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How to Protect Your Car’s Paint Job

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Photo: Mazda

Whether you’re looking to keep your daily driver looking spiffy or you want to preserve your dream machine, it’s likely you’ll need to know how to maintain your car’s paint job. And it’s not just about vanity — a well-manicured finish helps bolster your car’s resale value. So here’s a look at five ways to protect your car’s paint job.

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Wash it

Paint Fix Car Wash
Photo: Pexels

Everyone knows that a nice hand wash goes a long way. However, it’s important to use the right tools for the job. Use dedicated car washing products, which won’t degrade your vehicle’s finish. Avoid using dish soap, hand soap, and glass cleaners on your car’s body — these harsh cleaners can degrade the paint and clear coat.

Also, it’s a good idea to use a separate sponge for the body and the wheels. Road grit from the wheels can get caught in a spongy surface and scratch up your vehicle. For similar reasons, rinse your sponges often, and use separate buckets for washing and rinsing.

If you’re looking for a shortcut, automated car washes come with certain drawbacks. If a previous patron came through with a grimy vehicle, it’s likely that some of that grit remains embedded in the spinning brushes. That brush-borne debris can scratch up your car.

If you don’t want to commit to washing your car by hand every weekend, spot cleaning can help preserve its paint job. Dead bugs and bird droppings are highly acidic and can eat away at your car’s paint. Tree sap can leave stains quickly, so clean it off as soon as you find it. Some of these little gifts from nature can be tough to remove, so pick up a dedicated bug and sap remover to make life easier.

Wax it

Buffing and Waxing your Car
Materials for buffing and waxing your car

Once your car is nice and clean, a protective wax coating can do wonders to protect your paint job. But when you go to buy some car wax, you may find yourself overwhelmed by choice. So let’s sort this out — not all car wax treatments are created equal.

First, the spray-on wax you find at most drive-through car washes isn’t going to last very long. Plus, it’s hard to control — it’s going to get all over the rubber and unpainted plastic parts of your car. That may not seem like a problem, but the waxes contain oils that can degrade your car’s plastic and rubber components.

Tinted wax sounds like a nice idea, but it likely won’t match your car’s color. In other words, it could leave your vehicle with an off-color haze. Also, be wary of products with the word “polish” in the name, because they contain abrasives that can leave swirling scratches in your car’s paint. Unless you need to scrub away oxidized paint, stick to regular wax.

Your best bet is applying wax paste or liquid by hand using a microfiber towel. Old clothes and terry cloths leave behind lint, so leave them in the linen closet.

Shade it

Parking Garage

Photo: Creative Commons – Pomodoro Entertainment

Too much sun exposure can leave your vehicle looking worn and faded. Whenever possible, avoid parking in direct sunlight. If you don’t have a garage or carport, consider investing in a car cover. Some even come with locks for extra security. A cover will also protect your car from nature’s little surprises, like bird droppings.

Coat it

2019 Mazda3
Photo: Mazda

Ceramic Coating gives your car an extra layer of protection. It’s a wax alternative — though since it’s applied by professionals, it can get costly. However, it provides lasting protection against sun damage, staining, and acids. It also repels water, making it harder for gunk to bond to your car’s surface. As an added bonus, it’s quite shiny, which will give your prized paint job even more pop.

However, it doesn’t make your car invincible. It’ll still be vulnerable to rock chips and parking lot scuffs. And even though it may help make your vehicle a little more dirt resistant, it’s still a good idea to give it a wash every now and then.

Wrap it

2019 CAS Mazda Miata 30th Anniversary
Photo: Mazda

Paint protection film is a crystal-clear wrapping that gives your car the maximum amount of protection. It’ll last 5-10 years without yellowing or bubbling, and it won’t leave residue on the paint when removed.

Paint protection film is especially helpful for maintaining a matte finish. If a matte finish gets scratched, any attempts at buffing out the damage will result in an unsightly shiny spot.

You can get your vehicle wholly or partially wrapped. To cut costs, some drivers opt to only cover the car’s forward-facing surfaces, which are most likely to get damaged by flying rocks.

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Sources: Driving, Forbes, Exclusive Detail, Consumer Reports