Matte, low-gloss and satin finishes look great, but extra care needs to be taken.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario -- November 12, 2015 -- The OEMs are increasingly offering satin, low-gloss and matte finishes on their cars. According to John Hughes, Collision Repair Specialist for Fiat Chrysler, anyone working on the car needs to be aware of the new level of care that must be taken with these paint options. These finishes may look great, but they are touchy. Hughes was the subject matter expert on this week’s Guild 21 industry conference call.

Hughes has a wealth of experience in the industry, and is an expert in body sealing, prep, paint coating systems, weld-bonding, rivet-bonding, adhesives and collision repair. He was on the call to warn stakeholders about the risks in working these finishes.

The emergence of the new matte, low-gloss and satin finishes over the last couple of years has been the biggest trend in car colouring. We've all seen these cars. Finishing a vehicle in matte black—the so-called “murdered out” look—has become extremely popular. But many cars are now being finished with other, brighter colours offered in matte and satin finishes. They look great, no doubt. But there is also no doubt that these finishes are delicate, finicky and fragile.

“These colours are interesting. But you have to be very, very careful,” says Hughes. Even a spilled liquid can leave a mark. So techs need to be wary when they're around these finishes. “You have to keep your hands clean. The oil on your fingers can burnish the finish.” So be careful with the hood. As well, gasoline degrades the top coat of satin finishes, so you have to be extremely careful around the fuel lid.

“Dealers have to physically sign off on the delivery of these vehicles. Paint warranties on these vehicles are very short,” says Hughes.

There is some protection available, in the form of paint protection products. Waxes can make it easier to keep these finishes clean and can help prevent water spotting.

“Protecting the surface can help. Treat these paint jobs regularly,” says Hughes. But be careful when applying these products. “These colours are very susceptible to application issues. Always test in an area (that’s not normally visible). If you get one of these in the shop, get in touch with your paint company representative. They can help with these issues,” he says.

Two brand names of wax protectors that Hughes mentioned were Swissvax Opaque Satin Paint Wax and Dr. Beasley's Satin Paint and Sealant. Apply these sealers with a minimum amount of wiping to avoid “burnishing” the finish. These protection products need to be applied “with a light touch,” says Hughes. “Wipe these waxes on the surfers in a forward and backward motion. Not in a curricular pattern. Applying in a circular pattern can create swirls in the finish. That area will stick out like a sore thumb.”

As well, commercial car washes are out as these can also burnish the finish. “Using commercial car washes you'll see spots and arcs,” says Hughes. That is, “It's all hand washing with these vehicles.”

Hughes notes that OEMs have taken to warning customers about the higher level of care involved with these finishes. “We make this clear to the customer when we make delivery. We have to be clear and upfront,” says Hughes.


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