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Lacquer Thinner on Car Paint: Unveiling the Truth and Myths

by Peter Morris
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The usage of lacquer thinner is an issue that frequently generates misunderstandings and misunderstandings in the field of automotive maintenance and restoration. This powerful solvent, which contains substances including amines, amyl or ethyl acetate, acetone, esters, ketones, toluene and glycol ethers, has a number of uses but also potential hazards. How it impacts automotive paint is one of the most controversial subjects.

The purpose of this post is to dispel myths about using lacquer thinner on car paint and to reveal the facts. We’ll examine how this type of thinner and paint thinner are similar and dissimilar, learn about their applications, and talk about the safety and environmental issues they raise.

What Is Lacquer Thinner?


A high-solvency, medium-drying thinner called lacquer thinner is used to thin lacquers to the proper consistency for spraying. It is a combination of solvents that can dissolve the resins or polymers used in contemporary lacquers.

Chemicals including toluene, acetone, and different alcohols are the main components of it. These substances sometimes referred to as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), can pollute the air and contaminate water if improperly handled.

When to Use Lacquer Thinner

In the automobile industry, lacquer-based paints are frequently thinned with lacquer thinner. Additionally, it is used to clean tools and vehicle parts coated with lacquer paint. It may also be used on metal surfaces to remove previous lacquer finishes.

Using Lacquer Thinner

Using Lacquer Thinner

It can harm your car’s clear coat if applied excessively, so it’s important to apply it sparingly and carefully. Additionally, because it may seriously harm non-metal surfaces, it is not advised for use on such.

When not to use lacquer thinner

Despite being a very powerful cleaning agent, this thinner is also a rather harsh one. That implies that you must use caution when using it. Any completed portion of the car’s paintwork should not be treated with it. That covers any form of base coat or color layer as well as the clear coat.

There are better solvents than lacquer thinners that might do the task without causing damage if you only wish to clean some equipment. Most varieties of it can always be removed with soap and water, but if you have certain specialized components that need something more powerful, there are several alternatives that you may use in its place.

paint car with spray

paint car with spray

Even if the spray guns or brushes were only used for lacquering, lacquer thinners ought not to be utilized to clean them since doing so can roughen the surface, which could make it difficult to paint on later.

What Is Paint Thinner?

On the other hand, the word “paint thinner” is a catch-all phrase for a range of goods intended to dilute oil-based paints, remove their residue, or clean painting supplies. Lacquer thinners are more flammable and volatile than the other types. Mineral spirits, which are less strong solvents than those in lacquer thinner, make up their composition.

When To Use Paint Thinner?

When you wish to prolong the lifespan of oil-based paints, apply paint thinner. Additionally, it is employed to quickly clean tools and brushes after usage. It is less abrasive than lacquer thinner and is safe to use on a range of surfaces.

Also Read: Can You Paint a Car Outside?

Are Paint Thinner and Lacquer Thinner the Same?

paint thinner

paint thinner

Although they are employed as solvents in different applications, lacquer thinner and paint thinner are not the same. A stronger solvent than paint thinner, lacquer thinner is used to thin lacquers, clean equipment and tools, and dissolve different kinds of inks and adhesives.

It works really well to remove lacquer and provide a smooth, high-gloss surface. While oil-based paints are normally thinned with paint thinner and cleaned up after use. Because it is less volatile and combustible, it is safer but takes longer to dry.

Are Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinner the Same Thing?

mineral spirits

mineral spirits

Although they are not the same, paint thinner and mineral spirits are frequently used interchangeably. Although both are made from petroleum, mineral spirits are more upscale than paint thinner. Therefore, mineral spirits are less offensive and abrasive than them. Both can, however, be used for oil-based paint thinning and cleanup after painting.

Also Read: Mineral Spirits on Car Paint: A Comprehensive Guide to Safe Usage

Will Lacquer Thinner Damage Car Paint?

