Automotive conversion coatings consist of layers of materials that are chemically applied to the body structures of vehicles before painting to improve corrosion protection and paint adhesion. These coatings are a consequence of surface-based chemical reactions and are sandwiched between paint layers and the base metal; the chemical reactions involved distinctly classify conversion coatings from other coating technologies. Although the tri-cationic conversion coating bath chemistry that was developed around the end of the 20th century remains persistent, environmental, health, and cost issues favor a new generation of greener methods and materials such as zirconium. Environmental forces driving lightweight material selection during automobile body design are possibly more influential for transitioning to zirconium than the concerns regarding the body coating process. The chemistry involved in some conversion coatings processing has been known for over 100 years. However, recent advances in chemical processing, changes in the components used for vehicle body structures, environmental considerations and costs have prompted the automobile industry to embrace new conversion coatings technologies. These are discussed herein along with a historical perspective that has led to the use of current conversion coatings technologies. In addition, future directions for automobile body conversion coatings are discussed that may affect conversion coatings in the age of multi-material body structures.

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Published in Coatings, v. 8, issue 11, 405, p. 1-16.

© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This work was partially supported by development funds of the Institute of Research for Technology Development (IR4TD) College of Engineering, University of Kentucky.