A clear coat is a transparent resin or layer of paint that’s usually applied over colored surfaces. Clear coats are fancied for their shiny look and ability to protect metal surfaces from corrosive agents. If you’re planning for a DIY paint job, you might be wondering whether applying a clear coat on bare metal is possible. 

Although applying a clear coat over bare metal surfaces is not advisable, you’ll need a generous supply of clear coat, primer, and cleaning materials. For successful outcomes, the metal surface should be thoroughly cleaned before the clear coat is applied.

Read on to learn more about clear coating metals, and how you can clear coat on bare metal.

How to Clear Coat Bare Metal 

You might want to use a clear coat to fix bad flaking on car hoods, your bicycle, or other metal surfaces. While it’s generally advisable to clear coat over painted surfaces, observe the following tips when looking to apply a clear coat over bare metal.

Clean the Surface

It doesn’t matter which metal surface you’re working on. Always clean the metal surfaces thoroughly before applying any paint. As advised in the DIY clear coating video by Ramsey Customs, you should use solvents like acetone to clean the surfaces.

High quality scuff pads like the 3M Scotch Brite Scuff by Canopus will also come in handy when preparing the metal surface for priming. The cleaner the metal surface you’re working on, the longer the clear coat will last.

Prime the Surface

Priming is a crucial step when preparing to paint metal, more so if the metal is for outdoor use. Since you’ll be applying a clear coat directly over bare metal, you’ll need to select a high quality, self-etching primer like the Rust-oleum Primer. Self-etching primers are ideal as they create great foundations that allow the paint to bond with the metal. 

Two coats of primer will be enough. But remember to shake the primer vigorously and spray it about 10 inches from the metal.

Apply the Clear Coat

Once you’ve let the primer dry, it’s time to start painting. Take the clear coat and apply it swiftly to avoid runs as well as dry and thin spots. But since you’re using a clear coat on bare metal, you’ll need to use more layers than usual. 

You might need multiple coats to ensure that the surface is well covered. Your first coat, however, needs to be light enough to prevent the metal surface from shrinking. Shrinking is bad as it leads to cracks over time, and you don’t want that!

After the first coat, you can go heavy on the succeeding clear coats. Remember to allow the coat to dry before adding another layer. And once you’re done with clear coating the bare metal, you’ll need to allow enough time (36-48 hours) before using the object.

Finding the Best Clear Coat

Consider the following factors when looking to buy the best clear coat for bare metal surfaces.


Clear coats are meant to complement the base paint. But since you’re looking to clear coat bare metal, it is advisable to select a coat that matches the color of your metal. The clear coat should not overshadow the color of the metal surface.

Gloss Level

Clear coats with high gloss levels (over 90 units) will help to get the job done. After all, you want your metal to appear shiny and brand new. However, when applying clear coats on bare metal, you might need to apply several layers to achieve that shine you so badly want!


You’ll need to choose the best clear coat if you want your shine to last long enough. If your metal surface will be put to use outdoors, then a clear coat specialized for outdoor use will suffice.

Also, check on whether the clear coat is scratch-resistant, which is vital in protecting your metal surface and consequently maintaining the gloss.

Ease of Application

It is advisable to choose a clear coat that comes with a nozzle as this will allow for even distribution across the surface. Using a nozzle ensures that you have a smooth, shiny finish that’ll leave your surface looking neat and new.

Applying the coat without caution will leave marks and blotches behind, greatly reducing the attractiveness of your metal surface.

Final Thoughts

Although unconventional, applying a clear coat on bare metal is possible. But you’ll need to be extra careful to ensure that you get a neat, glossy finish.

Be sure to clean the metal surface thoroughly before applying a primer on the surface. And since you’ll be applying a clear coat directly on the bare metal, it is advisable to apply several layers. Remember to keep the first layer light to prevent cracks that result from shrinkage.

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