Yes, lacquer thinner can damage car paint, especially when applied improperly. Excessive use can cause paint to peel, bubble, or crack. However, it can help remove excess paint or clean up after the work, if used sparingly. Additionally, it can remove the clear coat, making it more vulnerable to damage.

Also Read: Stress Cracks in Car Paint: 5 Causes and How to Avoid Them

How Should I Proceed If Lacquer Thinner Ruins Car Paint?

If lacquer thinner ruins the paint on your car, you should take action right away to stop additional damage. The first step is to immediately cease using the thinner. The next step is to remove any leftover lacquer thinner by gently washing the damaged area with soap and water.

soap and water

soap and water

If the damage is only small, you might be able to remove it with a premium auto polish. You might need to have the area repainted if the damage is more extensive.

Also Read: Damage Car Paint: 25 Common Causes You Need to Avoid

When To Use Lacquer Thinner On Cars?

Even though it has the potential to damage cars, there are several circumstances in which applying lacquer thinner is beneficial. Here are its uses:

Cleaning Auto Engine Parts with Lacquer Thinner

wash automobile engine

wash automobile engine

Cleaning the components of an automobile engine can be accomplished with lacquer thinner. Due to its strong solvent qualities, grease and oil stains may be more easily removed from engine components. However, because it may also destroy some kinds of plastic and rubber, it’s crucial to apply it cautiously on these sections.

Using Lacquer Thinner to Clean Car Exterior

Although frequently washing the exterior of the automobile with lacquer thinner is not advised, it can be used to get rid of any lingering messes or stains that standard car cleaning supplies are unable to remove. To avoid harming the car’s paint and clear coat, it’s crucial to apply it sparingly and rinse it off promptly.

Removing Old Lacquer Finish with Lacquer Thinner

ancient automobile

ancient automobile

Old lacquer finishes on metal surfaces of an automobile can be removed with lacquer thinner. When painting or refurbishing an ancient automobile, this might be helpful. However, it’s crucial to use it cautiously in this scenario since if applied improperly, it can also destroy the underlying paint.

Restoring Older Automotive Tools with Lacquer Thinner

Older automotive tools can also be restored using lacquer thinner. Paint, grease and other contaminants can accumulate on instruments over time and impair their functionality.

These materials can be removed using the thinner, returning the instruments to their initial state. This is the ideal approach to save money and protect some of your more costly instruments. However, it’s crucial to properly rinse the equipment after applying it to stop any lingering solvent from damaging it.

Lacquer Thinner Alternatives and Their Effectiveness

solvent thinner

solvent thinner

Even while lacquer thinner is a strong and useful instrument, it isn’t always the ideal option for every task. There are a variety of alternatives to it for different uses. For instance, mineral spirits, which are softer than lacquer thinner, can be used to thin oil-based paints.

While still a powerful solvent, acetone is less flammable and may be used to get rid of adhesive remnants. To prevent unneeded damage, it’s critical to select the appropriate solvent for the task.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

oil-based paint

oil-based paint

There are several safety and environmental concerns associated with the usage of solvents like lacquer thinner. Paint thinner and lacquer thinner are both combustible substances that can be harmful if breathed or absorbed via the skin. Because of their high quantities of VOCs (Volatile Organic Content), they also contribute to air pollution. To prevent water pollution, it is crucial to utilize these goods in a well-ventilated place and properly dispose of them.

