What is oxidation or clearcoat failure (dull, faded, or flaking paint), and can you fix it?

Clearcoat is the upper-most layer of most new car paints, and it provides UV protection from the Central Texas sun and other elements and gives your paint most of the shine. Under the clearcoat is the basecoat (the color), and under that – is primer, followed by whatever substrate is painted (plastic, fiberglass, metal, etc). Older vehicles have what is called single-stage paint, which has no dedicated clearcoat layer. 

Your vehicle’s clearcoat can fail for other reasons, but as a general rule for the purpose of this answer, oxidation is a stage of clearcoat failure, that if caught early enough, can likely be repaired as part of paint enhancement/paint correction. 

Clearcoats on vehicles are generally rated between 10 to 15 years (note that our clear bra by itself is warrantied for 10 years!), but a number of environmental factors can contribute to an earlier failure. This could be the brutal sun we have in the Killeen/Copperas Cove/Harker Heights areas, it could be harsher chemicals used on the surface, excessive polishing over years wearing down the UV protection/clearcoat, or other things.


Oxidation is essentially corrosion or breakdown of the painted surface due to exposure to heat/sun/oxygen. Over time, the paint dries out and begins to fade. You’ve probably seen vehicles with patches of cloudy/milky-looking paint. This process is known as oxidation. Eventually, oxidation will deteriorate the clearcoat. 

Typically, we can repair oxidation using a machine polisher/detail and protect it against future breakdowns by ceramic coating it (which provides UV protection) or installing clear bra, or both. 

Some articles will suggest removing the vehicle from the sun by putting it in a garage, or installing a car cover, but car covers are equally bad for your paint (so don’t listen to that advice). Just keep the vehicle protected with either ceramic coating, clear bra, or both.

Clearcoat failure

As we mentioned above, there are other factors that can cause a clearcoat to fail, but clearcoat failure will also happen as oxidation progresses. If you have ever seen a car with peeling or flaking clearcoat and dull basecoat exposed, the clear coat has failed. Typically, although not always, oxidation will be a very generalized dull area whereas clearcoat failure will have very defined edges. You can often chip the edges of the spot with your fingernail. You cannot fix clearcoat failure by detailing/buffing/polishing/ceramic coating. The only option would be to find an auto body shop (most around here are located in Killeen and Copperas Cove, we know of few if any in the Harker Heights area) and have the repaint/respray the vehicle or affected part.

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