Highlights of the guide to cleaning car paint and wraps:
- It is more difficult to keep a car with matte paint clean because 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 specific matte cleaners and invest in either specific matte sealants or ceramic protective coatings
- Cars with matte vinyl wraps are easier to clean, but they have their own additional care requirements
Whether or not you keep up with the latest color trends, spraying new or additional shades on your car is a popular modification. And while there’s no shortage of stunning car paint options, the matte look is still going strong. Therefore, vinyl wraps, which mimic the matte look for much less, also attract many appreciative eyes. However, whether you go for a wrap or a repaint, a matte car requires special care to keep it looking its best.
Matte car paint is more difficult to maintain than non-matte paint
Full disclosure, I used to be an automotive paint engineer. So trust me when I say that matte car paint is a pain to work with. And that’s about what makes it matte.
All car paints have three base coats: a primer for the metal surface, a middle coat that delivers the color, and a clear protective coat. Normally, the clear coat fills in any minor surface imperfections, creating a smooth surface for light to reflect. That’s why most cars are so shiny. However, the clean coat of a matte painted car accentuates the bumpiness of the paved and coated surface in between. This creates interference, like oil in a pond, that creates that cold, foggy look. And this is where the headaches begin.
For one, you can’t wax or polish a car with matte paint. This would fill in or remove surface imperfections and thus the matte appearance. Second, a matte clear coat is not formulated exactly like a regular clear coat. Thus, you cannot run a car with matte paint through an automated car wash.
In addition, you cannot use conventional cleaners to wash your car, as they can also spoil the effect of the clear coat. And unless they are of the wash type, tire shine/cleaning products are prohibited for the same reason.
If this all sounds like matte paint, i.e., clear coat, it’s too subtle, that’s not entirely accurate. Like other car paints, it will protect the metal body of your car from minor damages. And it probably hides small scratches better because of its appearance. However, once a car with matte paint is scratched or scratched, it is more difficult to fix. Remember, you can’t polish or sand the scratches because that would remove the matte effect. And if the damage is deep or severe enough, a professional will need to replace the entire damaged panel.
How do you keep a car with matte paint clean?
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Although matte paint makes a car more difficult to clean, it is not an impossible task. It just requires a few extra tools and care.
First, always hand wash a matte-painted car, Kelley Blue Book reports. Second, use cleaning solutions specially formulated for matte paint. And third, always use clean microfiber cloths to clean and dry your machine. Also, if your spotless car is suddenly splattered with random dirt or bird droppings, don’t despair. But if you don’t have any detailed matte spray on hand, at least wet the stained area with some clean water.
In addition, matte cars really benefit from paint protection techniques. Due to the matte effect, you cannot use paste wax or a similar product. But there are specific matte sealers that do the same job, although you have to re-apply them every few months. However, there is a more durable form of protection: a ceramic coating. It is more expensive, but lasts for several years and does not spoil the matte look.
Also, don’t try to use a clay bar to clean a car with matte paint. Because the matte surface is not smooth, the tape will not work properly.
Is it just as difficult to maintain and clean a matte vinyl wrap?
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If you don’t want to deal with the headache of matte paint, you might consider giving your car a vinyl wrap is a better option. But this is only partially true.
On the one hand, vinyl wrapped cars can go through automatic car washes if they are brushless. You can also clean a vinyl wrap with mild automotive detergents, although those specific to the wrap are preferred. Just avoid solvents, oil-based solutions, and kitchen and bathroom cleaners. And on a tip, you can pressure wash a car with a vinyl wrap, but again, gently.
However, vinyl car wraps have their own maintenance quirks. First, they are more sensitive to heat, UV light and environmental pollutants. Also, even if you keep a vinyl wrapped car properly covered, the wrap just doesn’t last as long as a paint job. And if you don’t replace the degraded vinyl quickly, it can damage the paint underneath.
In short, maintaining the matte look of your car is not as easy as keeping a shiny car clean. But for some, the style is worth the pain.
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