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How Automotive Finishing Works

Advances in Automotive Finishing
A clear coat protects the car and its paint from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.
A clear coat protects the car and its paint from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.

Most people probably don't think about it, but advancements in automotive finishing are some of the most important improvements in automotive manufacturing. Cars today generally have the same basic parts as the first cars to roll off Henry Ford's assembly lines. The paint doesn't look all that different (except that you have more color choices), but automotive finishing these days involves technology far beyond anything that would have been on a Model T.

Some of the biggest advancements are not in the paint, but in the sealant, or clear coat, that carmakers put on top of the paint. Clear coat protects the paint from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. In some cases, the clear coat goes directly over a car component. For example, in the case of the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, the clear coat went over exposed carbon fiber panels with no paint.

Clear coat not only protects the paint from the sun, it also acts as a suit of armor for small dings and scratches -- it takes the hit instead of the paint, since a scratch in the clear coat is much less visible than a scratch in the paint. In one of the most recent advancements in automotive finishing, Nissan developed a self-healing clear coat for one of its luxury brands [source: Gable]. With the self-healing clear coat, small scratches fix themselves in a matter of days. The clear coat uses an elastic resin. When a space in the coating is created by a scratch and it's exposed to sunlight, the coating fills the space. That keeps the paint below the clear coat safe and the car looking good.

Read on to learn how automotive finishes can protect your car's value.