red car with asutomotive refinish as touch up paint for car

Automotive refinish fixes major and minor paint damage

Automotive refinish is not just for hot rods and racing stripes. Refinish paints are applied to vehicles as part of a total refinish, part refinish, or as a touch up paint for minor damage. Automotive refinish is also an important aspect of the commercial vehicle market; maintaining branding through color and design across a fleet. Auto refinish market is constantly developing coatings to match the standards being set in the OEM coating market.

In this article we outline the various automotive refinish processes and markets including collision repair, car repair paint, and commercial vehicles. We also discuss the automotive refinish companies and suppliers operating in the US.


The 3 processes that require automotive refinish paints

The OEM coatings that protect a brand new vehicle are applied in a multi-step process in the manufacturer’s paint shop. A vehicle straight from the lot is coated in five layers of protective and decorative coating: phosphating, electrocoat, primer, base coat, and clear coat. The combined effect of these coatings provides color as well as protection from corrosion, stone chip damage, and fading. When the coating is damaged, the whole coating system may need replacing with automotive refinish paints.

1. Car touch up paint for scratches and minor damage

Not all damage requires an extensive refinish. Small scuffs, scrapes, and scratches can be repaired through the use of car repair paints. These range from tinted waxes and coating pens to touch up kits and 2K fillers. For the best results, a professional application is always advisable.

2. Vehicle refinish for a flawless total respray

automotive refinish applied as total respray in red

Automotive refinish paints are suitable for total respray.

The total respray market is far smaller than the car repair market, making up about 5% and 95% of the total automotive refinish market, respectively. If a vehicle’s paintwork is damaged, or the choice is made to refinish, have it refinished by a professional. There are many steps involved (some garages claim they use over 100 different steps), and an automotive refinish requires a high level of technical competency.

  • Surface preparation: First the original car paint must be sanded down, all traces old paint and rust removed. Body damage needs to be repaired in order to ensure a smooth surface, and then the whole surface will need a clinical clean. Finally, masking is applied to areas which need to be protected from the paint.
  • Application (spraying): Primer needs to be applied first (epoxy, polyester, or urethane based) and then sanded into a smooth and even finish. After this the color coat is applied, followed by a clear coat. There are coatings available that combine these two layers, such a single-stage urethane. This combines the protective powers and gloss of a clear coat with the color of a base coat. In a two-stage system, the base coat provides color and the clear coat is the protective layer which provides sheen, UV resistance, and seals in the basecoat.

3. Auto refinish market gets vehicles back on the road

Accidents happen. In fact, hundreds of motor accidents happen every day. An important aspect of getting a vehicle back to its best is the auto refinish. Sometimes a lick of car touch up paint does the job, but sometimes a complete respray may be needed for full recovery. The steps involved in refinishing a damaged vehicle are:

  1. Determining the paint type: The move from solvent-based to water-based coatings over the past decade means that the color coat (the base coat) in car coatings is now water-based, with the clear coat commonly consisting of solvent-based 2K paints. Older cars may have a range of paints, however, so in order to make sure coats are compatible the shop will test paint types.
  2. Matching the paint color: Vehicles come in literally thousands of colors, and getting the shade even slightly wrong causes a jarring end product. Specialty equipment and tools provide precise color readings in order to perfectly color match.
  3. Replicating the finish: If a vehicle is not being entirely resprayed, it is very important to match not only color but also finish across the entire paint job. This is not as simple as buffing to the right sheen. When paint is applied it has a finish texture on a scale from “orange peel” to smooth. A refinish needs to match this texture.

Coating commercial vehicles with specialized vehicle refinish paints

a truck with automotive refinish as repair paint

Commercial vehicles need even more durable refinishes…

A commercial vehicle or fleet has special requirements from an automotive refinish. The branding has to be consistent across a fleet, meaning the color, texture, and gloss need to be the same for each vehicle. Commercial vehicles’ coatings need to be able to endure long hours of damaging debris on the roads, exposure to UV radiation, as well as changeable weather conditions. Because these vehicles are often so much larger, they also need low temperature curing coatings which do not require exposure to heat in a drying room.

A coating failure will lead to vehicle downtime and loss of earnings, so the coating needs to perform and keep the vehicle on the road for as long as possible. Which is why hard-working coatings like epoxies and urethanes are used – they provide superior corrosion protection, durability, and chemical resistance combined with premium quality appearance attributes such as gloss, color, and smoothness.


Get in touch with automotive refinish coating suppliers

The top five automotive refinish coatings companies are Axalta Coatings (Cromax, Spies Hecker, and Standox), Akzo Nobel (Sikkens, Dynacoat, and Wanda), BASF (Glasurit, LIMCO), PPG Industries, and Sherwin-Williams. Companies supply bodyshops, distributors, and dealerships with their coatings, working together to provide customers with the best possible portfolio of products and services.

If you are looking for automotive refinish paints for your project, business, or fleet, our experts are here to help. Take advantage of our 100% free quote service by clicking on the “Request a Quote” button below and let us know your needs. We, in cooperation with our coating partners, will connect you with a coating solution.


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