Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Paint Complains: Has automotive paint gone down in quality?

Paint Complaints
Over the past, years, I seem to hear more gripes about thin, easily chipped paint on new cars. Toyotas, Honda, Suzuki, Subaru, etc.—I read paint complaints on various forums including Yarisworld.com, FitFreak.net, SX4club.com and others. So what gives? Has paint really gotten “thinner” as of late? Is it a different material? Is it worse quality than it used to be?

I can vouch for having a lot of rock chips on both of my newer Japanese-made cars. My 2007 Toyota Yaris liftback and my brand-spakin’-new 2009 Suzuki SX4 are both chipped up. The Yaris rarely sees gravel/sand, but has still racked up a good amount of paint chips. The SX4, which has been on gravel-covered roads multiple times in the last month (I take it skiing), looks like it’s been pelted with gravel for a year or more. My 2005 Scion xB also was pitted badly. Then again, it had a decent amount of square frontal space to get chipped.

A couple of searches on Google revealed that many (most?) auto manufacturers are now using a water-based paints instead of solvent-based finishes. The water-based paints release fewer VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, which are bad for the environment. But are these water-based finishes less durable than solvent-based coatings? Just about every Web site I’ve found has said the water-based coatings are as durable as the older solvent-based finishes.

Most cars are painted with a base coat/clear coat system. This means a colored coat of paint is laid down, and then a clear coat of paint is put on top of that. It’s the clear coat that gives cars their deep, glossy finish. According to Canadiandriver.com, most automotive clear coats are still solvent-based. However, during the auto manufacturer’s painting process, it’s the base coat that gives off the most VOCs.

So, allegedly water-based paints aren’t any less durable than solvent-based paints. So is it possible that the paint being applied to today’s cars is actually thinner than it used to be? Perhaps manufacturers aren’t putting as much paint on? There are ways to measure paint thickness using paint gauges, but I don't know if paint thicknesses have gotten progressively thinner over time.

What about this: Could it be the shapes of today’s cars that are the culprit? Lower, more rounded front ends that possibly lend themselves to being pummeled my rocks?

I don’t have an answer at this point. However, I’d like to hear from you: Does your paint chip easily? Do you know why it seems everyone complains about their new car’s paint job?

Automotive Paint (JD Power)
Auto Tech: Automobile painting (CanadianDriver.com)


Unknown said...

So far so good on mine, except where it got hit with rocks mostly on the softer bumper, maybe they're trying to make it more reflective.

Peter fails said...

maybe since subcompacts are using lighter materials, say different kinds of metals, the paint doesnt bond as well with these newer metals then the older types.

Unknown said...