Many of us wait patiently all year for the lazy days of summer, but those long, hot days and cool nights put your vehicle’s paint to the test. In the past, limitations in technology could have led to cracked, chipped and lackluster finishes on vehicles. To help protect your vehicle from the elements, General Motors continually improves our products based on customer feedback and changing buyer needs.
Engineered for protection
Paint is your vehicle’s first defense against corrosion and rust, so it is extremely important that it be resilient and durable. Until the 1980’s, General Motors and other automakers used a single topcoat layer to provide a glossy finish. Through years of testing and evaluation of customer feedback, however, engineers discovered that a single topcoat layer was not the strongest option available. Today, paint engineers place a clear coat layer on top of the color coat layer to provide a protective shield from the elements.
This technology also results in increased paint durability. If a vehicle is in a fender-bender, for example, the paint dents with the metal instead of chipping and flaking off. Thermal cycling, or the change from hot to cold temperatures and back again, is also a common summer weather occurrence that challenges vehicle paint. Changes in temperature used to result in paint cracking and chipping. Now, the paint is engineered to accommodate expansion from the heat and contractions from the cold without losing strength or luster.
Tested, then Re-tested
Advances in paint technology are direct results of hands-on testing done in locations across the United States. Our most common form of testing is performed on panels that simulate the vehicle body. Instead of using an entire vehicle, engineers test smaller plaques in specific environmental situations. This allows engineers to test more conditions and obtain more helpful results.
Panel simulations are conducted to test paint’s reaction to dozens of different scenarios, from the effect of a stone’s throw to the impact of driving in temperatures below freezing. Our simulations also test paints’ longevity. Corrosion performance testing is done to simulate a period of ten years, or longer. Test panels also undergo five-year testing in Florida, which has some of the harshest summer UV, heat and humidity weather conditions in the country.
In total, we test thousands of panels each year. The goal is always to ensure that the paint will meet customer expectations no matter what climate it is placed in.
General Motors paints are developed and tested with the environment in mind. The paint material selection, testing methods and application tools are all in compliance with local, state and national environmental regulations.
Every pigment is a fingerprint
General Motors strives to provide customers with the highest quality paint available. For this reason, every new paint color formulation is tested individually. Before any new color is applied to a vehicle, it must be individually tested for chip resistance, color longevity and durability, and other tests. This individual testing method ensures that each vehicle is covered with a durable, long lasting, scratch resistant paint.
Vehicle paint should also be an expression of the owners’ personality and the styling of the automobile. Each color pigment formulation is tested for likeness to the designers’ intended hue. General Motors offers 10 color options on most vehicles and up to 12 on luxury models. Worldwide, there are upwards of 150 different color shades available. Each was hand-picked by designers with the preferences of vehicle owners in mind.
Maintaining Paint Quality
With routine care, paint should maintain its original color and shine for years to come. To get the longest life out of your paint, be sure wash your vehicle regularly and wipe it dry with a clean, non-abrasive cloth. Small messes on the paint like bird droppings or bug splatters should be cleaned up as soon as possible to avoid paint etching. If you are intent on a more luminous look, opt for a gentle automotive wax as aggressive waxes are no longer necessary to achieve a showroom shine. General Motors continually strives to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. As the Senior Manager of Paint Materials and Facility Engineering, I am committed to producing vehicle paints that are both beautiful and durable. We will continue to conduct thousands of paint tests per year to ensure that your vehicle is protected through this summer and many more in the future.
Rudy Pomper is the Senior Manager of Paint Materials and Facility Engineering at General Motors. In this role, Rudy oversees the development and production of vehicle paint systems, including topcoats.