What are the most common car paint problems?

What are the most common car paint problems?

Paint is one of the most expensive parts of your car. It’s also one of the most important, as it protects your vehicle from all kinds of damage and deterioration.

So when your paint starts to go bad, you’re not just looking at a cosmetic problem; you’re looking at an issue that could make or break your car’s performance in many ways.

Paint problems can occur for any number of reasons, but there are some common ones that show up on cars more often than others.

Let’s go through what the common car problems actually are.

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    This happens when something acidic etches away at the surface of the car’s body.

    Bird droppings and acid rain are the most common causes of this form of paint damage and usually occur after prolonged exposure.

    Bird poo car paint etching

    If you notice that your car has been exposed to these contaminants, you should clean this off as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage.

    Delamination (Blistering)

    This is where the clear coat starts peeling off, exposing first the color coat and then the underlying paint or primer.

    This can be caused by water damage, poor cleaning practices (the use of improper soap or detergents), not waxing your car regularly, acidic contaminants like bird droppings, road salt, acid rain, and environmental pollutants.

    Water spots

    Water spots are little droplets of water that evaporate, leaving behind the minerals and salt particles that cause the spots.

    These tiny spots usually have a cloudy appearance to them and can, over time damage your car paint.

    This can be prevented by regularly washing your car regularly with the appropriate soap and detergents followed by a periodic full waxing session for your car.

    Other ways to avoid this include covering the car with tarpaulin covers or parking in a garage.


    Rust occurs when iron in the car’s body reacts with oxygen to form rust, causing tiny rust particles to appear on the surface of the car.

    Usually, this happens when there is even a tiny scratch or dent on your car.

    Rusted car paint

    If the scratch has penetrated the paint’s clear coat completely, then the risk of rust is extremely high, especially if scratches of this type are left untreated.

    This is because the clear coat acts as a protective barrier between the environment and the actual paint beneath it.

    As the paint layer is far less protective than the clearcoat, the metal body beneath the paint will be easily exposed to the elements and the risk of rust.

    This can be prevented by regularly waxing your car paintwork.

    Wax and sealants add an extra protective layer on top of the clear coat and also fill in any scratches. As wax is a water-repellant, this will reduce the chance of water getting into the scratch easily.


    This is the loss of color pigments from the car’s body typically caused by exposure to ultraviolet light (UV). This can also happen on surfaces like glass, plastics, and leather.

    Even though cars are painted with paints that contain UV blocking agents, they can still be susceptible to fading if you park them under sunny spots for prolonged periods.

    If you want to avoid this situation, try not to leave your car in direct sunlight for extended periods and regularly apply a protective wax to the paintwork.


    These are formed when something abrasive cuts away at the surface of the car paintwork.

    Items like keys, loose change, and rings can do this kind of damage. Even grit caught in soapy water during a wash can cause this.

    Usually, with light scratches, the damage will run through the car’s clear coat only, and not reach as far as the paint. We discuss this in more detail here

    If this happens then polishing the paint with compound using a dual-action polisher (or a rotary polisher if you are skilled enough) followed by waxing can remedy this.

    Diagram of a protective layer of wax on paintwork

    However, if the scratch gets through to the paint layer, then some form or respray will be required to permanently fix this.

    To avoid them, try avoiding wearing jewelry items and belts with metal buckles when you are washing your car or servicing it at a workshop.

    Also, keep your pockets empty of keys and loose change as well, as these can cause damage through the trouser material via rubbing.

    You can also minimize risk by regularly waxing your car paintwork.

    Gloss Reduction/Flatness

    It doesn’t matter what type of finish your car comes with, all paint types can lose their shine over time due to oxidation caused by an assortment of atmospheric contaminants.

    This causes the paint to appear dull or flat.

    Regular waxing will help slow this effect, as the protective layer of wax also acts to fill in any minor surface scratches, making them less visible and less hazy.

    What if I decide to respray the vehicle?

    Respray car paint

    To clean their paintwork, people usually resort to using all sorts of different chemicals and polishes to try and restore the lost finish.

    However, these products may not necessarily be safe for your car’s finish. Also, some DIY-ers may feel confident enough to perform resprays on their vehicles.

    This is obviously a highly skilled activity and can go wrong with the slightest of environmental changes and mistakes.

    It’s always best to consult a professional detailer before you do anything that could potentially damage your car’s paintwork.

    Some of the common car paint issues encountered with resprays include:


    Fisheyes are a type of blemish that usually occurs when a car has been resprayed without proper decontamination of the paintwork. Contaminants can include residual wax, grease, etc that has not been sufficiently cleaned away.

    Fisheyes appear as tiny craters giving it an odd, pot-holed appearance. If left untreated, these little craters can even cause corrosion to happen at the metal level as water is trapped inside them.

    If you have fisheyes on your paintwork then perhaps the best way to resolve is to polish the paint with a cutting compound and decontaminate. This will smooth the paint surface making it ready to be resprayed again.


    This occurs when the underlying paint shrinks under the newly applied paint. This can occur for a number of reasons, some of which includes:

    • Sudden change in the atmosphere e.g. temperature or humidity
    • The new paint may negatively react with the underlying older paint
    • Not allowing the paint to fully cure
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