Automotive coating guide Canada

Protective yet decorative automotive coating for durability and looks

The automotive coating industry is far larger than which colour to paint your car. Every surface in a vehicle from the bodywork and under body to the exhaust and even the glass surfaces needs a specialised coating to last and perform its best. The automotive coatings market can be roughly divided into OEM automotive coatings and aftermarket and refinish coatings – basically those applied at manufacture, and those applied after. The umbrella term “automotive coatings” covers all the coating varieties within those categories.

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A quick guide to the OEM automotive coating processes

When stripped down to bare bones, a vehicle is a collection of different substrates from different materials, each with their own needs and demands in terms of coating. The bodywork alone receives five different coatings before it is ready for a shop. Worldwide the top OEM automotive coatings manufacturers are PPG, BASF, and Axalta. Here we will give a brief overview of the coating processes that go into making a vehicle.

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1. The initial looks and protection

When the bare metal body of a vehicle hits the paint shop, it is in for an intensive 12-14 hours. Coatings are applied one after another in a series of processes carefully calculated to provide both the best coat for the substrate and the best result for the following coating. In order these steps are:

  1. Pretreatment – Phosphating in order to cause a reaction which makes the substrate easier to adhere to. It also gives a degree of corrosion protection to the substrate.
  2. Cathodic electrocoating – E-coat and phosphating give the surface its corrosion resistance. The e-coat is done in full immersion in an epoxy-polyurethane coating which adheres as an effect of electric current.
  3. Primer – These come in solvent- and water-based, and powder forms, and are often polyurethane-modified polyesters and epoxy resins; automotive epoxy primer is the most common. They even out the surface and provide impact resistance (stone chip resistance).
  4. Base coat – The first part of the topcoat layer which gives colour and durability to the coating system. It defines the main colour to the vehicle, which can come in solid colour, metallic, pearlescent, matt, and other special effect paints.
  5. Clear lacquer – The second and final part of the topcoat; provides initial protection against the environment, scratches, chemical attack, UV radiation. The lacquer exists as 1K, 2K and powder (not common) systems and are acrylics or polyurethanes.

2. Car bottom protection

Out of sight is often out of mind, and problems can arise when the underbody is underprepared for the harsh conditions it will face. Underbody coatings protect a vehicle’s chassis from corrosion and damage caused by everything the road throws at it. They are applied over the electrocoat and must have extreme mechanical and chemical resistance. Underbody coatings:

  • Protect from weather conditions and environment – The coating prevents water ingress (whether standing water or rain), as well as exposure to snow, baking heat, salt from winter anti freeze measures, and salt from coastal weather and roads.
  • Extend service life – Protecting a significant section of a vehicle from damage and rust extends its life while maintaining its value.
  • Protect from stone chip damage – By forming a tough, flexible, rubbery protective film, underbody coatings provide a barrier between the substrate and stone chips, gravel, road debris, sand, and other objects which may damage it.
  • Improve driving comfort – Reduces sound and vibration from the road and makes the driving experience more pleasant.

An underbody protection coating is applied by spray or brush, and they come in a variety of formulations. These include one and two component polyurethanes, bitumen paint, and wax coating.

3. Looks and durability for a range of parts

Wheel, front grill, drive shaft, brake parts, suspension springs, interior and exterior trim, door handles, climate control bezels, speedometer housings – the list of automotive parts that need coatings beyond the bodywork is seemingly endless. A popular option for under-the-hood car parts is extremely durable and efficient powder coating, while internal coatings are often polyurethanes. These provide a soft-feel coating for those surfaces most often touched, in one and two components and a range of colours and effects.

4. Automotive paint for commercial vehicles

Commercial vehicles are those intended for multi-passenger or goods transport, such as vans, coaches, buses, trucks, and semis. They spend a lot of time on the road, and paint needs to be able to endure this. Durability is key, as well as corrosion, UV, and chemical resistance. Fleet owners look at the conditions their assets will be exposed to and the intended service life of the asset in order to determine which coatings they need. A range of colours and the ability to easily repair damage are also highly important for commercial vehicle coatings to reduce vehicle off road time and inconvenience.

Find automotive coating suppliers and manufacturers in Canada

Automotive coatings is a big industry, and many manufacturers and companies operate across Canada. The top companies in the industry are AkzoNobel, Axalta, BASF, PPG, and Sherwin-Williams, operating through their automotive brands like Sikkens and Deltron. These companies form partnerships with auto manufacturers for OEM application, or provide refinish paints to applicators.

If you would like more information, or if you have a project for which you need automotive coating, get in touch! Our experts are here to help. Simply take advantage of our 100% free quote service and ask our team to do what we do best – connect coating needs with coating solutions. We, in cooperation with our coating partners, will strive to find the right coating for your project.

Aftermarket automotive coatings

The aftermarket automotive coating industry covers custom finishes, collision repair, and commercial fleet finishes among other coatings applied to a vehicle once it has left the shop. The top 5 automotive refinish coatings vendors are Axalta, AkzoNobel, BASF, PPG, and Sherwin-Williams.

Applying aftermarket automotive coating is a specialised paint shop.

Applying aftermarket automotive coating is a specialised paint shop.

Essentially, there are 3 types of automotive paint that belong to this group:

  1. Repair paints and refinishes – Accidents happen. Whether through a collision or scratches to the bodywork, paint can be damaged. Or maybe you want to give your car a spruce. Car repair paints and refinishes represent a large sector of the industry. They differ from OEM paints because their application has different requirements, including a lower heat curing and longer drying times. If you need a commercial fleet fitted out with logos or livery, you will likely use a refinisher.
  2. Powder paints – A key refinishing market is the powder coating market. Everything from wheels and valve covers to shock absorbers and bumpers can be powder coated. For those who want a unique and hard-working paint, powder coating is the popular choice.
  3. Car paint protection products – This is a type of paint protection coating which uses nanotechnology to protect a vehicle’s paintwork from damage from UV radiation, as well as maintaining its gloss and repelling dirt and water. It is an alternative to regular waxing and provides up to several years of protection if properly maintained.

We at, are also happy to help connect you with an aftermarket automotive coating dealer or manufacturer. Just let us know either by email or our very own and entirely free quoting service via “request a quote” button at the bottom of the page.

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