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What is The Difference Between Dry Time vs Cure Time?

Every shop’s goal is to get cars through production as quickly and efficiently as possible. But a big part of production time has to do with waiting. So, how can your shop minimize waiting time? Keep reading to learn how to ensure you’re drying and curing coats set in the best way possible!

What is Dry Time?

Dry time is the amount of time that should elapse between coatings (clear coats, top coats, primers, paints, etc.). It’s the time it takes for chemicals to dry before a painter should move to the next step. Before a part can move out of the booth and into assembly or buffing, it needs to be fully dry—and we don’t just mean the surface.

Just because the surface appears “dry,” does not mean it actually is. For example, it can still be soft to the touch, meaning it’s susceptible to scratches or staining. Even worse, the bottom layers may not be dried even if the top is dried. This is likely due to insufficient recoat times, or the time required to wait between coatings.

What Can Help Speed Up Dry Times?

As many modern shops use waterborne paints, we recommend using the Accudraft Xcelerator. It’s designed to accelerate dry times and cut base coat dry times in half*. Xcelerator can be added to your new Accudraft finishing system or retrofitted to any existing system. With its own independent air supply, Xcelerator does need to use the shop’s compressed air. It uses 32 adjustable eyeball nozzles and direct fast-moving 5-micron rated air jets.

*Estimated & typical. Not guaranteed.

What is Cure Time?

Cure time is the total amount of time that should elapse before the part is ready for use. Chemicals in the coating must finish the cross-linking process to become one solid product from top to bottom. This means that all layers are locked together. The cure process can take a long time for all the layers to fully lock.

What Can Help Speed Up Cure Times?

For faster curing times, be sure to use thinner, even coats rather than thick layers. This will help to shorten the time needed between coatings. An IRT curing lamp or system can also help to speed up cure times between layers. It’s also important to note that different coatings have different cure times, so it may be beneficial to consider a coating with a faster chemical curing process.

What Affects Dry and Cure Times?

Temperature and Humidity

Each coating has different requirements for their curing temperature. While a higher temperature may seem like a good idea to speed up drying times, it can actually have a negative affect because only the top layer will be dry and not the ones underneath. Similarly, too much humidity can make drying times longer while too little can make a surface dry too fast. It’s important to follow the technical data sheet (TDS) of the product being used for the correct temperature and humidity levels.


Improper airflow can affect finishing results, causing painters to restart the process.

  • Not enough airflow: If the paint booth is shut down too soon, before all the solvents in the coating escape, the cabin will hold the dead air, causing those solvents to sit in the cabin and cause bad finishes and unhealthy air conditions.
  • Too much airflow: An abundance of airflow can be problematic because it causes overspray and irregular drying. For example, the surface may be dry but not the underneath layers, causing the next coat to restrict the bottom layers and make solvents work harder to escape through more layers.


It’s a common mistake to think that the coating begins curing once it is applied to a surface. However, it really starts when a coating can is opened. This means during the mixing, loading, and spraying process, the coating is slowly curing. It’s important to be thoughtful when opening new coatings, as to minimize its cure time before application.

Contact Accudraft to Optimize Your Paint Booth Performance

If your shop is constantly experiencing long dry times or having to redo paint jobs, it may be time for some expert help. Scheduling an inspection with Accudraft will allow us to evaluate your current set up and equipment to determine what is underperforming. We’ll then provide recommendations on what to upgrade, such as new mechanics, electronics, control panel, or accessories.

To schedule an inspection, contact us online.