Automotive Paint Problems Here Are The Causes and Solutions

Automotive Paint Problems? Here Are The Causes and Solutions

Some do-it-yourself types enjoy trying their hands at automotive painting. When doing so, it is important for you to be able to recognize and correct some of the things that cause the most frequently occurring automotive paint problems.


When you spray on a coating of primer or paint, fisheyes might result. These are crater-like circular openings that may appear either while you are spraying your primer or paint on or directly after it has been applied. This problem is usually caused by spraying your primer or paint onto a surface that has contamination from wax, silicone, grease or oil. The easy way to avoid this is to make certain that you use a wax and grease remover while you are preparing to paint.

Wrinkling or lifting

This problem occurs when a paint layer shrivels up while you are applying a new finish or while the new finish is drying. This happens when solvents in your new finish attack the old finish, causing the lifting and wrinkling. This can happen when you are recoating urethanes or enamels without allowing them to fully cure or when you wait beyond the maximum dry time during your application.


Bleeding occurs when you have a discoloration that appears in your topcoat color. It happens when the fresh topcoat’s solvent dissolves pigments that are soluble in the old finish. This may be repaired by allowing your stained topcoat to fully cure. Then, spray a sealer over it and reapply the color.

Dulling or hazing

This happens when the gloss or shine of the finish dulls as it dries. There are many different causes, but it often results when you don’t allow the undercoat to adequately dry or cure.

Crow’s feet

These are cracks that sometimes appear in topcoats. Like dulling, this may result from several different causes. The most common reasons this might occur include the following:

  • Using a blowgun to dry your primer
  • Applying too thick of a film coat
  • Insufficient drying time between coats
  • Using too much catalyst or hardener in your primer or paint

To fix this, you must strip away all of the cracked paint film and redo the job.


Sags are extremely common for do-it-yourself types. These occur when you hold your paint gun too close to the surface, double coat a spot or move it too slowly. It also sometimes happens when you reduce an area too much or trying to paint when it is too cold. To avoid this, hold your paint gun at a perpendicular angle, keep it far enough way from the surface and move it in fast, even strokes.

Orange peeling

An orange-peeled surface has the appearance of an orange peel. This is normally a result of using too low of pressure or not reducing the paint enough. If it is not too severe, you might be able to correct it with wet sanding using 1200-grit sand paper followed by buffing or respraying of the surface. Always thin your paint according to the instructions on the label and do not overcoat your surface.

Feather-edge lifting

Also known as edge mapping, this paint problem results from solvents in topcoats penetrating through areas of the undercoats. It looks like a wrinkling around an area that has been repaired. To avoid this, make certain to use a primer surfacer that is water-based, two-component or another sealer to create a good barrier layer. When this problem happens, you will need to either remove the problem area or smooth and sand it.

Air trapping

This problem occurs when tiny air bubbles rise to the surface of the paint and pop, leaving craters behind. To avoid this, make certain that your spray gun is adjusted properly, use the correct air pressure setting and keep your gun an appropriate distance away from the surface. You can correct this problem by sanding the area with 1200-grit sandpaper and then polishing it.

Sand scratches

These are streaks, lines or marks that appear in your paint film. They are the result of not properly sanding the body or primer, filling in scratches with primer or sanding basecoat or single-stage finishes before you clear them. You can fix these by letting it cure and then re-sanding the problem area before refinishing it.


With this problem, cracks of varying lengths form in your finish. This results when the film of your undercoat or topcoat is too thick. It can also happen when you are painting over a cracked surface or if you use too much hardener. This requires stripping and refinishing to fix.


When you lose adhesion between your paint and its substrate, sections of the color may separate away. To avoid this, make sure that you prepare the surface properly by properly sanding, cleaning and using the correct primer.


Pinholes occur when body fillers contain air bubbles that are then exposed while you sand the area, leaving small holes behind in the surface. This results from the improper mixing of your hardener with the filler. If you use too much of the hardener, pinholing is even likelier to occur.

Debris in your paint

It is important to try to paint in an environment that is as dirt- and dust-free as possible. Wetting down the floor both before you spray your paint and between each coat can help. You should also make certain that the surface itself is thoroughly cleaned before you begin.


This happens when your paint is soft after it is dry, making it susceptible to water spotting and fingerprints for days after your paint job. This happens when you spray the undercoat or topcoat too heavily or don’t give sufficient drying time between the coats.


Mottling refers to a streaked appearance that might appear in transparent or metallic finishes. It can be caused by many different things, including using a spray pattern that is not balanced, tilting the gun, over-thinning or spraying on your clearcoat before the basecoat has completely dried.


Grit refers to the problem of solid particles of varying sizes being embedded in the surface of your paint. This can happen when the paint or primer is not strained or stirred properly. It can also happen if you are using a can of old paint. It is possible to fix this issue by allowing it to cure and then sanding and re-spraying.


These are swollen areas that appear in the surface months or weeks after your paint job. They result from moisture that is trapped under the surface of the paint. To avoid this, try to paint in a dry area, using a dehumidifier if the area in which you live is one with high humidity.


This can happen when you paint over body filler or glazing putty, and it appears as a yellow stain in the topcoat. It can be caused by using either too much or too little hardener in your filler, not mixing the filler completely or priming before you’ve allowed the filler to cure completely.


