9 Ways to Protect Car Paint

blue car paint on car door with key

Fewer things can lower the value of your car faster than rust spots and scratches. Sure, your car’s mechanical parts may be in great shape and the car may drive well. But if it doesn’t look good you’ll still be embarrassed driving it around, and if you’re trying to sell it you certainly won’t get top dollar.

Here are a few tips that will help you keep your car looking new, even if it’s not. Some of these tips are completely free, others require only a bit of effort.

For the tips that do cost, they really do pay off in the long run.

1. Wrap It, Especially When It’s New

If you’ve ever wished you could just wrap your car in plastic to protect it, you’re not alone. In fact, there are a few manufacturers out there who’ve had that very same idea.

Plastic films are available that will protect your car’s paint from salt and sand in winter, and gravel, bugs, bird poop, and tree sap in the summer. There are several reliable brands, but they all need a professional application, because it takes time and technique to do.

We like XPel protective film because it doesn’t discolour and it “heals” itself from fine scratches. Yes, you read that correctly. As your car heats up in the sun, the plastic partially melts and fills in any areas where the film may have been gouged off.

Normally, XPel and other films are added to the front of the car, but this video shows how it’s applied to an entire Porsche:

2. Regular Washing, Clay Bar Treatment, and Wax

In winter, a weekly wash will help remove road salt before it can do damage. In summer, you can go to every 2 or 3 weeks, assuming you’re not driving on dirt roads.

To truly protect your car paint, get a professional hand wash with a clay bar treatment, following by a professional quality wax. Do this as often as you can afford, and at least twice a year.

The clay bar treatment is an oft-overlooked essential step. It removes all the particles left over after you wash, because soap often can’t remove things like brake dust. There’s often a fine residue of tiny particles that only the sticky clay bar can remove. If you don’t use the clay bar, you can actually be scratching your car while you apply the wax and do the polishing.

Realistically, most people can’t afford a weekly car wash, let alone a professional detailing every month. As often as you can, however, even an automated car wash will really help.

3. Fill Scratches As Soon As You See Them

Inspect your car every weekend for small scratches you may have picked up during the week. Any scratch, even the smallest one, is an opportunity for rust to take hold. If you find a scratch, fill it with a coat of clear nail polish until you can bring it to Bemac for professional TLC.

Some fine scratches (that don’t hit bare metal) can be buffed out. Deeper ones will require touch-up paint or other techniques.

4. Deal With Rust as Soon as You See It

Speaking of TLC, if you see a rust spot happening it’s best to deal with it immediately to prevent it from spreading. Ideally get it seen to by a professional, but if you’re short on cash you’ll have to take a DIY route - here’s how.

5. Defensive Parking

Have you ever noticed lone cars parked at the far end of a parking lot? That driver isn’t crazy, they’re trying to stay away from other cars. This helps minimize scratches that happen when careless people allow car doors to fly open and leave scratches on neighbouring cars. It also minimizes contact from runaway shopping carts, cranky kids….the list goes on.

Parking lots are minefields. The best defense is to prevent accidents before they happen by parking as far away from other cars as possible. It may be annoying at first, but soon you’ll come to appreciate the extra oxygen hit from the longer walk to the store.

6. Keep Keys Contained

Some people allow their key chains to dangle from the door. This is a terrible habit from the perspective of paint preservation, as keys are made of metal and they will scratch.

There’s an easy solution, even if you can’t train yourself to remove the keys. Just get one of those soft key wallets that enfold all the keys you’re not using. There are tons of designs, like this one. Best of all, you’ll probably protect your phone from scratches too.

On a related note - don’t put purses, satchels, or backpacks with metal hardware on the roof of your car. They can easily scratch the finish, especially if they start to slide off.

7. Install Mud Flaps

Mud flaps are great because they keep tire spray from flying everywhere. If you have a large car like an SUV or a truck, they’re kinder to the drivers beside you, but they’ll also help small cars too.

Mud flaps install in your wheel wells to keep water, dirt, salty slush, small rocks, and brake dust from collecting at the back of wheel well and on rear bumper. They are especially useful for deterring rock chips.

You have to install them correctly, however, or else they can trap road salt, especially in the screw holes.

8. Be Careful When Removing Snow

If you’re late for work and your car is covered with snow or ice, naturally you want to remove it quickly so you can get on the road right away.

But your snow and ice scraper can damage paint if you use the wrong tool or use it carelessly. Most experts don’t recommend those nylon bristle brushes you see everywhere - specifically because they do leave fine scratches in paint. Instead, they recommend foam brushes or foam brooms.

When it comes to technique, pull the snow towards you in straight lines, not circles. Use light contact, and try not to make multiple passes over the same area. Also, don’t be too fussy about removing every last bit of snow from the car body (obviously windows are a different story) - let the heat of the engine melt it off.

9. Use Car Covers

You may have heard about protecting your skin from the UVA & UVB rays in sunlight. It turns out that sunlight also has a bleaching effect on your car’s paint.

If you have a premium paint colour that you really want to protect, you’ll need to protect it from the sun. Portable car covers are available that will protect your car not only from sunlight, but from the usual bird dropping and tree sap and pollen as well. You can take them with you everywhere you go.

They range in cost from around $30 to hundreds, depending on what they’re made of. The real trick is remembering to use it!

A note about car covers and snow: a layer of snow is heavy. If you try to remove a snow-laden car cover, it will drag across the paint and potentially scratch it. If you don’t have a garage, consider setting up a portable car shelter in your driveway. They’re basically tents for your car, and start at a few hundred dollars and go into the thousands for the sturdiest models.

Add Years of Life to Your Paint

A car that looks good retains its value, whether you keep it or sell it. It will also save you money in the long run, as you won’t have to buy a new car as often. We’ve seen cars that run just fine get scrapped because the body is covered in rust.

If you’re looking for professional help with your car’s body, turn to Bemac. We offer everything from paint protection film to detailing services to panel replacement.

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