How to Prevent Fish Eyes in a Clear Coat

Clear coat is the protective barrier used to cover paint on cars and boats, providing an extra guarding layer against stains or damage. Applying the clear coat helps protect your paint for the future, but improper preparation or application of the coat itself leads to mars in the final appearance of the object. One common problem is fish eyes in the clear, which look exactly as they sound: swirling, circular spots that ruin the appearance of the clear coat. Properly cleaning the surface before you begin and careful application will help you avoid these unsightly marks.

Things You'll Need

  • Tack cloth
  • Rag
  • Mineral spirits
  • Lint free cloth
  • Fish eye eliminator
  • Clear coat
  • Additives
  • Spray gun

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Wipe down the painted surface with a dry tack cloth to remove dirt and dust. Dampen a clean rag in mineral spirits and wipe the surface again; the solvent cleaner will remove any grease, oil (including skin oil) or wax buildup. Any contaminants on the surface at all will result in fish eyes in the clear coat, so make sure you thoroughly clean the surface.

Dry the cleaned surface with a lint free cloth to make sure you don’t leave any dust or particles behind. Inspect the entire surface you intend to clear coat to ensure that there are no more contaminants; spot clean any areas as necessary.

Mix fish eye eliminator, a specially designed paint additive, into your clear coat material before you begin painting. Find this material at automotive supply shops and some paint specialty retailers. Follow specific product instructions regarding application rates, as the amount of eliminator needed will vary by product and by the amount of clear coat you use.

Add any additional additives, such as thinner, to your clear coat as required by specific product instructions. Read carefully, as these requirements may change depending on the spray gun you use and other factors.

Spray the clear coat onto the surface in smooth, even, thin layers, overlapping passes by about ½ inch to avoid lines in your final product. Apply the necessary number of coats, allowing each coat to dry in between as recommended.


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