CARS.COM — I likely fall into the same camp as most motorists regarding car paint: I don’t really think about it most of the time. When it gets too dirty, I wash it; sometimes I wax it. However, after living in Los Angeles and parking on the street regularly, the scratches and dings on my 1997 Honda Civic HX coupe have piled up. Getting it repainted or replacing body panels can get expensive fast, so I tried to figure out what I could fix on my own.
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Not knowing where to start, I headed down the road to Meguiar’s, a California-based car-care product company, and got some advice.
Your Paint Is Like an Onion; It Has Layers
What looks like a single layer of paint on a modern car (since the early 1980s or so) is actually three layers: A primer sits directly on the body panel. Next is the base coat that gives the car its color. The final layer is a clear coat, a transparent coat of paint that acts as a protectant. If the clear coat gets damaged, it will protect the layers of paint below and make the damage less noticeable.