How To Fix Wrinkled Paint On a Car: Tips, Causes, and Solutions

How To Fix Wrinkled Paint On a Car – Is your car’s paint looking less than pristine? Nothing’s more disheartening than spending time and effort on a paint job, only to see it marred by unsightly wrinkles or lifting. But fear not! You’re not alone in facing this common automotive woe.

How To Fix Wrinkled Paint On a Car is a quest many car enthusiasts and owners embark upon at some point. Understanding why this happens and how to remedy it is key to restoring your car’s aesthetic appeal.

Imagine the frustration: you’ve diligently applied layers of paint, only to find wrinkling or lifting ruining your hard work.

This phenomenon, known as paint wrinkling or lifting, occurs when a new layer of paint reacts adversely with the existing one.

The result? An uneven, crinkled surface that mars the beauty of your car’s exterior.

How To Fix Wrinkled Paint On a Car

How To Fix Wrinkled Paint On a Car

Painting a car can be a meticulous process, but what happens when the painted surface starts showing signs of wrinkling or lifting? These paint defects can be frustrating, leading to an uneven and unappealing finish.

This problem occurs when the new coat dries at a different rate than the underlying layer, causing the surface to shrivel or wrinkle.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss the causes of wrinkling or lifting in car paint, how to avoid it, and step-by-step solutions to fix this issue effectively.

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Causes of Wrinkling/Lifting

Several factors contribute to wrinkling or lifting in car paint:

How To Fix Wrinkled Paint On a Car

  • Chemical Incompatibilities: Incompatibilities between the chemicals used in paints can lead to this issue.
  • Application of Synthetic Resin: Applying synthetic resin excessively thick can cause wrinkling.
  • Unfavorable Drying Conditions: Extreme temperatures, both high and low, as well as rainy conditions, can affect the drying process and cause wrinkling.
  • Drier Additives: Lack of drier additives or insufficient addition can contribute to lifting or wrinkling.
  • Exceeding Recoat Time: Going beyond the recommended recoat time during application can lead to this paint defect.
  • Insufficient Film Build: Applying new coats over old ones with insufficient film build can result in wrinkling.
  • Re-coating Uncured Finishes: Applying enamels or urethanes on surfaces that haven’t fully cured can cause lifting.
  • Excessive Force During Application: Forcefully spraying paint onto surfaces can contribute to paint wrinkling.
  • Surface Contamination: Applying paint on a contaminated surface can result in wrinkling.
  • Wax Presence: Spraying paint over a waxed surface can lead to this paint defect.

Tips for Avoiding Wrinkling/Lifting

To prevent wrinkling or lifting in car paint, consider the following tips:

  1. Check finishes using lacquer thinner on a small inconspicuous area.
  2. Adhere to recommended film builds and drying conditions.
  3. Avoid exceeding maximum recoat times.
  4. Allow enamels or urethanes to cure completely before reapplication.
  5. Refrain from applying excessively wet undercoats or topcoats.
  6. Use waterborne undercoats for sensitive finishes.

Fixing Wrinkled Paint

Repairing wrinkled or lifted paint requires a systematic approach:

  • Minor Wrinkling: For minor issues, allow the area to dry completely. Then, sand off the affected area and reapply the finish.
  • Significant Wrinkling: In cases of severe wrinkling, stripping both layers of paint may be necessary. This involves removing the affected paint layers entirely and repainting the vehicle from scratch.

Step-by-Step Process to Fix Wrinkled Paint

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Allow the paint to cure fully for 2-4 days.

Gently sand the wrinkled area to smooth out raised sections. Use caution to avoid sanding down to the base surface.

Step 2: Apply Primer

Spray a urethane primer over the sanded area, ensuring even coverage.

Let the primer dry for approximately 2 hours before sanding.

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Step 3: Sand and Inspect

Block sand the primed area until it becomes flat. Apply an additional coat of primer if any wrinkles persist.

Step 4: Repaint

Once the area is smooth and free from wrinkles, apply the basecoat according to manufacturer guidelines.

Follow the recommended drying times and application techniques to prevent further wrinkling.

Fixing wrinkled paint is possible as a DIY project, complex issues might require professional intervention. Costs for repainting will vary based on the surface area needing refinishing.

Understanding the causes and solutions for wrinkled or lifted paint on cars is crucial for maintaining a flawless finish.

By following proper painting techniques, using compatible products, and being mindful of environmental conditions, you can significantly reduce the risk of encountering this frustrating paint defect.

Can you paint over wrinkled paint?

No, painting over wrinkled paint isn’t recommended. When paint wrinkles, the paint system’s long-term performance is compromised. It’s advised to remove the affected paint system by scraping or sanding the substrate before repainting it using a quality prep coat and topcoat paint system.

How long does it take for wrinkle paint to cure?

Wrinkle paint needs sufficient time to cure properly. After being left in the oven for at least 60 minutes (preferably 90 minutes), the painted piece should be cool to handle. However, the full curing of wrinkle paint generally takes about 20 days.

How do you smooth paint on a car after painting?

To smooth out rough or clumpy paint on a car after painting, use a cotton swab and apply a small amount of paint thinner specifically to the affected area. Ensure the thinner is only applied to the clumped paint, avoiding nearby smooth paint.

Rub the area with the swab, and the paint should start smoothing out and adhering to the cotton.

Why does clear coat spray paint wrinkle?

Clear-coat spray paint can wrinkle due to the solvents present in most spray paints. Applying paint in thick coats can trap these solvents, leading to wrinkles or cracks in the paint. To prevent this issue, it’s essential to apply oil-based spray paint thinly, allowing solvents to escape rather than accumulating and causing wrinkling.


Encountering wrinkled paint on your car is a hurdle, but not a roadblock.

Remember, prevention is better than cure. Take precautions, follow proper painting techniques, and use compatible products to minimize the risk of encountering this paint predicament in the future.

Armed with knowledge on How To Fix a Wrinkled Paint On a Car, you’re better equipped to tackle this issue head-on. So, fear not the wrinkle! With patience, guidance, and a little elbow grease, your car’s paint can be restored to its former flawless glory.

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