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Will These Strip Paint Off Cars? - Fact or Fiction

Luke Munnell
Aug 8, 2011

As much as we love putting shady products to the test, busting their sky-high claims and putting their often fly-by-night manufacturers in check, addressing automotive urban legends is always more fun. Especially those that involve trying to strip paint off helpless, forgotten-about project roadsters . . . with lunch foods. The worst kinds of lunch foods.

The Claim: These will strip paint off cars.

We’ve all heard them—friends swearing that their friends’ friends, friends’ uncles, uncles’ friends, uncles’ friends’ uncles, and so on—once had the paint eaten off his car by one of these substances. Some say it happened overnight, some say it took a week. Believers would say, “No way . . . ” Skeptics, “No way!” Very seldom is there anyone in-between. Except us.

Testing this month effectively killed two birds with one bundle of shitty food products (with some automotive chemicals thrown in for good measure): It gave us the motivation we needed to finally paint Project Miata, and helped put these tall tales to the test once and for all.

Testing was simple: We cleaned off Project Miata’s trunk with mild car soap, rinsed it off with water, let it air dry, and coated it with two different luncheon meats, Coca-Cola Classic, a raw egg, some brake fluid, and brake cleaner—all of which we’ve heard rumored to “eat through car paint.”

Impp 1108 09 o+paint strip+trunk Photo 8/19   |  
Before
Impp 1108 10 o+paint strip+trunk Photo 9/19   |  
After

  • We checked on them after letting them sit all night. No change.
  • We checked on them after letting them sit for 24 hours. No change.
  • We checked after 48 hours, freshening up the Coke and brake cleaner. Still nothing.
  • After three days, three different bologna/salami changes and fresh brake cleaner and Coke when needed, no change.
  • After a full week (seven days) of repeating these steps, we saw nothing but an oily buildup from our mystery meats, and a crystalline buildup of evaporated sweeteners where our Coke had been. The brake cleaner apparently did nothing as well, just like the brake fluid.

The Verdict:

Baloney. It’s important to note that our Miata’s got a basecoat/clearcoat paint system. The paint-eating claims for each substance could be traced back decades—to a time when one-stage lacquer paints protected cars, and the FDA, well . . . didn’t exactly protect consumers from shady meatpacking practices. While we do share an office with the Hot Rod group, forgive us for not covering their flawlessly lacquered, six-figure classics with half an Italian sub, bird placenta, Coke, and assorted EPA-regulated chemicals. We’ve seen eggs leave marks on cars, but this is probably due more to the impact of their shells or damage caused after they’ve baked in the sun. Brake fluid WILL destroy paint, but if it’s good paint, not overnight. Not over seven nights, for that matter.

By Luke Munnell
326 Articles

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