Will Clear Coat Dry Without Hardener? (Explained)

The application of a clear coat is the final task when you are painting your car. It creates a layer of protection that keeps the paint safe from debris and the effects of the weather elements.

It also adds gloss and ensures your new paint job looks neat. Clear coats comprise two things, clear paint, and hardener.

These two ought to be mixed in the correct proportion because they work hand in hand. Failure to use enough clear paint, there won’t be enough gloss and protection. And when you do not use a hardener in your clear coat, it will take very long to dry.

The main role of the hardener is to absorb moisture and thus accelerate the drying process of the clear paint into a solid substance that can’t come off easily.

With the help of a hardener, the clear coat won’t dissolve into its original state even if it is exposed to liquids.

Therefore, if you do not use hardener or mix very few amounts of it, the clear coat will take very long to cure. And by long, we do not mean tomorrow or the day after.

Depending on how cold or hot the area you live in is, a clear coat without a hardener can take a while for it to fully cure onto the paint.

This is not only dangerous but it is very risky. Because as you drive around with wet clear paint, it can be contaminated easily. Plus, liquids wash off easily, thus leaving your car paint naked and unprotected.

will clear coat dry without hardener

Is Hardener a Must?

It is a must for you to use a hardener in your clear coat, otherwise, it will not dry into a hard solid substance.

As you are gathering products and tools for your paint job, it is a must that you get some hardener to mix with the clear paint. At an auto store, you can get some quality hardener which will come in very handy later on.

How Do I Mix Clear Paint with Hardener?

As we have mentioned earlier, hardener goes hand in hand with clear paint. These two are what make up clear coat. When mixing these two products, it’s worth mentioning that there is a correct proportion that you have to follow.

If you use too little, it may take longer to cure. Too much hardener can cause the mixture to thicken even before you can spray it on your car. To prevent that from happening, below is a guide on how you should mix a clear coat with a hardener.

The recommended ratio is 4:1. For every 4 oz. of clear coat that you use, it should be mixed with 1 oz. of hardener.

Immediately, you mix these two ingredients, you should begin painting right away as the chemical reaction will have already started.

Another key ingredient needed is an acrylic reducer. Its job is to thin the paint so that it can pass through the paint gun easily. The amount of acrylic reducer needed is the same as that of the hardener.

Always stir the mixture of these three ingredients thoroughly before loading it in your spray gun. The process of painting a car needs to be done step after step.

Create this mixture exactly when you are about to spray the clear coat because if you make it early and leave it open for long, there is a chance that it will harden. Be very cautious.

Is Clear Coat Activator the Same as Hardener?

These are terms used interchangeably and they perform the same role. Whether you refer to it as a clear coat activator or a hardener, both will initiate the cure of clear paint on your car.

And even though they may seem not very important, these two play an essential role in ensuring the paint holds on to the car.

What Should I Do If I Don’t Mix Clear Paint and Hardener Correctly?

Two things are going to happen if you don’t mix clear paint and hardener correctly. If you use too much, the mixture will harden even before you can use it.

If you use very little amounts of hardener, the paint will be very soft and won’t cure in the recommended 24 to 48 hours hardening time.

Have you just found out that you didn’t mix these two ingredients in the correct proportions? Do you feel like you are about to lose your mind?

Well, there are a couple of quick solutions that you can try and see if they will speed up the curing duration of the clear paint. These tips include;

1) Use an infra-red heat lamp or hair dryer to accelerate the curing process of the clear paint.

2) If you live in a very hot area, just give the car some time. The heat will speed up the drying process of the clear paint.

3) The other thing you can do is to stop worrying. Provided you have some hardener in the clear coat, you shouldn’t worry because it will facilitate the drying process of paint.

Because it is in small amounts, the hardener may not work right away. But in time, it will ensure the clear paint dries up.

4) What you should avoid doing is spraying another mixture of hardener and clear paint over it. This will give your car a terrible finish.

5) Unfortunately, should the clear fail to dry on its own, you can always take it off using a cleaning thinner and a soft rag.

This should remove the clear paint on the surface but leave the paint beneath still intact. Before you can apply another clear coat, ensure that the surface is dry and free of any thinner or old clear coat for that matter.

This time around, ensure that you use the correct proportion of hardener and clear paint. Before you can apply another clear coat, ensure that the surface is dry and free of any thinner or old clear coat for that matter.

This time around, ensure that you use the correct proportion of hardener and clear paint.

Will the Clear Coat Ever Harden?

If you only used small amounts of hardener in the mixture, you may be wondering, will it ever fully cure? For the full reaction to occur, the ingredients used must be of the proportions mentioned above.

However, if you use very little hardener, the paint may seem to have dried but it won’t fully cure. Remember, the amount of hardener that would have interacted with the paint would be very minimal.

There is a chance that some of the clear paint molecules won’t make contact with the hardener and this may hinder the final reaction.

And as much as you may run into DIY solutions such as heating the clear coat so that it can cure, the only way for you to get a fully effective clear coat is to strip the one that lacks a hardener. And re-applying a fresh coat.

That may seem like a lot of work but it is the only full-proof solution that is going to work. A shortcut can only offer you relief for a limited time, but in the future, problems may arise and you risk exposing your paint to damage.

Can I Spray a Clear Coat without Hardener?

Sure you can but the problem is, it won’t be as durable. The clear coat will dry on top of your paint after a while, but it will not cure.

When you decide to leave a clear coat without a hardener on top of the paint, many things can go wrong. It will come off easily and your paint will start to feel the effects of the weather elements.

Can I Spray Hardener on Top of the Clear Coat?

If you had forgotten to add hardener to your clear coat, can spraying hardener over the layer of clear paint help it cure? This is not how it’s supposed to work.

For the hardener to ensure a clear coat cures on the paint, it must be mixed before being sprayed on the surface. If you spray hardener by itself, it won’t do its job because it won’t have mixed with the clear paint molecules.

And you won’t be following the recommended ratio of 4:1. It will therefore be pointless for you to spray hardener on top of clear coat.

What is the Importance of a Hardener in Clear Coat?

If you intend for the clear coat to last on your car, then you must use a hardener. That proves to you how important a hardener is.

Therefore, as you assemble things to use for your paint job, ensure that you buy a hardener as well.

After seeing how important hardener is, we must evaluate the importance of thinner as well. Paint thinners too play a crucial role.

They reduce the viscosity of paint and make it easy to apply to a car. So, paint thinners are equally as important as hardeners.

Always confirm with the clear coat manufacturer first on the ratio that they should be mixed with hardeners, activators, and thinners.

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