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Wet-sanding Model 3 paint and polishing?

alexGS

Member
May 1, 2019
171
159
New Zealand
Hello good people of the best Model 3 forum... :)

My question is, has anyone successfully wet-sanded their Model 3’s original paint to remove orange peel?

I’ve had mine for about 17 months now, clocked up 34,500 wonderful kilometres, generally very happy with the car. In the first few weeks I polished out the slight scratches and marks the car had when I picked it up new from the delivery bay, I applied a ‘ceramic coating’ (SiO2-type) from Fireball, and it’s generally been easy to keep looking great (apart from stone chips of course).

When I look closely at the paint in a good light, I can see the usual expected amount of orange peel, but also a finer texture of tiny pits within that where I think the paint has continued to shrink since it was applied.

It’s good for a daily driver, but I just wonder if there is sufficient paint thickness there to wet-sand with soapy water and 2000-grit paper, on a block or with careful hand techniques on curves, checking regularly for the required orange peel removal. And then of course, polishing up with coarse and fine modern polishing compounds on a forced-rotation Rupes machine.

I’m a detailer and I have experience with wet-sanding and polishing other cars, so I just need to know whether this has been successfully done on a Model 3. I guess I fear that the orange peel might somehow be in the primer layer under the colour and clearcoat - but I think if that were the case, it would show in the metallic colour/texture.

Thanks for any pointers or experience you can share.

-Alex
 

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Skione65

Active Member
May 5, 2016
1,484
729
Kentucky
I had the same issue on my 2018 P3D+. Felt exactly the same with orange peel. Drove me absolutely crazy when I first purchased almost 3 years ago. Was going to do the same either myself or professionally. I researched and researched and finally decided it just wasn’t worth compromising the clear coat and thus the longevity of the protection for the paint over the years.
The clear coat is just soooooooo thin. If you put a meter on it you’ll see you just don’t have much to work with. Maybe the level and thickness of clear coat has improved but it was horrible in 2018. I just decided I’d rather have the sun/UV protection than showroom mirror finish. Car still looks amazing clean and it’s just not that bad but still bugs me. Is what it is. Let me know what you decide and how you fare.

Ski
 
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jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
8,147
9,003
Riverside Co. CA
I dont have an answer to your question, OP, except to say that its my opinion that the paint + clearcoat is too thin for that not to potentially cause damage.
 
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alexGS

Member
May 1, 2019
171
159
New Zealand
I dont have an answer to your question, OP, except to say that its my opinion that the paint + clearcoat is too thin for that not to potentially cause damage.

Thanks - yes, it will definitely damage the clearcoat in the sense of thinning it, I just wonder how much of it will be removed to achieve the necessary improvement.

I had the same issue on my 2018 P3D+. Felt exactly the same with orange peel. Drove me absolutely crazy when I first purchased almost 3 years ago. Was going to do the same either myself or professionally. I researched and researched and finally decided it just wasn’t worth compromising the clear coat and thus the longevity of the protection for the paint over the years.
The clear coat is just soooooooo thin. If you put a meter on it you’ll see you just don’t have much to work with. Maybe the level and thickness of clear coat has improved but it was horrible in 2018. I just decided I’d rather have the sun/UV protection than showroom mirror finish. Car still looks amazing clean and it’s just not that bad but still bugs me. Is what it is. Let me know what you decide and how you fare.

Ski

This is exactly where I am at with this (I absolutely agree with you), and why I have done nothing so far about it - I didn’t want to be the first one, but it seems I may be.

I have difficulty trusting paint thickness gauges because I don’t know how much of the thickness is clearcoat - I say that because my car has a couple of finger-sanding grooves in the driver’s door, under the colour coat and clearcoat, so it seems obvious there must be some thickness of primer there.

I think if the car looked exactly like it did when it left the showroom, I’d be happy, but it is actually more uneven than before as it has a kind of ‘secondary texture’, which I’ve tried to capture in the photo. I am certain that would come out pretty quick with sanding, but whether I can get all the orange peel as well, I just don’t know. Maybe I will start with the vertical parts of the bumper/rear end, as they are some of the more noticeable.

Cheers,
-Alex
 

Skione65

Active Member
May 5, 2016
1,484
729
Kentucky
Alex,
Seems our issues are similar. Most I’ve seen are the same. My hood is fine. Front quarter panels ok, as well as the doors for the most part. As you approach the rear of the car it goes downhill with the orange peel. Both rear quarters you can see it. The ‘top’ of the trunk is fine and by far the worst part of the vehicle is as you mention is the vertical part of the trunk, horrendous.
Let me know how you fare with the attempt.

Ski
 
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