No Cheap Fix for Delaminating Paint

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 10, 2013

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 2000 Toyota Corolla. It runs really well, especially since it has 180,000 miles on it. However, the paint is coming off and it looks horrible. What is an economical way to get it painted? I think that the original paint would have to be stripped, so I realize that this adds to the cost. I plan to keep it for two more years (when I am done with university), so I am on a tight budget.

-- Karen

TOM: Have you ever heard of Rustoleum, Karen? Or Krylon?

RAY: Actually, there's not a great solution to your problem. A number of cars from this era experience this peeling paint syndrome, which we call "delamination." It typically occurs on the hood, the roof and the trunk.

TOM: The reason it happens is that, at that time, car makers were switching over to more environmentally friendly paints -- paints with fewer volatile organic compounds.

RAY: The problem was, they didn't really know what they were doing with the new paints yet, and some of the paint jobs failed -- catastrophically.

TOM: If you were lucky enough to catch it early, when you were still at least within shouting distance of your warranty period, you could make a good case to the manufacturer that it should repaint the car for you. But that's a harder case to make (successfully) when the car has been on the road for 14 years and has 180,000 miles on it.

RAY: Still, it's worth a try. You can go to your dealer and say: "Look, I bought a Toyota because they're supposed to last forever, and mechanically, it has lived up to that reputation. I love the car. But look at it ... does Toyota think it's normal or acceptable for paint to just peel off its cars while they're still on the road?"

TOM: I doubt they'll respond by ushering your car right into the body shop and telling you it's on them. But if you acknowledge that it's an older car now, you can still ask them if there's anything they can do to help you get your car back into "presentable condition."

RAY: Maybe, if they're real humanitarians, they'll try to help you pay for part of the cost of a paint job.

TOM: But a paint job is likely to be several thousand dollars, Karen, because it does require removing the existing paint with a scraper or random orbit sander, which is very time-consuming work.

RAY: I think it's worth getting a few estimates. But I think you'll probably get sticker shock. And if you can't get financial help from Toyota and don't want to make the investment yourself, then you can either live with it (which is what I'd do), or improvise something that might make the car look worse.

TOM: Personally, I like contact paper, Karen. That way, you can hide the delaminating paint and make an artistic statement at the same time! We wish you luck.

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