Many of us become dissatisfied with our rides long before they have lived out their useful lives. They may still perform well, get great gas mileage, maintain a smooth steady ride and exhibit near-perfect reliability but we just aren’t happy with them anymore. More often than not, it’s because of their appearance and more specifically the condition of the body paint.
Whether it’s surface rust, peeling, fading, or an excess amount of commuter scars, paint failures and defects are quite different than any other area of vehicle maintenance and repair; by the time it really bothers us, it can often be perceived as too expensive to rectify. This is mostly caused by the fact that it’s hard to simply refinish one area of an eight- or nine-year-old vehicle without ending up with a patch-work look. And of course it’s something that is well beyond the scope of most do-it-yourselfers’ skill and facility level.
But there are some easy and relatively inexpensive ways to keep the paint lasting as long as the loan payments.
Keep it clean: This should really go without saying, but many drivers don’t realize that a good portion of the road grit, dust, and grime that collects on their vehicles can do far more damage than simply detracting from the looks. Acidic and basic compounds can etch into the paint causing bubbling, peeling, and cracking. Organic sources such as bird droppings and certain insect secretions can be the worst. Getting these contaminants off a soon as possible will go a long way to keeping the shine. If a full car wash won’t fit into the schedule, a quick blast from the garden hose on affected areas is better than nothing.
Keep it waxed: A good quality car wax from a trusted brand such as Turtle or Meguiar’s can provide an invisible shield to keep dirt from sticking and penetrating the outer layer of paint. It can also reduce the effects of the sun’s radiation when it comes to keeping the paint from fading. Depending on where you live and drive, it’s best to wax your vehicle every third or fourth wash.
Keep it shaded: Parking in direct sunlight is a good way to prematurely fade darker colours of body paint, but avoid parking under trees. Many trees can drop sap or other resins onto the paint and, in the case of coniferous trees, their needles can be acidic. While the majority of us don’t have the opportunity to seek out shaded spots when parking at work or home, a breathable car cover that’s custom made for easy installation can be a cheap investment compared to the cost of repainting a vehicle.
Keep it protected: While no one wants to drive a bubble-wrapped vehicle, there are some functional, yet stylish alternatives to protect key areas. The leading edge of a vehicle hood takes all the pounding from stone chips and gravel blasting. A front hood protector, or air deflector as they’re commonly called, can reduce a lot of this risk. Soft front end covers or bras should be avoided as they tend to trap moisture and stain paint.
Most drivers know about the benefit of mud-flaps and they’re an easy DIY type job. But fewer know about protective plastic film known as gravel guard. This is available from most auto-body, auto-glass shops, and some general auto-parts stores. It’s a peel and stick product that can be applied to almost any area of the vehicle’s body. Some carmakers even apply this coating at the factory to high impact areas such as lower rocker panels and fenders.
The biggest benefit this plastic shielding can offer is in terms of reducing stone chips and paint peeling around the wheel wells. If you’re good with an x-acto knife it can even be an easy DIY home driveway job. 3M now markets an aerosol spray version available at Canadian Tire. Both the film and spray product is removable.
Written by BRIAN TURNER | Featured in driving.ca