Matte clear coat, not to be confused with impermanent vinyl wraps, resists fading and protects a car’s base paint as well as any clear coat. The distinctive finish, however, is vulnerable.
“Even leaning against it can essentially buff it and increase the gloss,” says Michael Bennett, North American marketing manager for Axalta Coating Systems (formerly DuPont Performance Coatings).
Scratches and swirls don’t show as much as on glossy finishes — one detailer says he’s never seen swirls on matte paint, but should they appear, they’re impossible to fix with the usual detailing tools. Polishes, clay bars, and buffers only make the damage worse. Some car-care companies have introduced sealants that promise to protect matte finishes; however, the only sure way to prevent damage is constant vigilance.
“Wash them. Wash them all day long,” advises Michael Pennington, director of training and consumer relations at Meguiar’s.
Pennington recommends using two to three wash buckets, new wash mitts, and very light pressure. He suggests drying with compressed air or even a leaf blower. “The less you’re touching that paint, the better.” If you’re going to spot-clean between washes — many spray waxes are safe, as are most alcohol-based window cleaners — change towels constantly.
Despite — and perhaps because of — the intensive maintenance requirements and niche appeal, the special finish is booming. Hyundai says it can’t build enough matte Veloster Turbos to meet demand. Mercedes-Benz will offer matte paint as an option on its upcoming entry-level CLA-class.
“I’m a little surprised that it’s become as prominent as it has, especially with OEMs,” notes Bennett, although he echoes many others by adding, “I think it looks cool.”
To hose or not to hose
There’s an entire industry devoted to keeping your car looking freshly washed without the hassle of actually washing it. Used improperly, however, these products can effectively turn grit and grime into sandpaper. Here’s our guide for when to use what.
A spectator has kicked carpet fibers onto your SEMA show car. Glare at the brute while gently sweeping the soiled surface.
You’ve parked outside in the spring or summer. Use multiple microfiber towels. Are they dragging on the surface? Stop.
You’ve parked outside in the fall or winter. Any caked-on dirt still needs to be, yes, rinsed off before you use the product. Try a coin-operated self-service wash. Pay attention to your towel management.
Towel management ˇtau˙(-ə)l ˇma-nij-mənt n: the use of multiple towels, and multiple sides of each towel, to prevent scratching. Expect to use six to eight towels, each folded twice, to wipe clean or dry an entire car.