Preparing for Permanent Paint Protection

Perhaps the most vital (and overlooked) step in applying permanent automotive paint protection is what happens before any film or coating touches paint.

We’re talking about the processes of prepping or perfecting automotive paint.

Just think about it, Paint Protection Film and Ceramic Coatings are long-term solutions, up to 10 years. Here’s what that means: Whatever your car’s paint looks like before protection is what it will look like for the next decade.

You could put the most stalwart defense on your car’s paint, but if the paint underneath is unsightly, what’s the point?

So what goes into prepping automotive paint for permanent protection? We break the process down into two phases.


“Whatever your car’s paint looks like before protection is what it will look like for the next decade.”

So make sure it looks good!

Phase 1: Decontamination

The first phase of preparation is decontamination. In this phase, we ensure that all contaminants are removed from the vehicle’s surface.

The phase includes multiple sub-steps, and may vary depending on the needs of the vehicle. It will often begin with ferrous oxide dissolving spray in order to remove iron particles that may have bonded with the vehicle’s paint.

We then will move to a foam bath and hand-wash. Foaming exfoliates surface contaminants, allowing us to clean the exterior without having to scrub into the paint.

The final step of decontamination is often a meticulous clay barring process. Rubbing the surface with a clay bar removes any remaining embedded contaminants, such as rail dust, brake dust, or industrial fallout.

It will typically begin with a hand-wash to remove larger contaminants, followed by a meticulous claying of surfaces to remove smaller contaminants. The washing process will often include

Phase 2: Correction

After removing all surface contaminants, we correct any paint defects, typically through a multi-stage polish. Paint defects could include swirl-marks, chemical etch marks, or small scratches. These are the kind of defects that, if unaddressed, will severely limit the depth and clarity of a car’s paint after it is protected.

Why Your Car Needs Decontamination and Correction Even if It is Brand New

When we start talking about the preparation process, people often state, “But my car is brand-new. The paint is already clean and perfect.”

This is a myth.

We have never had a car come into our shop with perfect paint. That’s because paint defects start occurring the moment the vehicle’s factory paint is finished and cured.

Especially if your vehicle has spent any time at a dealership, it will have significant paint defects.

A dealer’s lot is not a happy place for a car’s paint. Your dealership has dozens of cars in their possession. They are often being stored outside and exposed to the elements. They are there to be sold, not maintained. So the main objective, when they are cleaned, is speed, not care. If a dealership spent the appropriate amount of time caring for the paint on each car in their lot, they wouldn’t have any time left to sell. That means that just because a car is new, doesn’t mean it will look new.

Here are some examples of paint defects in brand new vehicles.

The Sad Reality

I hope you can see why slapping some Paint Protection Film and Ceramic Coating a surface like that is a recipe for disaster. Here’s the sad part: That’s exactly what many paint protection shops will do. Most won’t take the time to properly decontaminate and correct paint before applying protection.

So if you’re looking for permanent paint protection, make sure you do your research on your installer. Ask them how they prepare paint before protecting. Ask them how much experience they have perfecting automotive paint.

Paint Protection in Charlotte, NC

At Exclusive Paint Protection, we have over 20 years of experience in high-end automotive detailing. We know how to get automotive paint in pristine condition, and that’s exactly what we do before adding any permanent protection.

If you’re looking for paint protection in the Charlotte, NC area, we’d love to partner with you for the good of your car.

Brian Brown