How to Keep Your Car’s Matte Paint or Wrap Fresh
Matte Car Paint and Wrap Cleaning Guide Highlights:
- It is more difficult to keep a car with matte paintwork clean as it requires special cleaning products and procedures
- The best way to maintain the look of your matte painted car is to hand wash it with matte-specific cleaners and invest in either matte-specific sealants or protective ceramic coatings.
- Cars with matte vinyl wraps are easier to clean, but have their own additional maintenance requirements
Whether or not you follow the latest color trends, splashing new shades or additional shades onto your car is a popular modification. And while there’s no shortage of great car paint options, the matte look is still going strong. That’s why vinyl wraps, which mimic the matte look much less, also attract a lot of grateful eyes. However, whether you are going to wrap or repaint, a matte car requires special care to look its best.
Matte automotive paint is more difficult to maintain than non-matte paint
Full disclosure, I was an automotive paint engineer. So trust me when I say matte car paint is a pain to work with. And that has to do with what makes it matte.
All car paints have three base coats: a primer for the surface metal, an intermediate coat that provides color, and a protective clear coat. Normally, the clear coat fills in any minor surface imperfections, creating a smooth surface for light to reflect off. That’s why most cars are so shiny. The clear coat of a matte painted car, however, accentuates the bumps in the primed and mid-coat surface. It creates interference, much like oil in a puddle, which creates that cool, hazy look. And that’s where the headaches start.
For one thing, you can’t wax or polish a car with flat paint. This would fill in or remove surface imperfections and therefore the matte appearance. Second, a matte clearcoat is not formulated exactly like a regular clearcoat. So you can’t run a car with flat paint through an automated car wash.
Also, you cannot use conventional cleaners to wash your car, as they can also spoil the effect of the clear coat. And unless they are washable, tire polishes/cleaners are prohibited for the same reason.
If it all looks like matte paint, uh, clear coat, it’s very tricky, it’s not quite accurate. Like other car paints, it will protect your car’s metal body from minor damage. And it arguably hides minor scratches better because of the way it looks. However, once a car with dull paint is scratched or stained, it is more difficult to repair. Remember that you cannot buff or buff the scratches as this will remove the matte effect. And if the damage is deep or severe enough, a pro will need to replace the entire damaged panel.
How to keep a car with matte paint clean?
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Although matte paint makes a car harder to clean, it’s not an impossible task. It just requires a few extra tools and care.
First, always hand wash a matte-painted car, reports Kelley Blue Book. Second, use cleaning solutions specially formulated for flat paint. And third, always use clean microfiber cloths to clean and dry your car. Plus, if your clean, matte car is suddenly splattered with random gunk or bird poo, don’t despair. But if you don’t have a matte-specific detailing spray on hand, at least soak the contaminated area with clean water.
Plus, matte cars really benefit from paint protection techniques. Due to the matte effect, you cannot use paste wax or similar. But there are mat-specific protective sealants that do the same job, although you have to reapply them every few months. However, there is a more durable form of protection: a ceramic coating. It’s more expensive, but it lasts for several years and won’t spoil the matte look.
Also, don’t try to use a clay bar to clean a car with flat paint. Because the matte surface is not smooth, the bar will not work properly.
Is the maintenance and cleaning of a matte vinyl film also difficult?
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If you don’t want to deal with the matte paint headache, you might think giving your car a vinyl wrap is a better option. But this is only partially true.
For one thing, vinyl-wrapped cars can go through automatic car washes if they’re brushless. Additionally, you can clean vinyl wrap with mild automotive detergents, although those specific to wrap are preferable. Just avoid solvents, oil-based solutions, and kitchen and bathroom cleaners. And in a pinch, you can pressure wash a car with vinyl wrap, but again, gently.
However, vinyl car wraps have their own maintenance issues. First, they are more sensitive to heat, UV rays and environmental pollutants. Also, even if you properly wrap a vinyl-wrapped car, the wrap just doesn’t last as long as a paint job. And if you don’t replace degraded vinyl quickly, it can damage the paint underneath.
In short, keeping your car looking matte isn’t as easy as keeping a shiny car clean. But for some, the style is worth it.
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