Experts say scorching summer conditions can be just as damaging to a car’s paint surface as winter weather. Depending on where you live, you could have a whole unique set of challenges in keeping your car’s paint looking like new.
“The average age of vehicles on the road today is 13 years,” said Geoff Coombes, co-owner of Maaco in Fairfield Calif. “With the recent shortages of new vehicles, and the rising price of used vehicles, we are seeing more customers decide to keep their current vehicle a bit longer until the market gets back to normal.”
According to Combes, washing your car often – and properly – to remove organic material that can stain the paint finish is essential. While the easiest way to wash a car may be the local car wash, it could be doing more damage than you think. Some brushes used in touch car wash tunnels can create friction and the repeated contact with the paint surface can create, over time, small micro-scratches in your car’s clear coat – slowly sanding it off. Those micro-scratches can let contaminants in, and if you happen to get tree sap, bird droppings, or some other substance into those micro-scratches, the acidity can eventually degrade your clearcoat.
Even touch-free car washes have drawbacks, he adds. The high pressure and hot water used can be very aggressive on gaskets, seals and plastics. The pressure, combined with sun damage, can deteriorate the seal around a sunroof over time, causing it to not seal as well as it should and eventually create a leak.
Instead, Coombes recommends old-fashioned hand washing as the best solution – provided you use the right products.
“Dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent should not be used, as they could cause premature corrosion,” explains Coombes. “[They] can dry out your plastics and rubber, such as the weatherstrip around your doors and windows. A good car wash soap is worth the investment as it is designed to be strong enough to remove the dirt and grime from a car’s surface but gentle on a car’s components.”
Coombes also recommends using hot water, rather than cold, and never washing a car in the afternoon sun. To ensure the car’s surface is cool, wash it in the early morning or in the shade. This also keeps water spots from forming, which take more effort to remove. After the wash is complete, dry with a chamois and follow with a good carnauba wax. Depending on how often you wash your car, and the weather, a good rule of thumb is to reapply wax every two to three months to keep your car protected and looking great.
Combes notes that leaves and other organic debris can potentially sit on the surface of a car for too long and cause serious damage. A good practice is to try to remove them before they get damp from morning dew, which can damage the clear coat. Then wash the vehicle and apply a carnauba wax to protect it from future episodes.
Additionally, the summer sun alone can damage a car’s finish. If you don’t have the option of parking under cover, he recommends regularly applying carnauba wax to provide protection for your car’s finish.