Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two-Stage Paint

This post is the 2nd in a series on Paint Technologies--What do people mean by single-stage, two-stage & three-stage paint? A previous post discussed single-stage paint. This article describes two-stage paint.

The terms "single-stage, two-stage & three-stage describe different types of auto painting processes. Each "stage" is a step in the process. Think of the stages like the layers of rock in the photo below. Each "stage" is like one of the different color bands in the formation. It is a layer of material:

Two-Stage:  It can also be called 2-stage, bi-stage, base-clear, base coat/clear coat, B/C, etc. In this case the 1st of the two stages is the base coat. It contains the colored paint. The 2nd stage is the clear coat--layers of clear paint that go on top of the color paint to provide protection & gloss. So in relation to the rock formation, 2-stage paint is equivalent to two bands of rock stacked together. Auto manufacturers in the USA phased-out single stage paints and transitioned to two-stage or base coat-clear coat paints in 1987.

Any paint is designed to protect the car against damage from sunlight, acid rain, bird droppings and all of the other environmental hazards that your car gets exposed to every day. Reputable shops like Almost Everything Autobody will apply 2-3 coats of base-coat AND 2-3 coats of clear-coat to your vehicle. 2-stage paints cost a little more initially than single-stage paints but are generally a more economical choice when it is important to keep the vehicle looking good, when you want to maintain resale value or you plan to keep the vehicle for more than 3 years because they are easier to maintain, last & look better longer.

Some advantages of 2-stage paints are:
  • Better UV protection & resistance to fading from sunlight
  • Easier maintenance with ability to remove scratches that don't penetrate down to the color layer
  • Better resistance to chipping
  • More variety, better looking & more vibrant colors & metallic finishes
  • Better gloss & "wet" look
  • Easier to achieve uniform color appearance
  • Possible to address cosmetic issues like dust specks and paint runs
  • Generally look better, longer than single stage paints
The process and materials used in 2-stage paints result in a more uniform layer of color that causes metallic paints to be more brilliant. The single-stage process is not capable of achieving the same results and certain colors--especially golds, silvers, champagnes and bronzes--can look dull and grey in single-stage when compared to 2-stage. When color is important, choose 2-stage paint to achieve the right hue & luminosity.

I began to type "disadvantages" but I don't think that the following is really a disadvantage as much as a difference between single-stage and 2-stage paints that may affect the type of paint you choose. When 2-stage paint reaches the end of its useful life, usually 7-14 years after the car was originally built and painted, instead of fading like single-stage paints, the top, clear layer turns cloudy and if not repaired, can start to peel and expose the more fragile color coat and even the metal underneath. We call this delamination. Many customers find failing clear coat ugly and more objectionable than the relatively uniform fading that is found on older-technology single stage paints. It is important to remember that 2-stage paint provides great protection and looks better longer than single-stage paint but, in our opinion, it does fail less gracefully when its time is done.

It is a good idea to get a car re-painted when this delamination starts to happen for a number of reasons--number one being cost. The longer the car goes without new paint, the more damage that happens to the existing paint, the greater the chance for rust and the more work that is required to fix the problem, not to mention, the car becomes embarrassing, looks worn-out and starts to quickly lose value. You should not allow anyone to put new paint on top of delaminating paint. The old, delaminating paint will continue to peel under the new paint and the new paint will quickly peel off just like the old stuff was doing! Don't waste your money on new paint if you don't plan to get the failed paint reconditioned first.

One note of caution, there are cheap paints out there--any of single-stage, two-stage or three-stage can be painted with poor materials that produce lousy results and don't last long. Almost Everything uses only top quality paints from the supplier used on NASA's Space Shuttle, the Golden Gate Bridge and just about every car make & model since the Model T Ford.

We will be posting additional articles that deal with color matching, gloss, texture and "orange peel," wet sanding or color sanding, solids, metallics & pearls. Feel free to drop by our shop if you are near to us and we will be happy to discuss with you.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I am bringing my car into this Maaco on Monday to get painted. It is in very poor condition with tons of peeling that needs to be fixed. I cannot wait to see how it comes out. The car is all I have and I can't afford something to replace it. I went with a higher price paint job rather than the entry level job & I know it's gonnna be worth every penny. Thank you - Ross

  2. Please note: our shop is Almost Everything Auto Body--same owner & staff since 2006.


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