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What is Tri Coating?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Image Courtesy of Flickr

The best car paint jobs, in terms of both appearance and longevity, utilize a tri coating technique. Tri-coating is a car painting process which uses a base, middle and clear coat to achieve depth of color and durability. Each coat adds its own attributes to the finished paint job’s aesthetic.

Base Coat

The first step in a tri-coating paint job is the base coat. Base coats are applied over an existing paint job or primer previously applied and dried. Base coat paints come in two varieties, urethane and polyester. Urethane paints provide a more resilient base coat but there are more color options with polyester paint. The purpose of the base coat is to achieve the desired color on the car.

Base coats are applied in thin layers. Never use a base coat on bare metal. If your car has never been painted a primer has to be applied before the base coat can be sprayed on. The base coats should be completely dried before moving on to the next step.

Middle Coat

Visual effects of a tri coating car paint job are achieved by the middle coat. The middle coats are generally a similar compound as the base coat, such as polyester or urethane, so the two layers mix together more effectively. Middle coats are primarily transparent paints which can make the base coat appear metallic, pearlescent, glittery or chameleon. The middle coat is what makes a car’s paint job dynamic and unique. Without this second layer of paint, the finished painted car would be much simpler. Middle coats have to be sprayed on lightly and evenly to avoid applying the coat heavier in some spots.

Top Clear Coat

The final part of tri coating is the clear top coat. This layer serves as protection against fading, chipping and scratches that can damage the first two coats of paint. Clear top coats also add additional shine and gloss to the final paint job, which highlights the visual appeal of the color and middle coat effects. Several layers of clear top coating should be applied to the car. Each coat should be allowed to dry completely before the next coat is sprayed on.

Tri coating is the best way to achieve a unique and bold paint job on your car. The three individual layers each add to a polished and interesting final product.