How to Prevent Sun Damage to Car Paint

Auto experts say that washing your car can help protect its paint from sun damage. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sam G., of Feasterville Trevose, Penn.)

Auto experts say that washing your car can help protect its paint from sun damage. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sam G., of Feasterville Trevose, Penn.)

Just like the sun to your skin, the sun can affect your car’s paint. Learn how to protect your car paint from the sun’s elements with these tips.

How to protect your car paint

The bold Los Angeles sun can wreak havoc on your car, causing oxidation and premature fading to its paint. Fortunately, the right maintenance routine can keep your new car looking like it just rolled out of the dealership and boost its curb appeal.

As you roll through your weekly routine, seek covered or sheltered parking whenever possible. This protects not only your car's paint but also its headlights and rubberized trim.

You can help undo some of the damage from the UV rays, heat and insults wrought by nature, including suicidal bugs and bird droppings. Here are a few simple tips to help you get started.

Protect your car's paint by washing it

Wash your car often. Washing your car and cleansing it of pollution and grime is the first step. Get a soft cotton mitt, bucket and automotive cleaning product, and work on the car out of direct sunlight. Even if you have tough deposits like splattered bugs or road tar, never scratch your car. Instead, consider using an auto detailing clay bar. "Claying" is a safe way to remove damaging materials without leaving a trace.

Dry your car thoroughly. Although some owners just hop into the car immediately after washing and skip drying, this is not best for your car's appearance. Drying your car with a cotton rag or chamois protects your car's paint from minerals left behind by water evaporation.

Waxing your car, meanwhile, remains one of the most effective ways to keep it looking like new. The wax protects the paint against roadside pollutants while also combating the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Waxing will also prevent dirt and grit from sticking to your vehicle, which can protect your paint from pit damage. When you don't wax your car, grime left on your car can damage the paint job.

Engine heat stresses the hood's paint, and direct sunlight can scorch the paint off the roof. Despite the LA sun and heat, your car can glow with a wash, dry and glossy coat of wax.

Invest in paint protection

If you want to take it a step further, some drivers invest in auto paint protection film kits for their entire car or use it on their car's acrylic headlights, which can become pitted from grit or yellowed and brittle from the LA sun.

Like other auto detailing options, the paint protection film can be a do-it-yourself project, or a service purchased from an area auto-body store. No car – foreign or domestic – is immune from the damaging effects of the sun, but any car will benefit from a regular maintenance routine.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Aug. 12, 2011.

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