Americans love our cars and, considering their importance to our employment, our recreation, and our personal independence, it’s important that we take care of them. But there are many threats out there that can make short work of even the best modern clear coats and paint finishes, leaving your ride looking dull, damaged, and neglected. Here are seven of the worst sneaky threats to your car’s paint job and what you can do about them.

1. UV Rays

The sun is the power source that drives our weather, feeds plant life, and energizes the new solar power networks popping up across the country. With so much intense energy unleashed on a constant basis, it’s no surprise that vehicles that stand out in the sun day-in and day-out begin to discolor and bleach as a result.

The reason has to do with UV-A and UV-B radiation, two different types of solar energy that have different damaging effects on your vehicle. UV-B, with a shorter wavelength, is rapidly absorbed by plastics and rubbers, heating them and breaking down chemical bonds so that they become brittle, dried out, and discolored. Without good shielding UV-A, with its longer wavelength, is also able to penetrate deep into your paint layers and dry out resin, leading to cracking.

Fortunately, UV Rays can be blocked with the regular use of a number of different products, including vehicle waxes and sealers like Simonize, Slipstream, and various kinds of tire gloss.

2. Water and Rain

We’ve written before on the properties of rain water and why rain water doesn’t lend itself to a good car cleaning. But in many parts of the country it’s even worse than that—thanks to acid rain.

Even low levels of acid rain can quickly wear down the different surfaces on a vehicle, resulting in marked discoloration and clear-coat deterioration in a just months. If you live in an area that receives highly acidic rainfall, keep your car indoors in a garage as often as possible (rather than storing it outside) and consider scheduling your regular car washes after big rains. Remember, car washes use carefully treated water that won’t mark or mar a vehicle surface, and packages that offer a protective layer of wax and sealer help dramatically limit long term damage as well.

3. Dirt

A little dirt won’t hurt, right? Well, while everyone knows that a dirty car looks bad, the truth is that the dirt itself can damage and degrade a vehicle’s surface just the same as the other threats on this list.

Some soil can be more or less acidic than others (based on location), and some soils will contain more or less organic material which then decomposes via a number of different chemical reactions. The dirt itself will eat away at the paint below, tearing apart chemical bonds and attaching more firmly to the paint over time. Just look at old cars stored in dusty garages for decades. Even without moisture or sunlight, the wear and discoloration is obvious and often severe.

The solution is simple: keep your car washed! A simple wash on a monthly basis or after long trips and muddy excursions goes a tremendous way towards limiting paint damage and maintaining the vehicle’s appearance. Your car will look better in the short AND the long term.

4. Flying Rocks

As cars and trucks drive they kick up all kinds of pebbles and grit, most of which is then sprayed back behind them. While bigger rocks are the main concern, as they can easily put cracks in a following vehicle’s windshield, even small pebbles and debris can create disfiguring chips and fractures in a cars’ surface when they impact. Those tiny chips, as bad as they look by themselves, then open up the material below to oxygen and moisture—the perfect recipe for rust development.

Fortunately there are cheap and effective clear coat repair products available at your local hardware store, which allow you to cover and polish over these spots before they get worse. To minimize damage you should also avoid unpaved roads and be careful not to follow close behind overly dirty, rock-spraying trucks on the freeway.

Check back later this week for Part 2!

Tommy Car Wash Systems