How to Remove Clear Coat from Car Step By Step Guide

Every car owner loves to see their vehicle shine and glow.  However, when the gloss begins to grow dim and requires a lift, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the process of how to remove clear coat from car.  

Over time your car’s clear coat may reduce in strength and suffer scratches, leading to their replacement.

While this is the norm, the removal of the coat shouldn’t necessarily affect the intensive paint. This guide aims to brief you on buffing off the clear coat without negatively affecting the undercoat.

How to Remove Clear Coat from Car Step By Step Guide

To get started with removing your car’s clear coat, you need to assemble all the equipment and tools necessary for the procedure. The tools are essential as they would help repair your clear coat and assist with other vehicle exterior procedures.

The tools for this purpose include clear coat remover spray, electric polisher, buffing pads, finishing polish, sandpaper, spray detailer, wax, and clean cloth.  To get going with the process, follow the steps outlined below.

how to remove peeling clear coat

Soak the 400 Grit Sandpaper

The most important thing to do first is to immerse the sandpaper in water. Dip the 400 grit sandpaper in a bowl filled for some moments. The reason for doing this is to strengthen the 400 grit sandpaper to clean the car surface of the clear coat.

Wash the Vehicle

The next step after immersing in the sandpaper is to proceed with thoroughly washing the vehicle. It helps even to remove car decals. Maintenance work and paint repair usually necessitate additional clean surfaces. Diligently wash your vehicle by soaking it, while also ensuring it doesn’t take on fresh dents and scratches in the process.

A sponge would help, alongside a brush and medicated soap, clean the car and leave no room for stains. When you are finished cleaning the car, grab a dry and soft cloth to rid surplus moisture from the car. If you can, also try to dry the vehicle completely.

Wet-Sand the Clear Coat

To wet sand the clear coat, grab the sandpaper (400 grit) previously immersed in water. Gently move it onto the surfaces to weaken the coat and rid the scratches. Now, you might have to stress a bit to get this right; position the sandpaper at a 1-inch distance away from scratch.

Proceed to Wet-sand Paint with Advanced Grit Sandpaper

Once you are done sanding the vehicle using the 400 grit sandpaper, continue to a better and premium sander. Gently start with the 800. Move to 1000 and then introduce the 1,200 grit sandpaper. From here, you can begin sanding and half inches outside the area of the result you achieved utilizing the 400-grit border.

Feel and examine the result to confirm if your actions are paying off or not. The best to expect is a crosshatch appearance which should give the hands and touch a smooth feel.  To reach this peak, you may need to run about additional passes.

Mask the Delicate Components and Car Surfaces with Tape

You must tape the car surfaces and delicate details if you are satisfied with the final result. This is the groundwork for the undercoat application, which may interfere with or cause damage to these components. The delicate features include the headlights, handles, tail lights, rims, screen wipers, and mirrors. 

Dry-sand the Car

Continue the procedure by dry sanding after the vehicle is dried. Use either the 600 or 800 grit sandpaper for this action. As you engage in the process, focus on attaining smooth and even touches.   

Moreover, while sanding clear coat off car scratches, it is recommended to go at an angle of 45°. For regular scratching finishes, you only have to move with the regular grains for an effective result. The goal of this process is to achieve additional smooth finishes and tones.

Wash the Sanded Car with Water

Pour some amount of water on the vehicle to remove particles and finer grit.  Examine the texture for a milky shade. Stop sanding when it turns milky, as going on with the process may tamper with the undercoat. Clean with a cloth and leave to dry.

Use Some Polish For the Sanded Area of the Vehicle

Wrap it up by adding polish to the sanded area of the vehicle. An electric polisher does the work here. For use, set at a rotation speed of about 1,200-1,400 revolutions every minute. The cyclic motion is best for performance at its best.

It enables some overlap which ensures that the surface is ultimately impacted. Take conscious steps also to add polish to all the areas. As an option, you can manually do the work using the 100% wool pad in place of the polisher. Apply the polish well to prevent burns that may lessen the quality.

The scratches will have vanished already at this stage. However, some swirls will remain, which have to remove. Change to a nice polish pad and also apply finishing polish.  Tine faster at a more incredible pace; you can set higher revolutions per minute. 

Clean the Polished Area

Finally, make it glow better by cleaning the polished portion. Add the spray detailer to give the polished parts a clean and faultless finish. Ensure not to leave the polisher in a particular position for too long during this process. Reason being that the face rotates speedily and can compromise the affected area faster.

