Tri-Coat Paint- A Complete Guide

white honda front The Auto Paint Depot

Most cars since the 1980s have two-layer paint coating technology. The basecoat layer provides the vehicle with the color, while the second clear coat layer protects the basecoat from damage. This process has allowed automotive paint jobs to last way longer than ever anticipated as paint technologies have grown since the days of Henry Ford. Introduced soon after, was tri-coat paint.

The addition of this extra mid-coat layer creates a more aesthetically pleasing finish. Tri-coat paint enhances your vehicle’s basecoat through adding more darkness, depth, or shine. Included below is all you need to know about tri-coat paint. The Auto Paint Depot has you covered for all your tri-coat paint needs. We are proud to offer tri-coat touch up paint in all sizes. All we need is the model, make, year, and paint code to accurately match your vehicle’s factory color!

What is Tri-Coat?

A vehicle that has a tri-coat paint job, simply has three layers of paint. Tri-coats were first introduced on luxury vehicles to enhance their qualities through adding more depth, glow, or darkness. When viewed under direct sunlight, the richness of the extra layer can be experienced. The layers applied in sequential order include the basecoat, mid-coat, and clear coat layer respectively.

The mid-coat is applied as a thin coating after the basecoat. Often used as a translucent color coat, the mid-coat permits light to pass through the paint job and be reflected back. Translucent means that only some light will pass through the surface, proposing it is not completely transparent. The sparkly finish on the mid-coat layer provides an extra layer of depth onto the paintjob that two layers would not normally do. Overall, the general richness of the paint job is increased as a result of adding the extra layer of paint.

Types of Tri-Coats

  • Metallic- Tends to reflect more light than a glossy finish. Adds sparkle and color depth by use of metallic particles or flakes.
  • Pearl- Uses ceramic crystals that both reflect and refract light. Light passes through more slowly, in which produces splits of different colors based on angle of viewing and sunlight amounts.
  • Candy- A high gloss, bright, and flashy finish. Candy paint uses a form of metallic paint with flakes in the basecoat. The mid-coat includes a unique candy paint shade. It is translucent, making candy paint pigment free, thus only consisting of coloring agents.

How to Apply Tri-Coat

The extra layer of paint tri-coats provide, simply adds an extra phase to the painting process. Before painting your vehicle, wash it thoroughly with specifically formulated car wash soaps and dry with a micro-fiber cloth to prevent water streaks. Cover all parts of the vehicle that are not being painted. Also, make sure the surface to be painted is sanded and primed after cleaning for the best results.

The basecoat is applied first for two to three coats. Obviously, let each coat dry before applying the next coat. Drying times are typically 15-20 minutes. Once the basecoats are completed, test the mid-coat color on a test-strip. Be certain that the mid-coat matches the desired color qualities you are looking for. The mid-coat should be translucent. If it is a match, begin to apply the mid-coat. The same drying times apply here as with the basecoat. Do not apply more than four coats as this will saturate the color properties and will no longer be a match. Finally, the clear coat layer can be applied for two to three coats.

Final Thoughts

Tri-coat paint lifts the boundaries of normal two-stage paints. The extra layer provides a more distinct hue through the use of increased darkness, sparkles, and depth. The different types of tri-coats can satisfy any car owner, based on each unique property the variations have to offer. The extra step in the painting process is a worthwhile endeavor, as the results can be breath taking.

The Auto Paint Depot is here with you every step of the way regarding your tri-coat painting needs. We offer tri-coat touch-up paint in all ranges of sizes fit for any job. Minor damage can be repaired with half and one-ounce bottles; while larger damage is covered with aerosol cans, pint, quart, and gallon variants. Contact us today regarding any questions you may have about tri-coat paint.



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