Paint

May 13, 2022

There was no one on the road when we drove Zena to obedience training this morning.  That is until we encountered several vehicles in quick succession that appeared to need some TLC.  The first was once a church van with a shoddy re-paint job.  The new owner had not removed the stenciled lettering on the rear panel, and it was still visible beneath the crusty white paint, which is how I knew it was a church van.  I passed and slid in behind a pickup truck that had the rear bumper attached with four large cable ties.  While I was trying to figure out how the ties were keeping the bumper attached, another car pulled alongside with paint peeling paint off the side and trunk and a large dent in the back.  The capper came as I passed the cable tie truck and noticed the paint not just peeling off the hood, but literally flapping in the breeze.  When I turned to look at Melissa, she said, “We must have missed the memo.” 

When I looked online, I found two primary causes for peeling paint on a modern automobile.  Vehicles are normally coated with three layers, the primer, the paint, and a clear coat.  The primer acts as a base layer for the paint and provides a smooth surface while protecting the underlying metal.  The paint is the color coat, and the clear coat provides a hard “shell” that protects the paint from oxidization and minor scratches while increasing the longevity of the colored paint.  Peeling (or de-lamination) 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, or the clear coat can lose adhesion to the paint.  When any of this happens, flakes or even large sections of paint can slough off the vehicle.

The primary cause for peeling paint is improper preparation of the surface.  All three major domestic manufacturers had paint problems in the late-1980’s to mid-1990’s due to changes in the painting processes resulting in the failure of one or all the layers.  The second common cause is when the seal between the layers is compromised by a chip or scratch.  Once compromised, moisture and other contaminants can work their way under the coatings and begin de-lamination.  There are reported cases where a small chip in the clear coat caused catastrophic adhesion loss to the clear coat when the vehicle is being pressure washed.  The water got under the coating and literally blew off the hard, brittle clear coat shell.  This is said to be “rare”, but rare or not, I might get excited to see a large portion of my car’s paint blow off in the car wash.

THOUGHTS:  The vehicles I saw on the road reminded me of one of my less memorable cars.  The paint was fine, but the fake leather on the two-toned roof had come unglued.  Rather than cable ties, I used grey duct tape to adhere the dark brown vinal to the roof.  This invariably came loose, and the tape would end up flapping in the wind as I drove obliviously along.  My son sat beside me with the top half of his body tucked inside the case of the pillow he always brought.  It was years later he told me he did so hoping no one would recognize him.  Most of us encounter awkward situations at some point.  Some are oblivious, some hide, and others just roll with what it is.  Choosing how to react is what makes life interesting.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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