If after this guideline, you still need to see a practical video on how to remove clear coat from the car, you can watch a YouTube video by Mad4motors.


Q: Why is the clear coat peeling off my car?

Cars’ clear coat mostly starts to peel due to contact with cleaning agents and harsh chemicals, flawed automotive detailing process, and exposure to the elements. While many other reasons exist, these three are the most typical reasons for paint peel off.

Often, clear coat peeling results from long hours of exposure to the harsh climate, especially in seasons like winter.  Ensure to keep the car from the harsh climate and also avoid using regular household cleaners or harsh chemicals if you want the clear coat to stay longer on your vehicle. 

Q: Can you wash the clear coat off a car?

Yes, the clear coat can be washed off a car. Some soaps used at the car wash or by people are harsh and will rid the protective underlay of the paint. The exposure soon begins to affect the paint and leads to fade and deterioration. 

The plastic beneath the paint or the metal under can then become fragile or rust out subsequently. Washing your vehicle with the wrong chemicals or the wrong way will remove the waxes and clear coat that safeguard it. 

Q: Will paint thinner take off clear coat?

Paint thinner will remove clear coat. It will run off a clear coat, but the process may necessitate rounds of the thinner application. The paint the clear coat is shielding may also be comprised during the process.

Ensure the underlying coat no longer appeals to you before the application of thinner to clear coat surface. Alternatively, you can try utilizing mineral spirits if you intend to take off coating without compromising the paint beneath. Fine grit sandpaper could also help rid your vehicle of any scarred clear coat portions.

Q: Can you spray a new clear coat over the old clear coat?

It all depends on the state of the first coat layer. If there are no peeling portions or identifiable damages to the clear coat, it signifies it’s in good condition; thus, you can add coat layering.  The application will give your car renewed glow. If the scenario is the opposite, you need to address and fix the damages before applying a fresh coat of clear varnish.

Q: How do you restore clear coat on a car?

You can fix the damaged clear coat on your car by utilizing a degreaser to rid any wax visible on the car.  After this, you will tape off the portion you will be fixing with the painter’s tape. Ensure you work from an inch past the damaged clear coat.

Sand the clear coat using 800 grit sandpaper and allow it to stay on the rough. Reduce the sanding intensity as you move away from the damage. In so doing, you are building a natural transition devoid of a line or lump where the former old clear coat stops.

Q: How long does a clear coat last?

The longevity of your car’s clear coat is dependent on the factor the vehicle is exposed to.  Is it outside all day or garage? Do you reside on a construction site or by the ocean? Tree sap, bird bombs, UV rays from the sun, and all these factors can impact the clear coat durability.

The average car has a clear coat thickness of about 2-4 microns. Polishing with a rotary helps remove spray paint / clear coat faster than a double-action polisher. So, ensure to polish your car with the right tools. If you keep your car in the proper condition, the clear coat is expected to stay for about 10-15 years.

Q: How much does it cost to repair the clear coat on the car?        

Clearcoat peeling repair costs anywhere from $500 to $10,000. However, different parameters are in play in determining the actual cost.  If only a tiny portion of the panel is affected, you only need to repair the panel clear coat, which costs between $500 – 1,000.

If the spots are spread across various panels, you may be parting with $1500- $5,000. When the whole car is peeling, usually because of a paint defect, it would be best to repaint the entire car. Typically, removing the clear coat can be done with sanding down and clear coat remover spray. However, if the base coat is damaged, the repair would cost you more time, money, and materials. Prepare a budget of at least $5,000.

Q: How do you remove a clear coat without damaging the paint?

If you are wondering how to get a clear coat off car paint without compromise, then we advise you use the Busch clear coat remover or another buffing compound. The process should be done cautiously to avoid compromising the base paint.

Ensure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the application process. Then you can use an 899 fine-grit sandpaper and an electric polisher to wet sand the clear coat. Continue this process by buffing off clear coat film and particles as though you were removing wax.

How to Remove Clear Coat from Car

Final Words

Clearcoat plays a crucial role in the protection of the car’s paint. Not only do they make maintenance and repairs much easier, but these paints also give the car’s finish a renewed depth and gloss that are available in a variety of strengths and sheen.

However, the task is not for the weak, so many would instead fix their car exterior at commercial experts with automotive paint booths. Not to worry, this step-by-step guide will enable you to rid a clear coat and provide you with the solution regarding your vehicle’s exterior. Do ensure to get premium polishing and bugging tools to repair the damages. Happy buffing!


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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