Maybe you don’t have a care in the world about the paint on your car. Maybe you live on a gravel road and don’t even remember what color your car is underneath all the dirt. Maybe you like to take your truck off-roading on the weekends and the caked-on mud is your personal monster’s badge of honor. Well, that’s all well and good. This article is probably not for you. This article is for those of you who care about how your car looks.
If you want your ride to look shiny and new – even after thousands of miles or more – there are several habits that are counterproductive, tendencies that harm the paint on your car. If you desire that new-car gloss, you will want to avoid these 7 habits.
1. Poor Parking
One of the easiest ways to ensure damage to the paint on your car, truck, or SUV is to take no notice of where you park. Consider the types of treachery you might inflict on its body panels in each of the following scenarios:
- Baking in the sun can cause the paint to oxidize and fade. UV rays are at the top of the list of harmful factors for your car’s color.
- Buried in the snow is not a lot better. Snow and ice will not directly damage the paint, but you might. Chipping away with a scraper and aggressive sweeping with a brush can dent body panels and scratch clearcoat.
- Tree sap and bird droppings are environmental hazards to paint finishes. If left uncleaned, these contaminants can eat into the paint surface. If cleaned improperly, scratches can result.
- Bicycle handlebars passing too close to the car door, packing boxes placed on the hood, or a briefcase slid across the roof are all potential sources of scratches in the clearcoat.
In each of these cases, where you park matters. Consider parking in a garage, carport, or parking structure whenever possible. Park clear of trees that bleed sap, like maples or pines, and watch for overhead power lines where birds may perch. In the driveway or in the garage, make sure there is plenty of room to maneuver around the car and that pathways for toddlers with tricycles are sufficiently out of the way.
2. Dry Dusting
When dirt, debris, and dust end up in a thin coat on your car’s clear coat finish, resist the urge to grab a towel to remove it. Dust is highly abrasive and will leave behind fine – and sometimes, not so fine – scratches. Instead, wash your car with soap and water or use a detailing spray or specially-designed duster to remove the dust. Oh, and by the way, drawing a smiley face or writing “wash me” can cause deep damage to the finish.
3. Scratchy Spot Cleaning
Does your car have bugs, road tar, or tree sap on the paint? These contaminants will not necessarily hurt the paint. But, as mentioned above, you might inadvertently damage the clear coat if you try to remove them improperly. Avoid using your fingernails, paper towels, SOS pads, steel wool (yes, some folks think they are doing their car a favor with a Brillo pad), or sandpaper to remove contaminants. Instead, use appropriate cleaners like bug and tar remover, soda water, or other cleaning agent and blot with a microfiber towel.
4. Washing Woes
Why is it that a professional detailing technician might take several hours using costly products and expensive equipment to clean your car, but it only took you fifteen minutes? What is (s)he doing that your are not? Improper washing techniques can lead to paint damage. Here are some examples of poor washing habits:
- Plastic brushes are intended for use on wheels and wheel wells, not for paint surfaces. The bristles can leave behind small scratches that can be removed only by sanding and polishing.
- Water spots left behind after washing can remain on the car and, in some cases, etch the clearcoat.
- Scratches can also happen if you use coarse towels, soiled rags, or dirty water on the paint. Professional detailers use multiple water buckets so that wash mitts remain clean and debris-free, and they use microfiber towels instead of bath towels.
- Dish soap is cheap and plentiful; it is also not recommended for car washing. The chemicals in dish soap can strip off protective coatings on your paint. Instead, choose a pH balanced car wash soap.
5. Staining the Satin
Most vehicles today have lots of flat or satin black trim. The mirrors, window moldings, headlight seals, wheel flares, and more are often flat black. One sure way to damage these components is to treat them with the wrong chemical cleaners which will cause staining. Another way is to get wax on them when you are coating the clearcoat. Any stains on flat or satin black trim are difficult (if not impossible) to remove, so avoid the bad habit of getting wax (or improper cleaning agents) on them.
6. Dribbling Fuel
This habit is a hit-or-miss kind of problem. It may or may not affect your car. If you have a classic (or just plain old) car, this can be a problem. Certainly, if you have had any paint work done, this can be a problem. Fuel spilled (and left) on the surface of a refinished paint surface can stain. Modern factory-applied paints are less affected. Plastic parts, maybe moreso. A better habit, though, is to clean up any fuel spills by blotting – not rubbing – with a towel.
7. Using the Roof as a Storage Shelf
You park in a garage. Check. You never wipe with a dry towel. Check. You pretreat contaminants and wash like a pro. Check and check. And you are very careful when waxing and even when fueling up. Again, check and check. And then you go and put your coffee and briefcase on the roof so you can open the car door. Hmm, not a great plan. Dust and dirt are always present on the surface of your car. Even if your car is clean. Any objects placed on a panel can – and usually will – scratch the clearcoat. Break this habit and protect your investment.
So, if you would like the paint on your car to last, to look like new for years to come, make sure to break these 7 habits. Then you can develop new ones: saying “thank you” when random people compliment you on your car; holding your head up when you stop at a traffic light; and smiling with pride when you tell someone just how many miles you have on your ride and they shake their heads in disbelief.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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