In areas with high humidity levels, blushing can happen when the evaporation of the solvent reduces the surface temperature below the dew point. This can cause moisture in the paint layer, leaving a clouded look to the surface. You can fix this problem by adding retarder to the paint mixture and recoating the area. Choosing a high-quality reducer that is designed for the conditions in which you will be painting can help to avoid this problem.

The best way to avoid automotive paint problems is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations at all times. Always make certain to give the layers the appropriate time to cure, use high-quality products and avoid cutting corners to achieve the results that you want.

Comments 25

  1. After painting some small parts , as the paint dried it “rain bowed” obvious oil was present.changed oil seperator cleaned gun and air hose. Nothing changed. Finally took a small brush and right out of the can the paint “ rainbowed” … so did it get contaminated when mixed? Please help

    1. Spray painting plastic side Motorcycle panel! Used Duplicate-Color automotive Primer Sealer after sanding and prepping that panel!
      The primer looked good!
      Applied Dupli-Color (Perfect Match) paint for the main coat of paint!
      It dried to a dull finish!
      Sanded the finish with wet/dry sand paper and applied a top coat!
      Same results!
      Used the same process once before and it turned out ok!
      What did I do wrong or is it the cool weather??
      Thanks in advance!👍😁

      1. Spray painted a motorcycle side panel with Dupli-Color Primer Sealer. The primer looked good! The next day after the Primer was totally dry, I used Dupli-Coat automotive paint for my first coat!
        It dried flat! Not glossy! Sanded panel with wet-dry sand paper! The applied a second coat of gloss paint to the panel and it also dried flat!
        This process worked before and turned out nice, but this time it failed! The weather here in the Midwest is cool with about 60 degrees! Any suggestions would be appreciated and what I did wrong!
        Thanks in advance!👍😁

        1. Order a can of 2k clear and you will love the results. 2k clear is a 2 part clear? The can comes with a red button that you need to press to release a hardener in the can which mixes with tbe clear giving you great results. But you wont find this in any retail store. Online or any automotive paint supplier

  2. thank you. very informative site it really helped. may i suggest to optimize the information to a newbee it would be very user friendly to have a picture of each scenario next to the explanation so that the user has a probable cause and visualization available. Regardless i love this site and i use it often ever since the day i found it. thank you.

  3. hi , i recently purchased a 1938 Austin seven, the last owner had painted the car himself
    and it had cracks in the paint which were quite deep, i have tried sanding down these, but as soon as i put primer on it shows cracks again, i tried washing / degreasing, but still re cracks ,
    the paint that was put on looks yellow as a base think etch primer, then grey primer then colour, .
    can you help please ?

    1. You need to either sand everything off down to the bare metal or if you want to cut corners you can fill the cracks with body filler, then prime, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

  4. Hubby painted and clear coated son’s truck. It “orange peeled”. Your solution was to wet sand with fine grain paper and respray. How far down to sand? The paint was custom and expensive. Can we save it and just clear coat after sanding?

  5. Some great advice and perhaps you can help me with a recent problem. Over the years I have often undertaken small car repairs to chips and dents with fibre glass filler then grey primer and topcoat to keep family vehicles looking reasonable. However, my most recent attempt spraying silver seemed a good match covering an oval area but the edges appear darker. Not sure if this bleed off effect is down to my spraying technique or possibly part melting colour from the grey primer beneath? If you think it is the latter can you give any advice on optimum drying/hardening time for primer before applying top coat? Working outside in British climate usually means ambient temperature between 60 – 70 F which is probably somewhat cooler than typical temperatures in USA.
    Any hints or advice very gratefully received.

  6. Paining 3 stage max mayer waterbase ground coat went on smooth first coat of next stage the tinted laq started getting what looked like paint inpigments popping through i was painting a large panel on side of bus this is 2nd time happened now any ideas what cause is

  7. Just clear coated a rook. It dried and looks spotted like a leopard with darker sots an hazy whiter patches. Wet sanded and waxed but still there to a less degree.

    It was uppers 80s when I did this.


  8. Hey everyone I just tried painting my car everything was going good I got my first coat on let dry for about 20min started spraying again but it splattered all over what did I do wrong

  9. My father in law has painted his 31 model A 4 times in the past 8 months. His first 3 paint jobs we thought had water in it. Thousands of these little bitty crater/ shiny spots. Sanded down again and again till the spots went away. Wiped clean. Wetted floor down. Installed a compressed air dryer and 2 high dollar filters. This last one he still is getting these spots. Wondering if maybe they could be solvent pop. He’s old school and paints how he always has. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Hello, painted my bumper with primer, paint, clear coat. I let it dry for two weeks, then when I polished it. I see primer… help please.

  11. So I trizact the light scratches out 3000 , then I mop with 3m polish green and blue but once left over night they come back through the wet flat marks ? Can anyone help

  12. Hi had merc sl 1989 resprayed. After driving found a number of stone chips. Paint seems to have peeled off top coat and colour coat left thin layer like sunburn. Peeled off manually. Hard too stored for 6 months. The bar that it leans on in storage rack has marked paint. Imprinted.
    Problem. May be soft paint??

  13. I’m trying to repaint a hood and front passenger fender from brown to black. Can I use proxy coat ii gloss black as the paint and since it’s one part epoxy should I use a epoxy primer. What cleaning supplies should I also use for each step

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