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How to: Prevent and Eliminate Wrinkling in Car Paint

How can I fix the rough grooves or ridges in my car paint?

The condition is known as wrinkling.  It looks like irregular, crinkled grooves or ridges similar to the skin of a prune. Most wrinkling can be repaired by sanding and refinishing, but severe wrinkling requires removing the affected area and refinishing.

In this article, I’ll answer common questions about preventing wrinkling and fixing it when it happens.

  • What is wrinkling?
  • What causes wrinkling?
  • How can I repair a surface that has wrinkling?
  • How do I prevent wrinkling?

What is wrinkling?

Wrinkling (also called crinkling, puckering, shriveling) describes a rough, crinkled paint auto surface that looks like the skin of a prune.

What causes wrinkling?

Wrinkling is often the result of mistakes made when preparing or applying a painted surface:

  • You applied coats that were too wet or excessively thick.
  • You exposed a newly painted finish to the hot sun too soon after spraying.
  • You used a lacquer thinner to reduce synthetic enamel.
  • You sprayed in extremely hot, humid weather conditions.
  • You used an under-reduced or too-fast evaporating thinner or reducer for the spraying conditions.
  • Your air pressure was too low when spraying the finish.
  • You forced dried air-dry enamels without using the recommended additives.

How can I repair a surface that has wrinkling?

There are two ways to repair wrinkling on a surface:

  1. For minor cases of wrinkling, sand the top surface smooth, allow it to cure, then refinish.
  2. For severe cases of wrinkling, remove the affected area and refinish.

How do I prevent wrinkling?

There are several things you can do to prevent wrinkling from happening:

  • Avoid applying coats or finishes that are too heavy or thick.
  • Keep a newly painted finish away from direct sunlight until it has dried and cured.
  • Use a reducer that is specifically recommended for the finish.
  • Use the recommended reducer, additive, and retarder when spraying in hot, humid weather.
  • Select the right thinner and reducer based on the temperature, air movement, and size of the repair.
  • Use the proper reduction ratio and spray using the recommended air pressure.
  • Select the additives that suit the drying conditions. When force drying, follow temperature and time recommendations.

Taking these steps will prevent wrinkling in your car paint and help you consistently achieve a smooth, professional finish.