The Seven Best Ways to Protect Your Car’s Paint

Simply parking your car out of the sun can go a long way to prevent paint aging. But applying wax, sealants and ceramic coatings works best.

While it might seem to some people that only the hyper-fastidious car owner engages in washing, waxing, coatings and sealants – and perhaps uses car covers – they really should consider one of the most important benefits of protecting a car’s paint. It’s because the resale value of a car is increased when the paint closely resembles what it looked like on the showroom floor before it was purchased.

That’s because the appearance of the car is quite like “curb appeal” in real estate. It’s the first impression that suggests the rest of the car/property has been well maintained. And the eye of the beholder will always be drawn to what looks good. This is why professional auto detailing has become big business, particularly mobile detailing, where the detailer comes to you.

But it’s a battlefield out there for cars and car paint. Not even considering malicious acts (keying) and traffic mishaps (getting sideswiped), there are many things that can hurt the paint and finish on a vehicle: sunshine, tree sap, bird droppings, bugs, rail dust (metal flakes from brake pads in heavily trafficked areas), and just simple dust and dirt. In four-season climates, road salt is notoriously harsh on vehicle finishes.

Passive ways to protect your car’s paint


There are several ways to prevent damage and aging to your vehicle’s finish, mostly by how and where you park it. That includes:

Park indoors or shaded from the sun. This at least prevents your car, truck, or SUV from being exposed for hours at a time to damaging ultraviolet rays.

Avoid parking under trees. Tree sap and bird droppings aren’t merely something to wash off. Both are capable of dulling the finish. June bugs, for example, excrete fluids that eat through wax, paint and even the paint’s primer.

Cover your car. Yes, those car covers work, particularly in environments with harsh weather conditions and you lack a garage. You just have to go through the process of putting them on and taking them off every time you go for a drive.

Active ways to protect and restore your car’s paint

You can take a more aggressive approach to maintaining the shine on your car’s finish by applying various products to the finish itself:

Waxing.  This is a time-honored tradition; your grandfather probably waxed his car. It holds up for about four months, protecting your vehicle’s paint from dirt. It’s also easy to scrub off with regular car soap. Wax is less effective against light scratches and chemical assaults.

Ceramic coating. This process lasts longer than wax – between two and four years – and it is more protective against chemicals, solar rays, road salt and tree sap. Regular washing with detergent does not prematurely diminish the shine.

Synthetic sealants. A bit less protective than ceramic coatings, sealants still protect against tree sap, chemicals and sunshine. Like wax, it can be scrubbed off with detergent and water.

Protective films. Applied in sheets (by professionals), these are forms of thermoplastic urethane. Most effective against flying chips and other minor abrasions.

Clearly, there are options for protecting the surface of your car. While several tactics (waxing, and how you protect the vehicle in the first place) are actions the layperson can take on his or her own, such things as coatings, sealants, and films are best applied by a professional.