How to Use an Elcometer


An elcometer is generally used as a paint thickness measuring device, although it will measure the applied thickness of any blasted substrate coating. Measuring paint or substrate coatings have many practical and quality control applications in the industry. Commonly, commercial used-car buyers will measure the paint thickness on automobiles to identify damaged or repainted areas. By properly reading an elcometer, you can determine whether a substrate coating will be thick and durable enough, or if an automobile has been rebuilt after being in an accident.

Things You'll Need

  • Manual elcometer
  • Replica tape
  • Burnishing tool
  • Digital elcometer

Substrate Coatings

  • Calibrate your manual elcometer by inserting a piece of replica tape and measuring the thickness. Once the thickness of the tape is known, zero out the elcometer.

  • Place your replica tape on a piece of coated substrate, adhesive side down, and firmly rub the center with a burnishing tool. This action will pick up the underlying coating and transfer it to the tape.

  • Remove the replica tape from the substrate and place the center rubbed area into the elcometer. Read the thickness on the dial, and that is the thickness of the substrate coating.

Automobile Paint

  • Calibrate your digital elcometer to zero. In most cases, however, elcometers come pre-calibrated from the factory.

  • Press the measuring end opposite the meter end, onto any painted side of an automobile. This will give you a measurement representing the thickness of the paint.

  • Measure the paint thickness in many different areas and compare the results. Digital elcometers send an electronic signal through the paint that bounces back to the unit, much like radar. Measurements that are close in value will show a regular paint job with no blemishes or body damaged. Wildly swinging measurement figures will show body damage that has been aesthetically repaired using a body filler, that was then covered up and hidden by being painted over.

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  • Photo Credit detail of vintage british car, fender, wheel, and image by Bo Widerberg from
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