Clear coat leprosy

I have a 2000 Toyota Echo that succumbed to clear coat peeling beginning about 2 winters ago. It began abruptly and spread quickly on roof, trunk lid and areas along the sides that receive light from above. The hood is fine, but that’s probably because it was replaced a few years ago after an accident.

This car was purchased new off a Toyota lot, and has its original paint. I live in hot and sunny Arizona, and I see lots of cars with this problem. Interestingly, I also see a lot of older vehicles that do NOT have leprosy, including my husband’s '96 Ford Ranger pickup. He swears that the difference is that he never uses an automated car wash.

I’d like to know if there are specific makes of cars and trucks that are more prone to clear coat leprosy than others. Is it a recent phenomenon? We tend to keep cars for decades, but if I were to purchase a new car, what could I do to prevent this from happening again?

It is more common on cars made around the time the carmakers had to switch to low ‘VOC’ (volatile organic compound) paints. I thought that was a bit earlier than 2000, though. They’ve since figured out how to make them last longer, I think.

How often did you wax the surface of the vehicle?


Honestly, maybe twice ever. Is that the problem?

Ya think?


Once the clear coat peels a little it has to be redone before the paint gets destroyed. It may not be too late to get it done if you don’t want to do it yourself. It worked for my old Mazda truck right out of a can. A little sanding wiping and spraying worked wonders.

Well not to argue but once the clear coat cracks its too late and requires refinishing. On my Park Ave the clear on the roof started peeling. The base coat was still ok, and I was selling the car and didn’t want to spend the $80 for the base color too. So I just clear coated over it. It did hold up but you could see the blotches and any place other than the roof would have required doing it over again. Not saying you can’t do it just to protect the metal but to look ok, the base and the clear has to be done.

How does wax prevent the clear coat from cracking? I’m trying to understand the chemical or physical process there. And why doesn’t it happen to more cars?

13 years in the Arizona sun…What color is the car? That makes a difference. White is the best color for a car in Arizona…That provides the coolest surface temperature…The durability of car finishes is hard to predict. It varies between assembly plants of the same manufacturer…If you want your cars to maintain their appearance for a long time you are going to have to put a little more effort into it…Wax jobs, car covers, that sort of thing…And yeah, stay out of the automatic car washes…

The sun removes the oils from the paint and wax restores the oils plus provides a protective coating on the paint.

The good news is I’ve seen (on television) someone lightly sand exposed paint to create a new surface on which clear coat could be applied. If you know a good body shop, they might be able to fix your clear coat without having to repaint from scratch.