How Long Between Clear Coats (6 Steps to Follow)

Owning a car requires you to color your car once in a while. That being the case, a timeline should be maintained to apply each coating of the color. Especially in the case of a clear coat. Otherwise, the desired glaze won’t be obtained.

So, how long before clear coats?

The clear coat is followed by applying primer and basecoat. A certain interval and thickness are required to apply each layer. The panels of the car need to be scrubbed and prepared properly before painting. All these need to be maintained before applying the clearcoat.

Like the overview? Continue reading if you want to color your car flawlessly. And get the ultimate exhibition. 

6 Steps to Applying Your Clear Coat on Time

The clear coat gives your car a shiny look. But you have to maintain a timeline for applying each layer. The steps below will exhibit you through a perfect timeframe.

Before we start, remember, the perfect temperature for the color spraying is 70 to 80 ℉. The perfect humidity is less than or equal to 50%.

We’ve also prepared a table mentioning the time required for each step.

StepTime of ExecutionTime To Rest
Surface Preparation20 minutesN/A
Sanding40-60 minutesN/A
Masking30 minutesN/A
Primer30-40 minutes30 minutes
Basecoat40-60 minutes30 minutes
1st Clearcoat 10-15 minutes5-10 minutes
2nd Clearcoat10-15 minutes5-10 minutes

After you’ve finished all the steps, leave the paint to rest for at least 1 day. You can also add an additional clearcoat if a professional painter advises. You should not deviate from this timeline. Otherwise, you might not get the expected result.

Step 1: Preparing the Surface

First, the surface needs to be cleaned thoroughly. You can just use dish soap and water for cleaning. The surface needs to be free from wax, oil, and other surface contaminators. Use a clean lint-free towel and prep solvent to ensure this.

Step 2: Sanding the Surface

You have to sand the surface to free it from rust, scratches, or any surface damage. For that, you’ll need three types of sandpapers for different parts.

Before using the primer, sand the surface with 180-200 grit sandpaper. Primer is the most common undercoat. This coat is used to feather the rough surfaces of the car. 

The basecoat area needs to be sanded with 600 grit wet sandpaper. 

In case you’re looking for sandpapers, here are some of our suggestions-

Next off, you’ve to sand the entire surface with 1000-1500 grit wet sandpaper. This will add extra smoothness to the surface.

Lastly, for the plastic parts, just scuff the surface with a grey fine scuff pad until cleaned.

Step 3: Masking Adjacent Panels

To prevent overspray, the adjacent panels should be masked off. You can use 3M automotive-grade masking tape and masking paper. You can also use a pre-taped film. 

Here are our recommendations on automotive-grade masking tape for your convenience. Check them out-

Remember, not to tape off the mid panel or you will find a tape line.

First, make a line with tape. Then tape paper to the prevailing tape line. Double layered newspapers should work fine but still have a chance of bleeding paint through.

So, you can use plastic sheets instead. For small areas like tail lights or reflectors, use masking tapes. 

Step 4: Painting Primer Spray

As we’ve previously sanded the surface for primer, spray 2 light coats over scuffed areas. Wait for 5-10 minutes and apply 3 more coats of color. 

After 30 minutes of waiting, the primer needs to be sanded with 600 grit wet sandpaper. To remove any dirt particles, use a tack rag. This process will be followed by a base coat. 

Step 5: Painting Basecoat Spray

Before applying the basecoat, shake the color spray thoroughly. Spray a test panel with the base coat and clear coat. Compare if the colors and coverage match or not. Apply as many medium coats required to cover the surface. 

Wait for 5-10 minutes before applying each coat. Each coat should be uniform and dry between each basecoat. Use a tack rag to rub the surface before applying another coat.

Now, wait 30 minutes before applying the clear coat.

Step 6: Painting Clear Coat Spray

As usual, shake the clear coat color spray thoroughly. Apply 4-5 wet coats and wait 5-10 minutes before applying each coat. They should be dry to touch before applying the other.

To test this, you can touch the tapeline but not the freshly painted panel.

Leave the car to dry for one entire day. Giving proper dry time is very important.  Otherwise, it might result in a color mismatch or peel texture. You might also not get the glossy appearance that you expect.

After that, peel off the masking layers. Now you’ve to rub the surface to bring out the gloss. 

Use a 1500 grit wet sandpaper and rubbing compound. Rub the panels gently and thoroughly.

Now that you know how to paint each coat, you might be looking for good quality paint. Don’t worry as we’ve picked some of the best brands.

These are well-reviewed for their quality and durability. You can pick any of these for guaranteed performance.

Don’t forget to keep these in mind. They might be small steps but will definitely lay an impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are dark colors hard to paint on cars?

Answer: No color is hard to paint on cars. But the catch is, red and black are the hardest colors to take care of. These colors show dirt, dent, scratches, and muds clearly. So they need to be cleaned, waxed and buffed frequently.

Question: For masking tapes, what should be the ideal width?

Answer: For masking the lights or reflectors, use 1½ ” masking tapes. For adjacent panels, use 3/4“ masking tapes.

Question: How long do clear coats last?

Answer: The clearcoat can wear off or be chipped off by road debris. Worst case scenario is you might have to polish your car 2-3 times a year.


Congratulations! Now you know how long between clear coats you should wait. If you’ve followed these steps, you should be happy with the result.

Let us know how well you pulled it off. Mention any issues that you might have faced.

Till then, best wishes.

Rob Dahm

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