Maintaining Your Car’s Paint Job

Maintaining Your Car’s Paint Job


Maintaining Your Car's Paint Job
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Maintaining your car’s paint job is so simple that anyone can do it successfully, with the right amount of effort. Neglect its care or use the wrong products, however, and your shiny vehicle may not look so good any more. To make things worse, some urban legends and tall tales about automotive paint care can actually harm the finish. The swirls and dull spots you may notice are almost always the result of using the wrong products and techniques when washing, drying or waxing your car. Below are some helpful hints for keeping your vehicle’s paint job looking good for years to come.

How to Wash Your Car the Right Way

Your vehicle takes a beating. Everything from tar and gravel to birds and bugs take a toll on its finish. Experts recommend washing your car at least twice per month and more often during bad weather. Letting dirt, debris, salt or other foreign substances sit on the paint can cause rust, staining and even corrosion, and can also dull the shine. Never scrub bird droppings off your car. Remove them as quickly as possible by soaking the spot for a few minutes with water (and a little soap if necessary), then rinsing with a spray bottle.

Washing your car should begin with a thorough rinse to dislodge grime. Wash your vehicle by hand, out of direct sunlight, with a soft natural sea sponge or sheepskin mitt, using a gentle detergent made for cars. Never scrub with a brush or anything that could create microscopic scratches in the finish. Rinse your sponge each time before reloading with soap, and change the wash and rinse water often. If you aren’t able to do the job yourself, be sure to seek out a brushless car wash.

Correctly Drying and Waxing a Vehicle

Always dry your vehicle immediately after washing to prevent water spots. Water spots look bad, but they also leave harmful mineral deposits behind that can erode the finish. Dry quickly using a gel-blade squeegee, a large microfiber towel (or both). Start with mirrors and windows, then move to the roof and downward. Use a second, dry towel and go back over it one more time. Use a different towel for wheels and non-painted bumpers to avoid cross contamination between abrasive brake dust and painted surfaces. Don’t neglect waxing, as this is the main line of defense between your car and potential paint damage. Choose a nonabrasive wax and apply with a clean, soft sponge or cloth, following manufacturer’s directions. Avoid parking under trees, as falling sap, leaves or bird droppings can quickly erode the layer of protection that waxing provides.

Professional Auto Detailing Services

Having your car professionally detailed twice or more per year can add years to your paint’s finish. Professional car-wash products and methods will add an extra long-lasting layer of protection. Body-shop detailing services can include buffing out any areas of oxidation and may even be effective for those annoying swirls caused by improper washing methods. Detailing may include special services for removing tar and bug residue, for cleaning the car’s undercarriage and engine compartment or for fine-cleaning the interior.

Having your car detailed by professional auto-body technicians can add years to the life of your finish and keep the car looking new. Most detailers will be glad to offer you professional advice on how to maintain your car’s paint job most effectively.

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