Without a doubt, clearcoat is the King of automotive refinishing materials. Well, paint is equally important, but it comes second. Let’s call it … the Queen. Paint is designed to match, but clearcoat … to shine. A safe guess would be that there are much more brands and varieties of clears in the market, then basecoat systems. Clearcoat, for every big or small refinish materials supplier, is the matter of pride, the reason for war (price war I mean) and the vehicle for sales growth. In fact, some fellow rivals in the industry virtually oblige their customers to buy the correspondent quantities of clears related to the paint consumed. Free market, you tell me…
As with other important components of autobody repair puzzle, there are many misconceptions about the clears. For example, “only high solid clears are good” or “low VOC” clearcoats outperform by all parameters their solvent packed cousins. Furthermore, every paint supplier claims that he or she knows what exactly a painter asks from his clearcoat, and, usually, low price is on the top of the list (it is not, check the below survey findings). Lack of transparency (we talk about clearcoat anyway) in our industry, plenty of questionable marketing and absence of standards (read the article on this issue here) confuse the main person in the trade – painter – completely. Therefore, I decided to launch a short 10 questions survey to clear up things about clearcoats.
In the below chart you can see the results of the above-mentioned survey. It consisted of 9 clearcoat characteristics, which the participants were asked to grade from 0 (unimportant) to 10 (extremely important). The last, 10th question was asking about brand/product, which our participants considered as benchmark in quality. The whole list is presented below as well.
Based on the collected answers and from the additional comments we received from the participants the following conclusions can be drawn.
- The level of shine and gloss retention are the most valued properties of any clearcoat with almost 100% of the respondents gave it a sold 10.
- Transparency of the clearcoat comes second. From the information we got, there are still a few clearcoats in the market, which are not completely transparent. Usually slight yellowish color is the biggest problem.
- Ease of application, flow, productivity and consumption – all these parameters – are highly valued as well. Painters like “forgiving” clearcoats, which will not run or solvent pop in case of thicker than normal application. Similarly, clears with high productivity and relatively low consumption are popular too for obvious reasons.
- Final hardness, chemical and UV resistance are very important to about 85% of the respondents.
- Drying and flash off times and ease of anticipated buffing (removing dust nibs etc) is crucial for 80% of survey participants.
- Surprisingly price and solids content (VOC compliance) clearly came the last.
Between the lines
While we had an opportunity to discuss with the survey participants, a few thought-provoking points, which are not depicted by the chart, came to the surface.
- Price of a particular product is more important to re-sellers than to painters. Paint sprayers care less about price, and more about the result and ease of application.
- Gloss retention is the biggest challenge for the manufacturers, because a lot of clearcoats in the market loose the shine after only a few days.
- VOC compliance is the last clearcoat characteristic, a car sprayer considers before the purchase.
- Among the products, considered as benchmark there are many so-called “non-premium” brands.
The list of cleacoat mentioned as benchmarks presented below:
Spieshecker HS 8055
Novol Spectral Klar 565 VHS
4CR HS Rapid 7235 and 4CR 7262 UHS
Sikkens Superior LV
Debeer Supreme HS 420
Roberlo Premium 250HS
HB Body 496
Silco Airmaxx 9600
Etalon 970 UHS
Carsystem Speed Plus VOC clear
Troton Master HS
PPG Deltron D880
RM Crystal Top HS