Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Pressure washing off peeling clear coat?

Honest question about using a pressure washer to remove clear coat that has been peeling over time. The peeling seems to be like delamination of the clear coat away from the paint underneath. But it happens slowly and the patches of exposed paint grow slowly.

When it rains, the peeling speeds up. So can a pressure washer be used to speed up the peeling process to remove all the clear coat?

I once lost my clear coat to an idiot who thought it would be okay to clean my car with a pressure washer, so I know it would do the job. However, I don’t recommend it. It might take off more than just the clear coat. The only real solution at this point is to sand it down to the metal, prime it, and paint it, or live with it as it is, because if you try to put on a fresh layer of clear coat on old paint, it isn’t going to last.

There is a technique where you delicately sand it down to roughen the paint so a fresh coat of clear coat will adhere to it, but it’s too easy to sand past the paint down to the metal, and I don’t think it will be a long term solution.

I cannot comment on if this is a good idea or a bad idea for removing paint in the expectation of later re-painting, but I once used the self-serve hose at a car wash with a sort of pressure wash wand to wash my Subaru Outback and it blasted the paint right off the front bumper. So, I know that a pressure washer could remove paint.

I would actually feel a lot better about the OP using a garden hose with a pressure nozzle on it than an actual pressure washer.

Being nosy and curious, did you buy this Outback new or used? I’ve seen a lot of bad repairs of plastic/rubber bumpers where the body shop didn’t use a flex additive in the paint and it peeled right off. With the low pressure of a regular spigot and garden hose, I don’t see how such little pressure would be enough to take the paint off unless there was another issue with the paint.

It was new and in the first year of its life. I’d used the self-serve sprayers and bubble brushes on cars for decades before this happened. I was washing the car in the normal fashion and the sprayer removed the paint. It took off a section about two inches by about three inches before I realized what was happening and stopped spraying it. The paint ended up on my hood and on the floor of the wash bay. I told the Subaru dealer when I went in the next time for service and they were not interested in helping.

That couldn’t have been a normal pressure wash. Selfserve car washes are nothing more then just a power washer. And most I’ve been to are more powerfull then my Troybuilt washer.

It wasn’t at a car wash. It was at a construction site after they got paint on my car and offered to wash it off.

Maybe the pressure nozzle wasn’t strong enough, but garden hose methods haven’t worked so far.

The objective here is to remove the peeling clear coat for whatever comes next (repainting, vinyl wrapping, etc).
Part of this is about whether aiming the pressure at an angle between the clear coat and paint underneath (low angle relative to the car surface) might be better.

I assumed that. My point is - that would have to be one powerful power washer. Because the ones I’ve used and own are no where near powerful enough to strip paint

OK, once more if I didn’t say it already. You cannot just spray clear over the color coat if it is peeling. It will never match. Base coat/clear coat needs to be done in two parts. The color coat then in a specified time frame the clear is put on. Base is dull and once the clear is on has a slightly different color.

Now the Dupli-color stuff is more of a single stage color coat but you can also spray clear over it so it is not the same as the factory base/clear. At any rate if you are missing clear on a factory job, you need to paint over it with color, then over coating it with clear is optional.

The clear on the roof on my Park Ave was peeling in a pretty large area. I was going to sell the car, had clear on hand, and didn’t want to pay the $80 plus for a pint of color. So I just re-cleared the top. It was nice and shiny from the side, and protected the roof, but the color was all off if you looked at it from the top. I wasn’t about to re-do it again but just saying if your clear is peeling, don’t think you can just spray more clear on it.

1 Like

If the spots are not too big, an easy solution is to touch up clear coat. There are blending agents that you can use so that the edges where the new clearcoat ends are not too visible.

Thanks, but the situation involves large areas, and the delamination is slow (except for rain speeding it up a bit).