Can I repair a blistered clear coat?

June 1, 2008 | By Richard Beatty


The clear coat on my boat is blistering and peeling like a severe case of sunburn. The paint underneath the clear coat is metallic. I have been told that metallic paint should not be sanded. I am afraid to apply any chemical remover for fear that it will damage the paint. Not all of the clear coat is peeling. Is there a way to feather the bad areas to good areas or is there a chemical process that can be done without damaging the paint? How do I prep the boat for a new clear coat?


This question pertains to a fairly common problem found on collectible cars and trucks and that’s why we are answering it, so please don’t get the wrong idea and start sending in vintage boat questions.

The best solution is to remove all of the clear coat. There is obviously a problem with adhesion and there’s no reason to believe that the sections of clear that are holding on today will keep doing so tomorrow, but there’s every reason to believe that all of the clear will blister and peel as time marches on.

You cannot use a chemical on the clear without also harming the underlying paint. While it is possible that the clear can be scraped off with single-edge razor blades, it will be very difficult to do this without marring the paint in some areas. Sanding the clear off will also almost certainly result in visible blemishes in the paint beneath it.

As a result, your best course of action is to sand all of the clear off, sand all of the paint surface to take the shine off of it, and then spray on one or two color coats before applying new clear coat. This will help ensure that the underlying metallic color has a uniform appearance throughout and will also give the clear coats a “good bite” for better adhesion.