Dear Car Talk:
I’ve noticed a new paint on late model cars and trucks. It’s not the color, but the texture or overall effect that stands out.
My wife calls it a “flat” finish, but I call it “enameled.” It’s different, shocking, beautiful and eyecatching.
Has anyone else noticed? Fill us in on the history of this new paint finish. Thanks. — John
Uh-oh, looks like Frank in the paint department forgot to buff out another one. It’s most commonly called a “matte” finish, John. BMW calls it “frozen,” because it looks like a bag of peas that just came out of the freezer with a coat of frost on it. And it is a very cool-looking finish. Who says cars have to be shiny?
It’s prepared the same way as any other paint job. The primer and paint are applied and then a clear coat is added on top of the paint. But instead of buffing the clear coat to a smooth finish, the clear coat is left unpolished. That’s what creates the nonshiny, matte appearance.
Because it’s created the same way, it’s just as durable as any other paint job. But maintenance isn’t quite as easy. Most manufacturers recommend that you hand-wash a car with a matte finish, as the fastspinning brushes of some automatic car washes can shine up individual spots — making the car look like the face of a teenager with greasy splotches.
You also can’t fix scratches very easily. On most cars, if you get a modest scratch that only goes into the clearcoat, you buff the clearcoat and make the scratch disappear. If you buff a spot on a matte finish, you’ll shine up that spot and ruin the look. If you don’t remove a stain in time, and it etches into the clearcoat, you’ve got the same problem.
I don’t know how hard it is for a body shop to match an individual door or fender, should you need to replace one after an accident. But I’m guessing it’s harder to match than a traditional, shiny finish. And, of course, you can’t use a normal car wax on it. You’ll need a specialty product, lest you accidentally shine up the finish you spent an extra $3,000 to special order.
So, like you, I’m a big fan of these new matte finishes, John. Especially on other people’s cars.
(c) 2021 by Ray Magliozzi
and Doug Berman
Distributed by King Features