In keeping your car paint intact and new, it is important one puts into consideration some key factors. Some call them the Dos and Don'ts; we call them the friends and enemies of your car paint.
>> FRIENDS <<
o GARAGES, PARKING STRUCTURES AND CAR COVERS
Any time you can park your car in the shade (without that shade coming from a sappy tree) you’re contributing to longer life for your car’s paint finish. If you’re a stickler for protection and are willing to take the time to use one — a car cover made of cloth or synthetic material is a great investment, especially if you don’t have access to a garage.
o CLEAR COAT PAINT FINISHES
Back to the clear coat paint finishes. Since the late 1980s and with increasing prevalence since about 1990, car companies have been using so-called clear coat paints as final “sealers” on new cars. As the term indicates, the clear paint is used as a protective film over the pigmented (colored paint) base paint layer. When applied at the factory, the clear coat paint is applied as the final step to the car’s finish to enhance paint luster, depth and protection from the elements. Yet, it is not a substitute for wax because it can still (1) breathe, (2) erode, and (3) absorb moisture, collect grime and stains (tweeting and sappy tree droppings) on its surface.
Good ole wax. Through the test of time, there’s that loyal and humble friend to your car’s paint. It works — it helps clean, enhance and prolong luster, creates a thin protective film to help insulate from the elements … and some waxes even have, yes, sunscreens!
>> ENEMIES <<
It’s not that clear coat finishes are not helpful on automobile paint finishes, they are a great improvement in paint “technology.” And we’ll come back to clear coats in a moment. What’s more important right now is recognizing that the foes to your car’s paint, with or without a clear coat finish, still haven’t changed — and they’re pretty formidable. Let’s start with the biggest one:
o THE SUN
Oh, yeah, the sun. UVA rays and all that stuff. Thought you’d heard enough about how important it is to protect your skin from the sun? Good. Now it’s holistic car care — cars have skin, too, you know. And your car’s paint finish breathes and even has pores! In the hot sun the paint’s pores expand and can absorb more dirt and moisture.
o BIRD DROPPINGS
From that gargantuan ball of fire to those pretty little tweeting birds. When we go out for picnics we look for nice shade trees with no ants and no … birds (at least above us). Great. How about when parking that car? Bird droppings are highly acidic and can erode paint and clear coat paint finishes. A couple of my exotic-car owner pals have even made cracks about watching out for “low altitude air-to-surface missile” raids when driving by Santa Barbara’s lovely bird sanctuary!
o SAP FROM TREES
It’s easy to think about those times you’ve discovered the clear sticky blotches of tree sap. They seem like magnets for other particles of dirt, dust and grime — unless you remove them quickly (which you should do!). But more importantly, a lot of trees can drop small mist-like droplets on your car’s paint — the kind of sap that you can’t see unless you look very closely. Again, in hot sun this stealthy foe of tree sap will bake into the pores of the paint surface and can leave stains. That is why it is important to remove tree sap from cars.
o SALT AIR
“But I love the smell of that ocean air!” OK, but do you know what your car’s paint thinks of living in Santa Barbara? “Nice views and great weather, pal, but this salt in the air isn’t doing much for that ‘mirror-like’ sheen you expect from me!” your paint would tell you. “Especially when the sun’s out and with that ‘terrific ocean breeze’ combined with salt in the air, boss,” it would go on to say. “Salty moisture all over me — yuck!”
o AIRBORNE CONTAMINANTS
Even though Santa Barbara has much higher air quality than many larger metropolitan areas, there are airborne particles in our air that can damage our cars’ paint surfaces. By-products from construction, small manufacturing operations and even your own home chimney can contribute floating elements into the air that threaten your car’s paint finish.