[The Truth]Will Lacquer Thinner Damage Car Paint?

You may have heard people raving about how lacquer thinner helped to deal with a stubborn stain on their car’s surface. However, they don’t tell you the whole story, which brings us to today’s topic: will lacquer thinner damage car paint?

Well, lacquer thinner can remove wax and hurt a car’s clear coat. In extreme cases, lacquer thinner will soften paint and make it possible to lift it from the car’s surface.

Today I’ll tell you why lacquer thinner is not suitable as a vehicle cleaner and what to do if your vehicle gets damaged by lacquer thinner. 

What Is Lacquer Thinner?

Lacquer thinner is a strong solvent and liquid thinner. It contains up to ten ingredients. Hence, it is a compound whose mixtures vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Lacquer thinner is usually used to thin lacquer, including lacquer paint, making it easier to apply on metal and wood surfaces. The chemical composition of lacquer thinner allows it to separate the lacquer molecules and makes the paint easier to use.
For this reason, lacquer thinner is a strong cleaning agent for cleaning paint equipment after using lacquer-based paint. In addition, lacquer thinner dries fast, leaving a streak-free finish.

Owing to the strong chemicals in lacquer thinner, it’s a good product for removing adhesive residues, paint overspray, and ink from surfaces.
However, lacquer thinner is highly flammable and toxic. In addition, it is harmful when ingested or inhaled, and it can also cause skin and eyes irritation. Hence, proper handling is a must to avoid breathing its fumes or coming into contact with its sprays, gas, dust, or vapors.

Will Lacquer Thinner Damage Car Paint?

Yes, lacquer thinner will damage car paint. It’s a good degreaser and can even help remove tar and paint overspray from road paint. However, it will strip the wax and clear coat too. Additionally, if you were to use lacquer thinner on lacquer paint, it will cause the paint to come off or soften the paint enough to come off down to the bare metal. 

How Does Lacquer Thinner Damage Your Car Paint?

Lacquer thinner is highly volatile and contains a high concentration of molecules that vaporize easily. It is so strong that it will soften cured, oil-based coatings like wax and the clear coat. If you leave it long enough, it can penetrate the paint layers and dissolve before it vaporizes.
Due to its strength, lacquer paint can also damage rubber and plastic parts on vehicles.

What To Do If Lacquer Thinner Damages My Car Paint?

If you damage the clear coat on your car during a lacquer thinner application, you can repair it at home if the damage is not extensive.


Step 1: Use the Simple Green degreaser to remove any remaining wax on the damaged part. 

Step 2: Take the painter’s tape to mark a clear area where you’ll be working. Do not go an inch over where the original clear coat ends. 

Step 3: With the 800-grit sandpaper, sand down the clear coat. Remember to use a heavy hand on the most damaged areas and a lighter hand on the areas close to the undamaged parts. This sanding technique helps to create a smooth transition between the two areas.

Step 4: Now it’s time for the clear coat. This process is best done with a spray gun. However, first, test the clear coat on a scrap metal. It will help you know how to apply the clear coat to use evenly. 

Step 5: Apply the clear coat by moving slowly until you get an even surface. Always apply light coats and allow each coat to dry before applying the next layer. 

What is Lacquer Thinner Used for On Cars?

Lacquer thinner has many uses on various vehicle parts. Here are the most common uses.

1, Cleaning auto parts and other engine parts: Since it is a strong solvent, lacquer thinner can remove tar and grease from engine parts and other vehicle components. 

2, Removing rust stains: Lacquer thinner can help lift rust without penetrating the metal. It evaporates quickly without leaving any residue. That’s why some mechanics use it instead of acetone. 

3, Remove tree sap: You can also use lacquer thinner to remove tree sap since it dissolves right away. However, it can produce toxic vapors, so you should always wear protective gear. 

Lacquer Thinner Vs. Paint Thinner: Are They Similar or Different?

Lacquer thinner is not the same as paint thinner. As we’ve indicated, lacquer thinner can contain up to ten ingredients and is used to thin lacquer to make it easy to apply. Remember that lacquer is the preferred finish on furniture and cabinets. As such, it needs to apply without leaving bumps or an orange-peel effect.

Therefore, lacquer thinner is the go-to solvent for lacquer and lacquer paints. On the other hand, paint thinner is a liquid that acts as a solvent or thinner for oil-based and latex paints and other coatings. There are different types of paint thinners, depending on how they are derived.

For example, paint thinners come from pine (turpentine), citrus, and even soy. All these are paint thinners because of their purpose. To this end, paint thinner can purely be derived from mineral spirits or have additives such as benzene.
Paint thinner helps the paint flow better, and it’s also suitable for removing dried paint on smooth surfaces. Like lacquer thinner, paint thinner can also remove paint on cleaning equipment, such as painting guns before it dries out.

Lacquer thinner contains up to 40% methanol, while paint thinner does not contain any methanol. Additionally, paint thinner is 80% mineral spirits and 7% benzene, while lacquer thinner does not have any benzene or mineral spirits. Other ingredients in lacquer thinner include acetone, toluene, hydrotreated light distillate, and ethyl acetate in various percentages.

Final Thought

I hope I’ve clarified that lacquer thinner will damage car paint. As you’ve seen, lacquer thinner is aggressive such that it will dissolve the paint even before you have a chance to clean it. For this reason, it’s best to pick less aggressive products if you want to remove paint overspray, tar, or grease on the vehicle’s exterior surface.

Don’t be caught with stripped paint on your car. Don’t use lacquer thinner on a car’s paint.

You may concern: Is Cleaning Catalytic Converter With Lacquer Thinner Safe?

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