Automotive Clear Coat On Wood, Is it Possible?

While this may come as a surprise, there are a few automotive products that you can use on wood. I’ve discovered in a few experiments that some of these products can yield good results in woodworking. In a previous article, I talked about using car wax on wood. For this specific entry, I will be discussing if it’s possible to use an automotive clear coat on wood in case you’re planning to do your own experiment.

What is an automotive clear coat?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with automotive clear coats, it’s a type of resin or paint. However, an automotive clear coat has no pigment intended to produce a glossy finish to the surface.

automotive clear coat on wood

Overall, this type of coating is used to give a ‘wetter’ or sleeker appearance to a car. Automotive clear coats also provide ultraviolet protection to prevent the car paint underneath from fading fast. It’s also a great protectant against acid rain.

However, automotive clear coats are hard substances and prone to oxidation. Cars with this coating are also more susceptible to scratches. Over time, the coating will fade, and it will require touch-ups or re-coating.

Can I use an automotive clear coat on wood?

Since some automotive coating products work well with wood, we can’t help but wonder if clear coats are one of those. Fortunately, yes, but in very specific ways.

Most automotive clear coats are made of acrylic urethanes. This material bonds well with wood and provides a deeply glossy finish. I’ve tried this several times, and the results are stunning.

Some will argue that automotive finishes don’t suit wood because the latter react differently when exposed to extreme temperatures. While this is true to some extent, I can say that my experiment held up pretty well.

The key here is prepping the wooden surface before you try to apply the auto clear coat. I perform light sanding first to even out bumps. You also have the option to apply a sanding sealer before the clear urethane coat.

Moreover, you should know that the automotive clear coat is quite thin and can splash easily. Therefore, proper care is necessary to avoid spills.

Aside from that, I don’t recommend putting a very thick coat of automotive paint. Too thick of a coating may be prone to cracking over time.

Overall, this product works on wood, but you should know that automotive clear coats are more expensive than those made of wood. It will surely cost a lot of money if you want to use the coat on a large project.

But if you’re willing to splurge a bit, automotive clear coats will be great for outdoor wood projects. It’s much better than lacquer or varnish when it comes to heat tolerance, so clear coats are surely a good option.

Will automotive paint stick to wood?       

Automotive paint can actually stick on wood if you apply it right. It’s a great coating for old cabinets and furniture that you want to refurbish. However, I don’t recommend using automotive paint on wood items you’re going to use indoors or near food preparation areas.

Unlike wood paint, automotive paint has a stronger off-gassing and can potentially stir irritations. This is much so if one of your family members has respiratory issues.

If you wish to install automotive painted wood indoors, you should do so in a well-ventilated area. Also, you should never use automotive paint on areas your children and pets can access.

Overall, with proper caution, automotive paint will give wood a nice glossy finish. Just remember that you need to apply multiple but thin coats to achieve the best results.

Aside from that, I want to warn you about using automotive paint on varnishes and veneers already present on your cabinets. These surfaces, together with laminates, don’t hold automotive paint quite well. You have to sand the surface first to remove the initial coating.

How can I achieve a smooth, clear coat finish on wood?

Automotive clear coat or not, you have to sand the wood first to achieve a smooth finish. Applying the coat without proper preparatory work will result in a bumpy and dull appearance.

I always recommend using low-grit sandpaper of around 80 to 100 when smoothening wood surfaces. This will prevent wood damage while allowing you to remove small nicks and bumps before coating. Take note that sanding is a very crucial step if you’re planning to use an automotive clear coat on the wood.

Can I use Rust-Oleum clear coat on wood?

Rust-Oleum is a brand that produces a wide range of paint products for metal surfaces. Their clear coat product is actually suitable for wood, metal, masonry, and even concrete surfaces. It’s an enamel spray, so application is very easy, too.

Overall, the Rust-Oleum clear coat product has an excellent protective characteristic. It’s also suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, but I’ll still observe ventilation for indoor purposes just to be sure. Like any clear coat, make sure that you apply Rust-Oleum in light coats multiple times instead of one thick layer.

How thick a clear coat should be on wood?

Clear coats should be applied as thinly as possible for every coating. Unlike coating materials, clear coats will adhere and dry better on lighter layers. Around 1. 5 to 2 mils per coating is the exact measurement for factory use. This is about the same if you’re using the automotive clear coat on the wood.

But overall, as long as the clear coat isn’t clumping or pooling on the material, you should be fine. Patience is needed if you’re keen to use an auto clear coat on non-metal surfaces.

Will automotive primer work on wood?

Automotive primers are made to adhere to metal, so it’s not really a wise choice to use on wood. You won’t achieve long-lasting results with an auto primer as you’d do with a formula made specifically for wood. Besides, automotive primers are quite expensive and such a waste to use on wood.

It’s best to use wood primer over automotive primer for a variety of reasons. First, primers on cars are hard and won’t suit the contraction and expansion of wood when exposed to changing temperatures.

Aside from that, auto primers can’t be brushed, so there’s no way you can push the substance into the wood pores. Lastly, auto primers are thin and runny, which will be too expensive for wood projects.


Using an automotive clear coat on wood is possible, but with a few caveats. You should also apply it properly to achieve reasonable results on your woodworking projects. Again, you should remember that auto clear coats must be applied thinly as opposed to wood clear coats. I recommend that you experiment with this on a small project first.

2 thoughts on “Automotive Clear Coat On Wood, Is it Possible?”

  1. I made a coffee table for my grand daughter and applied European automotive clear coat to fill in the red cedar. I applied 3-4 coats then sanded it with 400 grit before the next coat. Last sanding was with 1000 grit then a final clear coat. It turned out like a mirror and she loved it.


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