How to Use Lacquer Thinner Safely

  • Whenever using lacquer thinner, make sure the area is well-ventilated and put on safety gear, such as gloves and glasses.

    gloves and glasses

    gloves and glasses

  • Apply the thinner with a delicate, lint-free cloth. By doing this, scratches from dirt and other debris on rougher cloths will be avoided.
  • Avoid leaving it on the paint of your car for too long. Use only as much as is necessary; if you find it difficult to wipe all of the thinning solution away with a clean cloth, you’ve probably used too much. After getting rid of any extra, use a different clean cloth to buff away any residue or sheen alterations that could have resulted from applying too much thinner.
  • Please use it with caution! It is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC), which means that if it is not properly disposed of, it may result in problems like water contamination or air pollution. If we are not cautious, this may have a long-term harmful impact on our planet.
  • Dispose of the thinning solution in accordance with local laws and regulations on its management; before disposing of any lacquer thinner containers close to your house or place of employment, check with your city or county for disposal standards! Some municipalities could demand specialized handling techniques or have adjacent dedicated facilities where you can recycle old thinners securely without endangering the environment in general.
  • It performs best in warm climates; thus, use caution while using it in cooler months as it may take longer to work.
warm climate

warm climate

Advanced Topics in Lacquer Thinner Use

Here is some extra, albeit important, information about the uses of lacquer thinner:

Acrylic Lacquer Retarder Slows the Drying Process

Acrylic Lacquer white paint

Acrylic Lacquer white paint

To sluggish the drying process, acrylic lacquer retarder is a substance that may be applied to lacquer thinner. This can help the paint flow out more easily and minimize blushing, a situation when a white fog forms on top of the paint, which is useful when painting in humid or hot settings.

A Gallon of Slow Lacquer Thinner Might Cost Up to $50.00.

Despite being a useful product in the automotive industry, lacquer thinner may be extremely pricey. A gallon of slow lacquer thinner, which dries more slowly and improves paint flow, can cost more than $50. But its efficiency and adaptability frequently make up for its price.

Ensure That the Lacquer Thinner You Use Is Automotive Grade

car paint

car paint

The characteristics of different lacquer thinners vary. Make certain that the thinner you use is of automotive quality. Using a non-automotive grade lacquer thinner might cause harm to your car’s paint since automotive grade lacquer thinner is designed to function with automotive paints and clear coatings.

Economy Lacquer Thinners: No Longer as Cost-Effective

Although lacquer thinner is a strong and useful tool, it isn’t always the most cost-effective option. Over time, the price of it has gone way up, making it less affordable than it previously was. Nevertheless, it continues to be a useful instrument in the automotive industry, and its adaptability and efficiency sometimes justify its expense.

Also Read: How Much Does It Cost to Paint Correct a Car?

Conclusion

In the automobile sector, lacquer thinner is a strong and useful tool, but it must be handled carefully. While it may be used to clean automobile parts, thin lacquer-based paints, and remove old lacquer finishes, if applied incorrectly, it can also harm car paint and clear coatings. Because of this, it’s essential to apply it carefully and sparingly. You should also only ever use automotive lacquer thinners. Understanding the characteristics of it and how to use it properly can help you get the most out of this useful product while reducing potential risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What effects does lacquer thinner have on cars?

If used excessively, lacquer thinner can peel, bubble or crack paint because it can disintegrate paint and clear coatings. It may, however, be a helpful tool for getting rid of extra paint or cleaning up after painting if used properly and sparingly.

Is lacquer good on car paint?

A high-gloss, long-lasting finish that is resistant to chipping and scratches may be achieved using lacquer. To prevent any paint damage to the car, it must be applied properly.

Does lacquer thinner remove spray paint?

Yes, lacquer thinner may be used to remove spray paint off an automobile, but caution must be used to prevent damage to the clear coat and base coat.

What distinguishes paint thinner from lacquer thinner?

Although they are employed as solvents in different applications, lacquer thinner and paint thinner are not the same. A stronger solvent than paint thinner, lacquer thinner is used to thin lacquers, clean tools and equipment, and dissolve different kinds of inks and adhesives. While oil-based paints are normally thinned with paint thinner and cleaned up after use.

Is lacquer thinner harmful to car paint?

If the thinner is applied incorrectly, it can damage car paint. It is a strong solvent that has the ability to dissolve paint and clear coatings, and if used in excess, it may make paint bubble, peel, or crack. It may, however, be a helpful tool for getting rid of extra paint or cleaning up after painting if used properly and sparingly.

