How To Keep Orange Peel From Ruining Your Car's Appeal

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A picture-perfect finish is the goal of any automotive painter. So it's no wonder why do-it-yourselfers are often disappointed when an otherwise perfect paint finish ends up marred by orange peel. If you want to achieve that beautiful auto paint finish for your vehicle, then you'll want to know how to avoid orange peel and how you can fix it if it happens.

What Causes Orange Peel?

Orange peel is what happens when your paint texture literally takes on the appearance of an orange skin. Paint finishes with orange peel will look wavy from certain angles and bumpy from others. In most cases, these imperfections will turn up during the clear coat application, although it can appear at any stage of the painting process if you're not careful.

There are plenty of ways for orange peel to occur on your vehicle's paint finish. The following issues can lead to a poor finish that either has to be fixed or repainted at great time and expense:

  • Poor spraying techniques
  • Improper nozzle size
  • Incorrect air pressure
  • High outdoor temperatures
  • High humidity levels
  • Improper thinner or reducer mix
  • Poor surface preparation

Taking Preventive Steps

When it comes to orange peel, prevention is always the best policy. Here are some steps you can take to ensure a flawless finish for your automotive painting project:

  • Make sure the surface is properly prepared – Surfaces should always be properly sanded down to a smooth finish and cleaned with mineral spirits and a clean microfiber cloth.
  • Use the correct spraying technique – For instance, always spray at least 6 to 10 inches away from the surface, depending on the type of paint being used. Avoid using overly wide spray patterns, as it could create thin coats that could prematurely dry.
  • Use the correct sprayer nozzle size – The sprayer nozzle size should correspond to the type of paint used. Typical nozzle sizes range from 1.0 to 2.2 millimeters – the exact size you'll need not only depends on the application (primer, base coat or clear coat), but also the type of paint used (water-based paints, lacquers, etc).
  • Avoid using too little or too much pressure – Using incorrect air pressure can easily lead to uneven paint textures, resulting in orange peel. The air pressure's cubic feet per minute rating should be at least 1.5 times that of the sprayer's rating.
  • Avoid spraying at an incorrect angle – You should always hold your spray gun at a 90-degree angle as you apply the paint. Otherwise, you could get an uneven coat that leads to orange peel.
  • Avoid painting under uncontrolled climate conditions - As mentioned before, extreme heat and humidity can easily lead to undesirable paint finishes. The best place to paint your vehicle is in a climate-controlled spray booth. If a booth's not available, then make sure your intended work area is free of debris, properly shielded from high winds and isn't too hot or humid.

Fixing Orange Peel

Correcting orange peel after the fact is always a time-consuming job, but at least it's possible to bring your paint job to a smooth, nearly mirror-like finish without resorting to a respray. In most cases, you can tackle the problem through wet sanding with progressively aggressive sandpaper grits, followed by a thorough polishing with compounding polish and the appropriate buffer pad. When dealing with orange peel through wet or dry sanding, always remember to avoid taking down the clear coat to the base coat.

If your paint finish has orange peel, don't feel too bad. Even automotive manufacturers have trouble achieving perfect finishes. It's not out of the ordinary for a vehicle to have orange peel straight from the factory.

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8 April 2015

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