The paint in a modern car is touted to be 10x more durable than the nitrocellulose lacquer and alkyd enamel utilized in automobile production in the 1930s. The Europeans were the first to introduce basecoat technology and acrylic urethane clear topcoats a couple of years after World War II. It was only in the late 70s and early 80s that automotive clear coat became standard on new cars from the factory.
The clear coat is not just a protective layer over the base coat. The best clear coat for cars will make bring out the depth and clarity of the color in the base coat and give it a durable and show-worthy shine.
Whether you are doing quick touch-ups, repair jobs, or painting the entire car, using the best automotive clear coat will bring out the best in your project. Don’t even think for a moment that you can skip the clear coat process. The urethane or acrylic base coat won’t stand a chance against the onslaught of UV rays under direct sun exposure.
|USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol
|Rust-Oleum Gloss Automotive Clear Coat
|KBS Coatings Clear High Gloss Diamond Finish Aerosol
|SEM Satin Clear Color Coat
|Speedocoat Clear Coat 2K Acrylic Urethane Medium Kit
|Dupli-Color Clear Perfect Match Automotive Top Coat
**Below, you’ll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
Important Tips to Remember Before Spraying Clear Coat
1. It is highly important that you spray clear coat in an immaculately clean area. Airborne dust and debris will make life difficult when it adheres to the surface when the clear coat is still wet. This will give you unfavorable results. It is important to plan ahead. Make sure that the entire workspace is clean and free from dust. Sweep and vacuum the workspace at least a day before spraying clear coat, especially after sanding the body of the car.
2. Use a garden hose to wet the floor before spraying clear coat. This will ensure that dust won’t get a chance to rise to the surface as you walk around and spray the clear coat.
3. Wear lint-free clothing as much as possible. This will avoid traces of lint to adhere to the wet surface. It is also important to wear latex gloves whenever you’re handling paint and clear coat.
4. It doesn’t matter if you’re spraying a small area or if you’re planning to spray clear coat on an entire panel. Always wear a respirator (preferably a two-stage respirator) since the automotive clear coat is hazardous when inhaled in copious amounts.
5. Use masking tape or painter’s tape to mask off any areas that you don’t want to be applied with clear coat. If the car was masked during the sanding and priming process, it is imperative that you replace the masking before applying the base coat and clear coat. The dust that settled in the old masking might be blown off while spraying clear coat. This will lead to uneven coverage produce unsightly bumps in the finish.
6. Do not forget to apply a degreaser on the surface before applying the clear coat. Spray or wipe the entire surface with a commercially available solvent degreaser to remove oils and other contaminants that will prevent the clear coat from properly adhering to the base coat.
7. The golden rule is to apply at least 2 to 3 coats of clear to produce favorable results. Take note of the required flash time of the clear coat. The flash time is the minimum drying time required before applying the next coat of clear. Depending on the clear coat that you’re using, the average flash time is usually 8 to 10 minutes.
8. You can determine the right time to apply the next coat of clear by touching the masking a couple of minutes after spraying the first coat. If you can feel that the clear coat is starting to dry (but still wet) then you should immediately apply the next coat of clear.
6 Best Automotive Clear Coats Reviewed
Here are the best automotive clear coats for cars so you can bring back the shine in your restoration or repair project.
This product is great to use over any base coat of paint. It is formulated to provide a high gloss after application and is extremely easy to use since it comes in a handy aerosol can. No need to mix anything and you don’t need to buy a separate spray gun.
The USC Spray Max is great for small repair jobs or quick touch-ups. I wouldn’t recommend this if you are planning to coat the entire car, but it does a stellar job of protecting the finish while giving it a smooth and glossy shine.
There is one thing that you need to remember when using this product: the pot life is 48 hours at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you should consume the entire can within 48 hours after popping the tab. This is the reason why it is important to plan ahead. Not really a problem if you’re working on a small area of the vehicle, but you will need to discard the remaining contents of the can afterward.
- Compatible with any type of base coat
- Brilliant shine
- Easy to use
- Produces great results when used as directed
- Reasonable price
- Minor flaking was observed on poorly prepared surfaces
The Rust-Oleum is ready to spray right from the can. The formula is designed to seal and protect the surface after spraying auto body paint. What I really like about this product is the quick drying time. This makes it easy and time-efficient if you are planning to apply 3 or more coats to the finish. It dries to the touch in 30 minutes or less.
The acrylic lacquer formula of the Rust-Oleum Automotive Clear Coat is also designed to resist rust and corrosion to provide an added element of protection to the paint and metal.
