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Automotive Coatings: Robust Clothing for your car

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The paint color of a car is one of the three things that registers in the human mind when one sees a car, the other two being size and shape. This explains the variety of options when it comes to car color in the last two decades or more.

Unlike other components of a car, about which there is enough knowledge and familiarity in the common man, very little is known about car paints, or for the more technically-inclined -‘automotive coatings’. Very few people are aware that car paint is a complete fabric in itself and provides the much-needed protection for your car. Although much thinner, at about the thickness of human hair, car color plays exactly the same role that clothing does to human beings. A closer look at the composition of car paint validates the above outlook. Unlike common perceptions about car paint being a slurry of chemicals that is sprayed on to the car, car paint is more like a multi-deck sandwich where each layer adds its own unique attribute to the experience.

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As seen in the diagram, car color is made up of four different functional layers, coated using specific techniques, with a certain time-gap between them. These different layers are required to shield the car surface from various external forces that it is routinely subjected to. Climatic forces such as rain, snow, fog, heat, cold, humidity, UV radiation and pollution cause physical damage to the car. Furthermore, gravel, mud and tree branches that collide with the car, as well as brushes used for cleaning can all scratch the car surface.

To add to this, aesthetics of the car must not deteriorate over time; so the paint must be long-lasting for it to be cost-effective. That is why car paint has so many layers and different substances to meet all these demands effectively.

How the clearcoat protects your car

1. Sunlight and more specifically ultraviolet rays in it make the car paint appear faded. By applying a clearcoat, you can protect your car from harmful UV rays, which makes the car paint appear new and shiny for much longer.

2. Acid rain routinely causes shallow surface defects and spotting on the car surface. By using a clearcoat, this harm can be overcome without damaging the paint.

3. Present-day automotive coating manufacturers use waterborne colors which necessitate the use of a clearcoat for protection.

What’s new in Automotive Coatings?

With cars getting smaller and more affordable, more and more Millennials and Gen-Y buyers are thronging car showrooms. The direct fall-out of this is increased traffic on the road, and the inevitable close-shaves that cars are subjected to, are crowded lanes of big cities. Automotive coating manufacturers such as BASF are cognizant of these and are addressing the new demands effectively.

Scratch-resistant coatings

BASF has introduced a new, nano-structured hybrid material for the India market. The scratch-resistant clearcoat is harder than “normal” clearcoats. The huge advantage with BASF’s iGloss® is that the scratch-resistant properties are part of the complete clearcoat layer and not just on the top of the clearcoat layer as with some paints.

A fine matrix is created in the outer-most layer of the paint in which inorganic silica particles are embedded. This composition helps it blend with the lower coats faster, and also resist the pressures exerted by brush bristles, or even low-grade impact with another object. This ensures that a scratch flattens out quickly and is rendered invisible in minutes.

Unique hues and tints

As several studies conducted by auto companies have revealed, the Asia Pacific market is more conservative when it comes to the color. While 44 percent prefer white, 16 percent prefer black, 10 percent prefer neutrals and silver and another 7 percent prefer gray, the rest is made of rare colors. However, all that is set to change now with more and more buyers being in the age group of 20s and 30s. Unique, bright, metallic, chromatic and floral color options are popular, with some people even experimenting with dual colors or patterned look.

Metallic colors

Metallic colors have been around for over 70 years. However, unlike the limited set of classic metallic colors that have existed till date, newer, more interesting and unusual metallic colors are becoming popular with car lovers around the world. One thing that is common to all of these colors is the pronounced sparkle or glint effect which looks classy and appeals to car buyers of all age-groups.

Xirallic colors

Xirallic colors are a type of metallic colors that have been developed and patented in Japan. It consists of aluminum oxide platelets that are synthetically produced and coated with metallic oxides. These particles are finely-grained, which give the paint a flawless finish, lighter color appearance, deeper color intensity and a much stronger luster. Currently limited to a small set of colors, the coming years will see many more of them.


Glassflakes as the name implies are thin flakes of glass with a noticeable surface area. It is hugely popular for its dual functionality. When used in the basecoat layer, they act like a special effect pigment to give a special sparkling effect. When incorporated into other layers, they act primarily as a barrier pigment. They reduce the lateral shrinkage when the car coating dries out. This makes the car coating less resistant to thermal shock (wide fluctuations in ambient temperature) and more abrasion-resistant (or scratch proof).

Whatever be the new demands of consumers, manufacturers like BASF are rising to the challenge, taking automotive coatings to a new level and giving it its rightful place in automobile design and manufacturing.