Does Chevy Express Have Paint Problems? (Read This First!)

The Chevrolet Express is a series of vans produced by General Motors since 1995.

They were first introduced to compete with the likes of the Ford Transit, which had been around since at least the mid-1960s.

To this day, they remain a popular choice among van users in the US.

This article answers “Does Chevy Express Have Paint Problems?”…

Does Chevy Express Have Paint Problems?

Many users have reported apparent problems with their Chevy Express vans and their paint. The main problem seems to lie with the primer that is used, and it has mostly affected Express vans from the 2000-2010 model years the most.

The paint, especially on white vans, appears to peel away from the primer, but without exposing the metal completely, which is still protected by the primer.

This means at least that rust is unlikely.

Why Do Chevy Vans Paint Peel?

Paint issues are not new for GM cars, and that includes the Chevy Express. The source of the problem was a change in the late 1970s to remove lead from the paint.

In order to meet EPA regulations, Chevy had to switch to low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints.

To do this, as with many other manufacturers, they switched to a system of paint base coats and clear coats.

Some GM factories, in order to maintain production quotas, didn’t wait the allotted time, which at the time was about 45 minutes, for the base coat to dry and the clear coat to be subsequently applied.

This caused problems as the paint aged.

Later, this manifested as first the clear coat suffering, and then the base coat peeling away from the primer.

One fortunate thing for GM, however, was they didn’t experience the same problem with rusting that some brands like Mercedes-Benz did when they switched paints.

Does The Galvanized Paint Avoid Peeling?

While the galvanizing process in metal and paint can help prevent affected areas from rusting, it doesn’t stop the peeling problem itself.

On GM Chevy Express vans, the paint peeling problem seems to disproportionately affect white-painted vans.

The problems appear to be with the strength of the primer being insufficient to hold the paint in place, especially when exposed to high levels of heat and humidity in climates like Florida.

What Parts Are More Likely To Peel?

On the Chevy Express van, all information seems to indicate that the most vulnerable part of the van to the effects of paint peeling are the front end, especially around the hood and front fenders, and wheel arches.

This is likely because they are most exposed to the sun’s UV rays, and these rays seem to play an instrumental part in damaging the paint to the point where it peels off.

What Years Are More Likely To Peel?

The worst affected years in the modern vans are those from 2000 to 2010 model years. However, Chevy Express vans from 1995 were also somewhat affected.

Many Chevrolet models through the 1980s and 1990s suffered from the same paint problem, but it was always disproportionately affecting white paint rather than other colors.

The problem on the Express van can be fixed with touch-up paint, which can be done fairly simply as a DIY job.

But with the problem seemingly being chronic and down to manufacturer problems, and many of the worst model years affected being out of warranty, then owners of used Express vans could face expensive repainting fees in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on how much of their van has been affected.

Does Waxing Often Cause Or Avoid Peeling?

Wax will only prevent paint peeling when it is applied to a healthy layer of clear coat.

If the clear coat in your Chevy Express or other vehicle has already been damaged, then unfortunately there’s no way back without first doing a full restore of primer, basecoat, and then clear coat to bring bag integrity.

If you had a brand-new Chevy Express with a proper layer of clear coat in place, then regular waxing using a powerful synthetic wax or paint sealant would be sure to maintain the structural integrity of the paint layers.

A coat of wax at least once every 3-6 months would almost definitely stave off the effects of the paint peeling.

It would mean a lot of physical work on the Chevy Express, however, since the van is quite large and has a large surface area to protect.

The fact is that no amount of protection can fully safeguard against the peeling.

The fundamental issue of the primer may be the same regardless, in which case you might just be putting off the inevitable.

Since water-based paints have been mandated in the use of car manufacture and painting in the United States for some years now, GM makes use of these paints, too.

Because of problems experienced by companies like GM in the 1980s and 1990s, many people blamed the switch to water-based paint as the reason that peeling seemed to be occurring en masse in GM cars.

In fact, people were pointing the finger at the wrong culprit.

Water-based paint did peel more, and the increase in peeling did tally with the switch to water-based paint, but the real problem wasn’t the paint, but rather the primer.

GM switched paint but not primer at first, and their new paint didn’t work well with their old primer.

After updating their primer formulas, water-based paints were proved to be just as effective in preventing peeling.