There is no need to apply thinner to the product. There is no need to mix anything, either. Simply pour and spray! Rust-Oleum is one of the most trusted brands in the paint and finish industry, and this product will certainly not disappoint. Great for airbrush application or conventional spray gun.
However, since this product comes in 32 oz. can, this is not exactly ideal for spraying small areas or quick repair jobs. If you are looking to perform a quick and simple DIY repair job, this product is not for you since you will need an air compressor and spray gun. But for big jobs, this product is hard to beat since a single can is enough to cover up to 75 square feet.
- High-gloss shine
- The pre-mixed formula is ready to spray from the can
- Good for airbrush and spray gun application
- Protects against rust and corrosion
- Minor issues with consistency (product coagulates at the bottom of the can)
The KBS Coatings Diamond Finish is formulated to be applied directly to metal or over painted surfaces. It applies easily even with minimal surface preparation and is designed to provide durable and lasting protection against the elements.
When this clear coat dries, it remains flexible to resist chipping, flaking, cracking, or peeling. The diamond finish is also formulated to resist yellowing or oxidation even when exposed to the harshest weather elements.
What particularly caught my eye is the graffiti-resistant formula. The chemical resistance of this product ensures that paint graffiti will not permanently stick to the clear coat. Simply grab a cotton rag, dip it insolvent, and the graffiti will vanish right before your very eyes.
- The aerosol formula makes it easy to use
- Provides tough and durable protection
- Graffiti resistant formula makes it easy to remove contaminants and paint overspray
- Semi-gloss finish
If you are looking for a clear coat that you can use to restore or change the color of plastic, vinyl, and velour surfaces, then the SEM Satin Clear Coat is worth a look. This product comes in an aerosol can so you simply shake and spray to achieve good results.
What I did find confusing is the claimed satin gloss finish. I used this to restore the look on the edges of the center console of my car, and the finish was glossy, but not something that you would call high-gloss. I was under the impression that ‘satin’ would mean a matte finish, but there was a hint of gloss to the finish. I guess you can call it semi-gloss.
When it comes to adding new life to refinished vinyl or plastic components in your vehicle, this is the product to buy.
- Easy to use
- Semi-gloss finish
- Works on vinyl, rigid plastic, carpet, and velour
- Quality issues with the can and spray nozzle
This product is an acrylic urethane clear coat that is compatible with urethane base coats. It offers excellent UV-resistant and chemical resistance capabilities for a durable and long-lasting shine.
The product can be ordered with either a slow, medium or fast clear activator. The trick is to mix 4 parts of the SPEEDO-Line Clear with 1 part of your choice of clear activator to achieve the best results. The kit comes with 1 gallon of clear and 1 quart of activator to eliminate the guesswork when mixing the product altogether.
The great thing about this clear coat is it is extremely easy to sand and buff once the product has fully cured. It buffs to a high-gloss shine after 12 hours of curing.
- Applies smoothly
- Provides excellent UV and chemical protection
- Easy to buff even by hand
- Foggy or cloudy appearance when applied at temperatures lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit
The Dupli-Color Aerosol Clear Coat is premium quality and fast drying lacquer equipped with an EZ Touch 360-degree nozzle and wide spray pattern. This makes it easier to dispense the right amount of product as you spray the clear coat over the surface.
This product is designed to be compatible with all painted surfaces, especially if you used the Dupli-Color Automotive Paint. It is ideal for both small and large touch-ups or if you wish to protect painted vehicle accessories.
The great thing about the Dupli-Color Aerosol Clear Coat is the quick drying time. It dries to the touch in 30 minutes or less, and it dries to be handled in about 1 hour in ideal temperature and humidity conditions.
- Easy to use
- Dries quickly to the touch
- Provides even coverage
- Durable protection
- Semi-gloss instead of high-gloss finish
The trick in choosing the best clear coat for cars is to determine the compatibility of the product with the base coat. Urethane base coat should be finished with a urethane clear coat. The same goes true for acrylic base coats. If you insist on using urethane clear coat on an acrylic base coat, make sure to let the clear coat set for a couple of days before buffing to avoid problems with the finish.
With that in mind, I would choose the USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Aerosol Clear Coat for quick touch-ups and moderate repair jobs. I love the way that this product works on all types of base coats and I also like the glossy shine. Just make sure to prep the surface adequately before applying this clear coat to avoid flaking.
For more demanding jobs requiring the use of a spray gun, I choose the Rust-Oleum Gloss Automotive Clear Coat. This clear coat is ready to use and provides a deep and glossy shine even with only 2 coats. The formula also protects against rust and corrosion so your paint will look new for a longer time.
It is advisable to spray clear coat after painting the surface of your car. This will ensure that the base coat is protected against the elements so you can drive with confidence.