Can You Use Lacquer Thinner On Car Paint? Read Before Use

Can You Use Lacquer Thinner On Car Paint

No, lacquer thinner can damage car paint. Lacquer thinner is a powerful solvent designed to dissolve thin lacquer-based paints and products that can strip and peel vehicle coats.

Maintaining the pristine look of a car’s paint job can be a never-ending task; sometimes, accidents happen. If you’ve ever found yourself needing to contaminants from your vehicle’s surface, you might have wondered if cellulose thinner is a viable option. However, using the right product for the job is important to avoid causing further damage. So can you use lacquer thinner on car paint?

This blog post is an ultimate guide. Here we will explain the potential consequences of using lacquer thinner on car exterior, discuss alternative solutions, and provide tips on safely and effectively maintaining your vehicle’s finish.

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What Lacquer Thinner Is?

Lacquer thinner also known as cellulose thinner is a solvent mixture used primarily for thinning and dissolving lacquer-based paints and finishes. It blends various chemicals, including acetone, toluene, xylene, and other solvents. The exact composition of lacquer thinner can vary between manufacturers and product lines.

Cellulose thinner has a fast evaporation rate and strong solvency properties, effectively cleaning brushes, rollers, and spray equipment after using lacquer-based paints.

Along with its use in the paint and automotive industries, lacquer thinner can be used for cleaning certain surfaces and removing adhesives, grease, and other residues.

However, the thinner can damage certain materials, such as plastics and vehicle paint, due to their potency and aggressive nature. Moreover, it contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can emit strong fumes.

Therefore, working in a well-ventilated area and wearing appropriate safety gear, like gloves and goggles, is important when using lacquer thinner.

Can You Use Lacquer Thinner On Car Paint?

Using lacquer thinner on car paint is generally not recommended, as it can damage the paint and clear coat. Lacquer thinner is a powerful solvent designed to dissolve and thin lacquer-based paints and products. When applied to automotive paint, it can strip the paint, leaving the surface dull or even removing it entirely.

If you want to remove a small stain, contamination, or adhesive residue from your car’s paint, use a dedicated automotive cleaner, clay bar, or adhesive remover specifically designed for use on vehicle paint. These products are gentler on the vehicle coat and will not damage the exterior or paint surface.

However, if you want to use it for removing paint for a complete repaint or repair, cellulose thinner can be used carefully on the areas where the paint needs to be removed.

In this case, you should work in a well-ventilated area and wear proper safety gear, such as gloves and goggles. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure the thinner does not cause unintended damage.

car exterior cleaning

Cons of Using Lacquer Thinner on Car Paint

  1. Lacquer thinner can dissolve or strip away car coat, exposing the surface and requiring repainting or touch-up work.
  2. The thinner may cause the paint to become dull or discolored, losing its original shine and vibrancy.
  3. The clear coat provides protection and gloss to the paint and can be damaged or removed by cellulose thinner, compromising the paint’s overall durability and appearance.
  4. The thinner can etch or create unevenness on the vehicle exterior, making it more susceptible to further damage or requiring additional work to restore the smooth finish.
  5. If the thinner comes into contact with plastic or rubber components, such as trim or seals, it can cause them to become discolored, brittle, or deformed.
  6. In some cases, cellulose thinner can react with the paint or coat, resulting in unpredictable outcomes, such as bubbling, cracking, or peeling.
Lacquer Thinner damaged Car Paint

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What To Use Instead?

To avoid these side effects, it’s best to use dedicated automotive cleaning products, clay bars, or adhesive removers specifically designed for use on vehicle paint. These products are formulated to be gentler on car exterior and are less likely to cause damage.

Always test any product on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire area to ensure it does not cause any harm.

In Which Parts of the Vehicle Can You Use Lacquer Thinner?

Lacquer thinner can be used on certain vehicle parts as effective cleaning solvent, but it should be done cautiously due to its aggressive nature and potential to damage various materials.

Some areas where cellulose thinner may be used on a vehicle include:

1) Bare Metal Surfaces

If you are prepping a vehicle for painting or repainting, you can use lacquer thinner on bare metal surfaces to remove contaminants, grease, or old coat. Be sure to follow up with a metal primer before applying paint.

2) Paint Removal For Repairs

In cases where the coat needs to be removed for repairs or repainting, lacquer thinner can be used on the affected area. Avoid contact with the surrounding and exterior coat to prevent unwanted damage.

3) Cleaning Paint Spray Equipements

The thinner effectively cleans paint guns, clean brushes, and other painting equipment after using lacquer-based paints. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintaining your equipment.

4) Degreasing Engine Components

Cellulose thinner can be used to clean most surfaces such as to remove grease and grime from metal engine components, but avoid contact with painted areas, rubber, and plastic parts, as it can damage them.

It is crucial to remember that cellulose thinner should not be used on painted locations, clear coats, plastic or rubber components, and any other materials that may be vulnerable to damage from its potent solvents. 

cleaning car engine

The Difference Between Lacquer Thinner and Paint Thinner

Lacquer thinner and paint thinner are solvents used for various purposes in various applications, but they differ in composition and usage.

Lacquer thinner vs. paint thinner

Lacquer thinnerPaint thinner
Lacquer thinner is a blend of strong, fast-evaporating solvents, which may include acetone, toluene, xylene, and other chemicals.Paint thinner is usually composed of mineral spirits (white spirits), which are derived from petroleum.
Cellulose thinner is designed for thinning and dissolving lacquer-based paints and finishes. It also effectively cleans brushes, rollers, and spray equipment used with lacquer-based products.Paint thinner is used primarily for thinning oil-based paints, varnishes, and stains, as well as cleaning brushes and equipment used with these products.
Lacquer thinner is generally more aggressive and has a faster evaporation rate than paint thinner. This makes Lacquer thinner and more potent in dissolving and removing lacquer-based products, but it also increases the risk of damaging certain materials like plastics and rubber.Paint thinner is less aggressive and is more suitable for use with a wider range of materials and surfaces without causing damage.


Is lacquer thinner bad for car paint?

Yes, lacquer thinner can damage car paint, as it is a strong solvent that can strip the paint and clear coat, causing dullness, discoloration, or paint removal entirely.

What kind of thinner do I use for automotive paint?

For automotive paint, you should use a thinner specifically designed for the type of paint you are using, such as urethane or acrylic paint reducer. Always follow the paint manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate thinner and mixing ratio.

Will lacquer thinner remove paint?

Yes, lacquer thinner can remove paint, particularly lacquer-based paint. It can also strip or damage other types of paint, so it should be used cautiously and only for its intended purposes.

Is lacquer thinner corrosive?

Due to its strong solvency properties, Lacquer thinner can be considered corrosive to certain materials, such as plastics, rubber, and paint surfaces. However, it is not corrosive like acidic or alkaline substances, which can cause chemical corrosion to metals.

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