After all, all cars made in the US have been under the same mandate to use water-based paint, but there isn’t a particular national epidemic of peeling across all car brands.

The difference is that some adapted their primer more quickly.

Are There Anti-Peel Treatments In A Car Wash?

Drivers of vehicles with potential issues with paint peeling should be very wary of car washes, especially automated car washes.

Whatever they say about paint protection, the typical car wash is usually far worse for your paint than it is beneficial.

Automated “touchless” car washes make use of high-pressure water nozzles and very harsh cleaning chemicals in order to remove dirt and leave your car apparently very clean.

What they don’t remind you is that these same nozzles and chemicals can strip away any wax and sealant that you’ve applied to the paint to stop it from peeling.

Furthermore, car washes that make use of hard bristles and other mechanisms to scrub your car are not cleaned any more than once a day (and often less frequently).

Meaning, your car is being bristled with every bit of dirt and dust that the brush picked up from every previous vehicle.

For these reasons, it’s not a good idea to put any Chevy Express or other car with potential paint peeling issues through a car wash.

Where To Check For Peeling When Buying A Used Express?

If you’re buying a used Chevy Express from 1995 to 2010 model years, but especially the period 2000 to 2010, then you should be extra careful by looking around the hood, front fenders, bumpers, and wheel arches.

These are the areas most susceptible to paint peeling.

You should also climb up and take a look at the roof, which is also exposed to heavy UV radiation all day long if it has been kept outdoors.

Pre-owned Chevy Express vans that were stored indoors during downtime are far less likely to have paint issues, but you’ll still have to check.

How Do I Fix My Chevy Peeling Paint?

You can fix your Chevy peeling paint either by locating the correct paint color code for your vehicle and then purchasing paint touch-up kits to fix the issue yourself or by seeking a professional painter to repaint a section or the whole vehicle.

It’s unlikely that you’ll need the entire vehicle repainting, but depending on where the damage has struck, you might have to consider it.

If the damage is only minor, you can likely fix it with a touch-up kit before it gets worse, but the problem is that if it has started in one area, touching up the paint won’t necessarily stop the peeling from happening in another areas.

For this reason, you might want to consider a full repainting job that can be done at a professional auto shop.

The slightly good news is that Chevy paint problems are nearly always about primer, and therefore you won’t likely be dealing with any rusting. That reduces costs for repairs.

How Much Does It Cost To Repaint A Chevy Express Van?

Even a Chevy Express van in relatively good condition could cost up to $1,000 to repaint.

If your paint has been peeling severely, expect to pay up to $3,000 in total. It can cost as much as $800 just to repaint one door panel.

A budget of $2,000 to $4,000 should cover all repainting costs on any Chevy Express van.

The cost is likely to be controlled by the fact that rust is rarely an issue with the paint problems because the primer is still there protecting the steel from oxidation.

Why Does White Chevy Paint Peel More?

White paint is apparently affected disproportionately among Chevy Express and other vehicles because the white paint is made somewhat “weaker” by its lack of pigment.

This alone, however, is not the only problem.

The weaker formulation of the white paint used by GM coupled with the more chronic primer problem seems to be why white paint is affected more.

There is one additional factor, however, which is that white paint may just appear to be affected more because white is the largest color group among all street vehicles right now.

About 38 percent of all manufactured vehicles are painted white.

This could help explain why we perceive more white paint as being badly affected.

What Is The Express White Paint Code?

The color you are looking for on 2000 to 2015 models is called “Olympic White” and its manufacturer color code is 50/WA8624.

For 2015 models onward, it is called “Summit White” and its code is GAZ/WA8624.

It’s the same color renamed, so it shouldn’t make any difference which name you get for which year, but if you want to be absolutely sure, you can check for the name too.

Did Chevy Make A Paint Recall?

Yes, there has been a recall done before, quite notably for the Chevy Silverado truck line. The 2014 to 2019 models were found to have issues with their paint.

It was discovered that a batch of paint used for many of these vehicles was bad and was highly prone to chipping, so the vehicles were recalled.

Back in the early 1990s, GM also issued an offer to its customers for greater assistance with paint peeling problems that existed on many models at the time.

This was when the primer was really unsuited to the new water-based paints that were being commonly used.