10 Ways to Ruin Your Paint

By: Mike Cardenas

Greetings fellow detailing enthusiasts! Judging by the many car events on social media and the fliers going around, it appears the car show season has officially begun. As Bill mentioned, boats have also come out of their hibernation and will be out soon on the lakes. We have been protecting watercraft with Ceramic Pro all winter long, so if cleaning your boat is too much of a chore, give us a call and inquire about Ceramic Pro Marine to give you more time enjoying your boat and less time cleaning it.

Maintenance on paint is crucial for everything from marine craft to aviation to automobiles. As a professional detailer, questions on exterior maintenance are some of the most frequently asked topics I get. In this edition I’m going to discuss the 10 most common ways paint can be ruined and how to counteract the problems.

1. Improper Car Wash Techniques or Automatic Car Washing: We live in a fast-paced world, and it’s easy to drive into a car wash and get our vehicles clean. Unfortunately, not all car washes are safe, and even washing by hand in the driveway does not ensure a safe wash. Friction is the biggest enemy of paint, so avoiding as much friction as possible is key to preventing swirls and scratches. Swirl-o-matics are a huge contributor to paint damage. On the driveway, always use a grit guard and proper washing techniques to avoid contamination on the paint surface.

2. Bugs and Tar: If not cleaned off properly and quickly, bugs and tar can cause damage to the clear coat finish, etching and sticking themselves with reckless abandon. I recommend Sonax Insect Remover or Stoner’s Tarminator to safely clean bugs and tar. Bugs contain acids that etch themselves, and they can’t be simply clayed or polished away once they leave their mark.

3. Automatic Sprinklers: Hard water leaves mineral deposits that, if left behind, will bond to your paint like nobody’s business. If you can avoid it, do so. But if you get caught in the mist of sprinklers or have hard well water to contend with, always dry water spots from the paint surface and use a detail spray to aid in the removal. Even if your vehicle is glass coated, the mineral deposits will still be left behind, so it’s always a good idea to wipe the surface down.

4. Fingertips: “You can sniff, but don’t scratch.” I’ve always loved those stickers, partly because the motto is true. The first thing people do is touch the car’s finish. Perhaps it’s a way of being connected or a way to feel how slick it is. On a dirty vehicle, it’s important to not touch the surface. I’ve actually had people show me a vehicle, take their finger and rub on a “scratch,” and leave behind a bigger mess.

5. Tree Sap: One of mother nature’s many glues, tree sap can be one of the most harmful things on a paint finish if the sap is not removed quickly. Keep some Stoner’s Tarminator handy; as a solvent cleaner, it does a great job of removing fresh sap from a finish.

6. Acid Rain: This is really common in large metropolitan areas. I’ve had many vehicles in from the East Coast for detailing, and the vast majority of them have some traces of acid rain on the glass and paint. It is extremely difficult to remove. Keeping the vehicle protected and cleaning it regularly are the best ways to help keep damage away.

7. Bird Droppings: Highly acidic, bird droppings are one of the largest causes of etched-in paint damage. Scratches are also possible when cleaning droppings, so be careful! Birds digest small pieces of gravel and dirt that are often the cause of scratches from bird droppings.

8. Soft Drinks and Coffee: It sounds silly, but pop and coffee are hazardous to a paint finish if not cleaned up quickly. Pop is highly acidic, and coffee often contains sugar that can lead to a sticky mess.

9. Road Paint: Warmer weather also means more road construction and routine painting of stripes and other road markings. Keep your distance and avoid freshly painted stripes when possible. Stay within the lines, just like the old kindergarten coloring days, and you’ll be in good shape. If you do stray and pick up paint, use something like mineral spirits immediately to clean off the paint with the aid of a high pressure sprayer.

10. Pumping Gas: I’ve seen many people simply spill gasoline onto their vehicle’s finish and drive away without cleaning it. Gasoline will stain, and if your car is not protected with something like a glass coating, it will get into the paint finish and ruin the paint.

Of course, there are numerous other things than can ruin a paint finish. Ultimately, boats, planes, and automobiles were created as modes of transportation, and things will happen on occasion. But being aware of some of the dangers that lurk in the most innocent of situations is a huge help to maintain a properly cared for finish for years to come. Until next time, take pride in your detailed ride!

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