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Sunday, February 2, 2014
3-Stage, Candy or Tri-Coat Paint
What is Three Stage Paint?
Three stage paint jobs have the most depth and sometimes appear to change color as a car drives by. The most common three stage paint is pearl white. Intense "Candy Apple Red" and similar paint jobs are also 3-stage. They achieve effects that regular one- and two-stage paints can't. The trick is a middle stage of paint that is translucent (partially transparent.) The middle layers can have a second color and/or pearl dust, mica and metallic flakes in it that allows light to reflect off of the base coat and the various elements differently than if the same elements were simply mixed together in regular paint. The middle stage changes the color of the base stage. It also adds the sparkle or color shifting effect of the pearl, metal or mica flake. In addition, by varying the thickness of the mid-coat layers, you can create increasing variations in the way the paint reacts with light. So at one angle you see one color and level of sparkle and irridescense then at another angle it may look dramatically more light, dark, irridescent or even a different color entirely.
Three stage paints require a vehicle to be painted three times, as opposed to one or two times with a normal paint job. So there is more labor and materials involved. Additionally, the additives for the middle stage, like pearl dust, are often expensive materials (pearl dust can really be ground-up pearls and mother of pearl.) And last, 3-stage paint jobs take a tremendous amount of skill. So the people who do them well get paid well. A three-stage paint job is not one to pick on a tight budget.
In everyday use, three stage paints should be treated just like any other paint. If possible, park in a garage to minimize fading from the sun. Wash off contaminants as soon as possible. Common paint killers are bug splatter, bird droppings and chemicals that fall on the car as dust or mist. And finally, protect the paint with a good, quality wax. Good waxes are typically the type that you put on, let dry, then work like the dickens to polish to a high luster. If you have a sore arm after applying wax to one fender, it is probably a decent wax. We suggest finding a good detailer and paying him/her to wax your car once or twice a year.
Three stage paints can be difficult or impossible to duplicate if you ever have an accident and need to repair a portion of the paint job. A slight variation in one of the three different paint processes can result in a dramatically different appearance from the rest of the car. Repairs on a vehicle with a manufacturer standard 3-stage paint require a larger repaint area than other paint jobs. For example, a dent on one door may require blending paint across the entire side of the vehicle. For custom or non-standard finishes, you will probably need to repaint the entire vehicle to avoid strange variations in colors and intensities.