Causes of Car Paint Peeling
There are normally three layers of coatings on a modern automobile: primer, paint, and the clear coat. The primer acts as a base layer for the paint, assisting with adhesion, provides a predictable surface for coating, and provides additional protection for the underlying metal. The paint is the color coat. The clear coat provides a hard "shell" that protects the paint from oxidization, minor scratches, and increases the longevity of the aesthetic benefits of the colored paint. Car paint peeling (delamination) occurs when one or more of these layers lose adhesion with the surface under it. Primer may lose adhesion to the bare metal, paint may lose adhesion to the primer, and the clear coat can lose adhesion to the paint. When this happens, large sections or flakes of paint can slough off the vehicle.
There are two primary causes for car paint peeling. The first, and most often associated with large-scale paint delamination, is the improper preparation of the painted surface. All three major domestic manufacturers have had paint problems in the late-1980's through the mid-1990's due to changes in painting processes which resulted in the failure of either the primer, paint, or clear coat.
The second most common cause of paint delamination happens when the seal of the clear coat, paint, or primer get compromised by a chip or scratch. Once the barrier has been compromised, moisture and other contaminants can begin working their way under the coatings and create a starting point for delamination. There are reported instances where a small chip in the clear coat has caused catastrophic adhesion loss to the clear coat when the vehicle was pressure washed. The pressurized water gets under the coating and quite literally blows off hard, brittle shell of the clear coat. However, this scale of clear coat failure due to a chip is rare, and is indicative of other quality issues with the paint.
Factory Paint Failure
In 1995, General Motors offered a repaint under warranty for any vehicle 5 years or newer experiencing severe paint delamination, regardless of mileage. The problem was so wide spread that there was a Dateline special covering the problem in 1997. Today, delamination of factory applied finishes is rare. Those with vehicles from the late-1980's to mid-1990's that are now experiencing paint delamination due to the processes used at the factory are usually without recourse. In some instances, owners have resorted to small claims court in an attempt to get their vehicle repainted on a pro-rated basis. Given that some of these vehicles are now approaching 20 years of age, the pro-rated value of the paint reimbursement is negligible, at best
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