Can lacquer thinner be used to clean car parts?

Yes, you may clean automotive components using lacquer thinner. Grease and oil stains may be more easily removed from engine parts because of their potent solvent characteristics, which can dissolve these compounds. However, it’s crucial to use it cautiously while working with these components since it can also dissolve some kinds of plastic and rubber.

What are the alternatives to lacquer thinner?

For various purposes, there are a number of lacquer thinner substitutes. For instance, mineral spirits, which are softer than this type of thinner, can be used to thin oil-based paints. While still a powerful solvent, acetone is less flammable and may be used to get rid of adhesive remnants.

What is the cost of lacquer thinner?

Depending on the kind and brand, lacquer thinner might range in price. In comparison to slow lacquer thinner, which dries more slowly and improves paint flow, regular lacquer thinner can cost anywhere from $15 to $20 per gallon.

What is automotive grade lacquer thinner?

A type of lacquer thinner called automotive grade lacquer thinner is designed to work with clear coatings and car paints. It is made with the intention of thinning lacquer-based paints, making them simpler to use and enabling a smoother finish. Additionally, it is used to clean tools and car parts coated with lacquer paint.

What distinguishes enamel paint from lacquer?

Two distinct paints that are frequently used in the painting of automobiles are lacquer and enamel. High-gloss finishes may be achieved with lacquer paint, a form of paint that dries fast. It is frequently employed for restorations and special paint treatments. On the other hand, enamel paints produce a long-lasting, hard surface that is impervious to chipping and scratches and dry more slowly than other types of paint. For regular car painting and touch-ups, it is frequently utilized.

What is Inca Silver?

General Motors originally offered Inca Silver as a paint color for automobiles in 1957. It’s a particular brand of acrylic lacquer paint, which at the time was widely utilized in the auto industry. Inca Silver is still utilized today for bespoke paint jobs and the restoration of vintage automobiles.

What is Summit Racing Lacquer Thinner?

One kind of lacquer thinner is promoted as a premium surface cleaning, and it is called Summit Racing Lacquer Thinner. It works well for cleaning paint cans and associated tools as well as for thinning lacquer primers and ground coatings.

What is Acrylic Lacquer Retarder?

An item that may be added to lacquer thinner to slow down drying is called acrylic lacquer retarder. This helps the paint run out easily and minimizes blushing, a situation where a white fog forms on top of the paint, which may be helpful when painting in humid or hot settings.

What is Klean Strip Lacquer Thinner?

One kind of lacquer thinner made specifically for California is Klean Strip Lacquer Thinner. It may be used to thin lacquer, clean tools and equipment, remove adhesives and undercoat since it is made to comply with the state’s stringent air quality laws.

What is Rust-Oleum Mid-Temp Lacquer Thinner?

A specific kind of lacquer thinner called Rust-Oleum Mid-Temp Lacquer Thinner is intended to repair more slowly and enable greater paint flow. To provide a smoother, more equal finish, it is frequently employed in situations of moderate temperature.

What are automotive technicians?

Professionals who service and repair automobiles are known as automotive technicians. They could be employed in a variety of establishments, including repair shops, dealerships and service centers. Engines, brakes, electrical systems, and other vehicle systems are among the many that automotive technicians are taught to repair.

What are paint guns?

Paint guns—also referred to as spray guns—are devices for misting paint with a fine stream. They frequently serve as a smooth, uniform finish in vehicle painting. They can be used to apply several different types of paint, including lacquer, enamel and acrylic.

Does methanol dissolve paint?

Methanol serves as a solvent for a variety of industrial coatings, including cement, lacquers, varnishes, paints, dyes, plastics and inks.


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1 comment

wwd.com November 12, 2023 - 9:14 pm

Informative article, just what I was looking for.

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