TTAC Commentator Pietalian writes:
Longtime fan of the column, first time inquirer. You roll a “well-aged” fleet of cars yourself, so I’m sure you have dealt with this issue.
Here’s the deal: My wife and I recently purchased a burgundy 2003 Mazda Miata as a third car. Save the manuals, rah rah rah. It has 85k and has been well-maintained mechanically. We live in southern Indiana, but the car is intended to be a 3-season vehicle and will live in the garage.
Unfortunately,the driver-side fender has a patch of clearcoat about 2 inches by 4 inches that has delaminated and is chipping away. Every body shop I have gotten estimates from insists on removing and fully repainting the hood, fenders and driver door to ensure matching hues for about $1,000+. The passenger fender has some dull white patches that appear to be following the same trajectory. The car shows no evidence of a collision, and several forums indicate that this was an issue from the factory.
A picture is attached. The yellow object is a Post-It note included for scale.
Spending $1,000 on bodywork for a small patch is a tough pill to swallow. For about $50, I could buy some supplies and try to patch the clearcoat myself. This seems like a short-term fix, but maybe that is a smart move to avoid rust now while I wait for the other fender to similarly deteriorate before going to the pros. My shop experience is wrenches-only though, so my results are likely to vary…
My wife and I want to keep this car for several years. What do you and the B&B think:
- Spend $1,000 or more to get multiple panels repainted and avoid any chance of rust?
- Spend $50 and a weekend with rattle-can clearcoat as a stopgap measure
- Try to find a shop that will just resurface the driver fender?
- Leave everything alone and grunt that “It’s a 10 y/o car”?
Excellent question, and yes I’ve been here before…along with everyone with a North American made whip in the early 1990s. That was supposedly when EPA regulations changed (citation needed) the way clear coat was applied to cars, much to everyone’s dismay 5-10 years down the line. Chryslers, GM products, Fords, Hondas…they all had northern hemisphere clear coat “dandruff” because of it.
More to the point, let’s make this a cosmetic discussion, nothing to do with rusting: clear coat fail implies there’s still paint protection, it just ain’t pretty or especially durable. There’s still a layer of colored paint and primer underneath, and that photo proves it.
There is no wrong answer, so let’s discuss the (valid) options you presented:
- Multiple panels repainted: at that price, perhaps you should re-spray the entire car? This is a slippery slope, but perhaps this gets you the result you truly want.
- If you try the DIY route odds are (months later) you’ll hate the outcome and curse yourself for thinking you’re smarter than the average body shop. (Sadly, there’s a good chance you are not.) Re-clearing a bad paint job rarely works well, lasts very long, and generally is a waste of everyone’s time and money. Consider the opportunity cost, as you have other things you’d prefer to do in your spare time.
- A decent idea. Perhaps color matching is possible, but that 10-year-old burgundy/purple-y color must be a colossal PITA to match. Not as horrifying as silver, and surely not as easy as fleet-sweet white. If you had a white Miata, this option is the obvious choice.
- Sure, why not? Rust isn’t a problem here. A Miata isn’t desirable like a Porsche or Ferrari: whatever you spend here won’t make a big difference in resale value.
I’d stick with option 4 until the clear coat fail gets worse, leading to the ultimate need to get a complete body re-spray. Why? Because that’s what I’m doing with my Mark VIII; while it has multiple, minor body problems, none of them horribly offend me. At some point the house of cards will fall: one more scratch and I will actually care. I have a feeling it’s almost there: there’s clear coat fail on the C-pillar, and it’s only gonna get worse. And the Cobra R wheels I recently added have the same issue: maybe they need a re-spray in body color too. Perhaps.
So my time will come, and it will be worth it. Off to you Best and Brightest!
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.