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Improper Sealer Use

Article by Don Stec
4-7-2014

People that are interested in cars often read car and trade magazines. They are a good source of information. But sometimes the information is not accurate.

An article appeared in a trade magazine by one of the newest custom rod celebrities showing how to prepare a car for painting. The car had an old paint job that had failed. The paint job was faded. It had cracks over the entire surface and the paint was starting to lose adhesion.

The celebrity painter wrote of a process to use paint sealer to coat the failing paint job. He included several photos of the hood, before, during and after to document the process and endorse the product. The final sealed product did look great, very uniform and smooth.

I was dismayed. This method is doomed for failure. I have been adamant about this for decades.

It seems every few years I see or hear of a painter who decides to spray sealer on top of a failing paint job, rather than strip (remove) the paint off the car body.

I guess it is just human nature to avoid hard work. Stripping is hard work, sealing is much easier. Using a sealer to cover a failing paint job is just wishful thinking. It has resulted in failures and costly re-dos in virtually all attempts that I have seen.

You may get away with excessive sealing on a show car that is not exposed to the elements. Especially one that is stored in a garage then transported in a covered trailer to an indoor show. A daily driver exposed to the weather will not last long.

Sealers generally are much easier to finish sand than the original paint job. Once sanded the sealer will seem very smooth and perfect. Within a few months the original pattern of the failing paint will began to show from underneath the new paint job. A few months more and the failure will resemble the original failed paint job.

Sealers are used before painting to increase adhesion, color hold out (uniformity in gloss and texture) and to give an even color base for transparent colors. They also fill minor imperfections (very minor) on a car that is properly prepared for painting.

I have been an advocate of stripping failing paint off the vehicle, almost my entire career. It is the only way to avoid a failure of the new repaint.

A few months later I received my monthly copy of the trade magazine in the mail and there was the latest article from the celebrity painter. The sealer failed. He said he was wrong and advised his readers not to use the method he had originally recommended.

In conclusion: Every painter who has asked me my opinion when they are considering using a sealer for more than its intended purpose, has defended the sealer as more capable than the manufacture recommends.

If they followed my advice they risk loosing the job, because to strip a vehicle is very time consuming to the shop and expensive to the vehicle owner.

I have seen the completed work of painters who chose to seal the vehicle by using excessive material. They sprayed multiple coats to flood imperfections in the failing paint job. Some had costly re-dos, stripping and repainting the vehicle at their own cost. Some went to court and lost. Some went out of business.

Coachmaster is a full service collision repair shop. We have painted thousands of vehicles since our business opened in 1969. We work for all the major Insurance companies. Give us a call at 530-243-1310 or stop by the shop at 6851 Eastside Road. Redding CA.