The Quick Guide to Keeping Your Car’s Paint Pristine
Your automotive paint is a lot like your skin: It covers pretty much the whole body, it protects what’s underneath, and it can be damaged if not properly cared for. But while you may know that you should apply sunscreen and bandages to your own skin as needed, you may not know much about guarding your car’s exterior against the things that chip away at it, scratch it, and wear it down. Sure, you wash it regularly—or you should, anyway—but there’s so much more you could (and should) be doing to protect the appearance of your auto paint, and therefore the life and value of your vehicle.
Still, a good wash is a great place to start when it comes to paint protection …
1. Maintaining Your Car’s Paint Job
Nothing sparkles in the sun quite like a freshly washed and waxed car or truck. Clearing away the grime of the miles, the bugs on the grill, and other films, splotches, and smears that dirty up your car paint job can make it look like new, and can also lengthen its lifespan. Proper car care involves keeping the paint free of chemicals than can break down the protective coating, as well as regularly eliminating dust and dirt that can lead to scratches and hasten deterioration.
Bird droppings, for instance, can contain corrosive or acidic compounds that can eat away at clear coating and start to directly impact the paint, so it’s best to get them off as quickly as possible. A clean car is a happy car. You can make it even happier with car polish, which is like a deep cleaning for after your basic soap-and-water wash.
Several times a year, you may also want to add some car wax into your care routine. The best car wax to use depends on personal preference, the vehicle itself, and the sorts of driving activities you’ll be doing. Some people wonder whether wax is necessary vehicle paint protection these days, given that vehicles come with a clear coat that protects the paint, but think of wax—like Turtle Wax or some other form of carnauba wax—as yet another layer of defense. Your car is a big investment, and a little time, effort, and money put into preserving it will save you more time, effort, and money in the long run.
While most of the gross and damaging elements get on your car while it’s being driven around, a lot can happen when it’s parked, too. To maintain a beautiful paint job, you may also want to consider a car cover. This can keep everything from leaves and dust to falling fruit and berries to that aforementioned bird waste from hitting the paint job and working its paint-damaging chemistry.
2. How to Protect Car Paint from Scratches
Once you’ve got the cleaning basics down, you can take your vehicle paint protection strategies to the next level with some more advanced methods to guard against scratches.
As you can tell, much of preserving your car paint job depends on creating and maintaining barriers that stand against the stuff life throws at your vehicle—usually at high speeds. Highway travel can subject your car or truck to all sorts of projectiles, including flying rocks, sand, and trash. Salt can abrade and start deteriorating your automotive paint at any speed, and you’re still not safe when parked, as other drivers can open their car doors into yours, steer shopping carts into your vehicle’s side, and create paint-gouging problems wherever they go. Even you, the driver and lover of your own vehicle, may occasionally open your own door into a curb or tree, chipping the paint work along the edge.
To protect against grit, rocks, and other debris life on the road throws at you, try paint protection film, which can cover the front of your car, including the hood, bumpers, and headlights, as well as the side mirrors. The whole sheet or set of sections is sometimes referred to as a clear bra. XPEL® is a brand name to look for, as is the 3M Scotchgard paint protection film for all areas of the vehicle, too, from the roof to the door handles. Anywhere there’s paint can suffer from scratches. Vinyl car wraps can be applied to the entire body, creating a new look in addition to adding protection. A similar car paint job protection method involves a sort of clear coat spray paint that can be applied where needed.
Car doors are particularly vulnerable in parking lots, and can be protected by body side molding, which acts as a bumper against impacts. Door edges can be lined with a door edge guard, such as ProtektoTrim, which prevents the sorts of nicks and chips that come from accidentally opening your door into something hard and unyielding.
3. How to Remove Scratches from Car Paint
No matter how protective you are, scratches sometimes get through. An ill-timed and fast-moving rock may hit the weakest part of your defenses and leave a small, jagged line. Fortunately, like your own skin, healing is possible. Car paint repair can be as simple as touching it up in your own driveway, but the best scratch remover for your particular situation depends on the depth and severity of the scratch.
You may be able to smooth out a line in your clear coating with some careful polishing, but if the automotive paint itself if damaged, you can determine your exact color by reading the factory paint code or doing a little more detective work, then cleaning the area thoroughly and applying a little bit of the proper shade. Many dealerships offer small containers of touch-up paint, but there are lots of options available for perfect color matching.
It’s possible to assemble everything you need for some DIY car paint repair, but you can also try a Turtle Wax scratch repair kit that comes with a car scratch remover pen and instructions for the best results.
Want more information? Read: The Ultimate Guide to Car Paint Protection & Scratch Repair