Car paint maintenance is one of the keys to keeping your vehicle looking like new, no matter how old it is or how many miles you might put on it. Cleaning and protecting your car or truck’s paint on a regular basis is also an effective way to prevent corrosion and other types of damage that can shorten the life of your automobile.
Check out these four car paint maintenance tips that will go a long way toward ensuring a lasting shine.
1. Decontaminate With a Clay Bar
Vehicle paint often becomes contaminated with things like iron filings, tree sap and other environmental chemicals that bond to the surface of the clear coat. These can’t be washed away. For instance, flecks of iron, typically thrown up at railway crossings, can visibly rust and create tiny pinpricks in your finish. Using a clay bar kit to pull these contaminants out is a simple and effective form of car paint maintenance that anyone can do at home. Using a clay bar also gets you up close and personal with your vehicle. As you work the clay across each body panel look for any bubbles or rust spots that may signal early trouble. Now is also a good time to touch up any scratches or nicks with a paint pen.
2. Polish Away Those Swirls
Regular washing, combined with dirt, dust and even ice, can create a network of spider-web-like swirls in your clear coat. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to remove these swirls with a random orbit power polisher, which, in combination with the right polish, is designed to prevent any burn marks or over-polishing on your paint. You can also try to polish by hand, but the amount of elbow grease required will have you wishing for an electric helper by the end of the first fender panel. If you choose a corded polisher make sure to have plenty of slack in your extension cord to allow full freedom of movement around the vehicle. If you go cordless, have an extra battery on the charger to ensure you can finish the job without stopping.
3. Protect and Seal
A freshly polished vehicle needs a protective layer of wax. Using a carnauba wax will give you a deeper shine, but a polymer-based wax will protect the paint significantly longer, which is important if you live in a winter climate where reapplying wax in zero-degree weather just isn’t practical. Either way, adding that barrier between your paint and the outside world is key to keeping falling leaves, road grime and UV rays from causing further damage.
4. Regularly Wash Your Vehicle
Washing your vehicle becomes even more important during the fall and winter months, due to the extra punishment caused by blowing sand, falling leaves, de-icing liquid and salt and, in some parts of the country, slush and grit that litters the roadways. Keeping your automobile clean so that none of these potential hazards has a chance to eat away at its finish is an important aspect of car paint maintenance. If you can, wash your car during warmer weather to prevent freezing up windows, doors or trunks.
Preparing your car as the fall months arrive—and before winter’s chill has a chance to settle in—will help you greet the springtime with a vehicle that looks as good as it did the summer before.
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Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.