ATC Blog

Paint to Protect: Part I – Know Your Enemy

Paint is the most obvious visual indicator of a vehicle’s condition. Concerned vehicle owners pay close attention to conditions that can damage finish. Professional collision-repair technicians and vehicle restorers who have received training from a certified collision-repair school know what’s at stake. Even small imperfections can grow to ruin a paint job. Knowing what can damage paint helps you stay ahead of potential damage… and correct small issues before they become major problems. Below are the major sources of damage to a car’s finish.

  • Birds: It’s ugly. It’s dirty. It’s unpleasant. Even worse – it’s also a chemical nightmare. Bird droppings are very acidic and contain high levels of ammonia. This harsh composition – if left unattended – can eat through wax and clear-coat down into the paint itself. The new generation of waxes offer additional protection and make washing easier.
  • Dirt: Accumulated dirt is the most obvious enemy of a vehicle’s finish. Even so… most people would say dirt is harmless, if ugly. Unfortunately, that’s not quite true. Over time, a buildup of dirt can actually eat into paint. While a protective layer of wax can help avoid the problem, regular washing to prevent buildup is always wise.
  • Insects: Drive through a swarm of insects and windshields, hoods and grilles quickly show the effects of “bug juice.” That residue isn’t just unpleasant – it’s corrosive. Fluids dead insects leave behind is acidic… eating away paint and clear-coat over time. To combat this, many rely on deflectors, vehicle bras, or spray-on coatings.
  • Stones: On the road, pebbles, gravel and small stones can easily chip a car’s paint. These chips provide easy access for road salts and other oxidants to get in. These corrosive elements can damage not only the paint, but the sheet metal underneath as well. The current generation of spray-on coatings affords a high degree of protection.
  • Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight can be devastating to a vehicle’s finish. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in the sun’s rays will fade paint and cause hazing. Simple solutions include garaging your vehicle, parking under a carport, canopy or other shade. Waxes and polishes with UV protection can also help minimize damage.
  • Trees: Like bird droppings and insect carcasses; tree sap can damage a vehicle’s finish quickly. Sap is an adhesive resin. Left in the sun, it bakes into a tough-to-remove contaminant. Untreated, hardened tree sap can etch into paint. The easiest way to avoid this is to remove sap before it can harden. Once baked-in, a clay bar is the best option.
  • Water: How harmful can plain water be? Unfortunately… very. In humid regions, water penetration can lead to oxidation. Left unattended, oxidation will give way to rust. Once rust takes hold, correcting the damage becomes difficult and expensive. That’s why it’s important to correct minor imperfections that allow water to reach bare metal.

Next time, we’ll discuss protecting your finish against these contaminants and more. To learn how collision-repair and vehicle-restoration experts with advanced technical training use these tools to protect paint and body, click below to download our free eBook!


For program disclosure information, please go to www.autotraining.edu/consumer-information.

2 thoughts on “Paint to Protect: Part I – Know Your Enemy

  1. Matt

    I’ve only ever heard of radiation shielding paint for walls and houses, not for cars, what a great idea! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Stephanie Smith

    Goodness, I didn’t know that bird droppings were so acidic. Luckily I have an awning I can park under, but that doesn’t do much if I park somewhere else while I’m out running errands. I know from experience sap can really be a pain to remove but it’s best to do it as soon as possible, or it will look awful when it dries and can be difficult to repair. All in all these are important things to look out for if you want your paint to last a long time, as well as avoiding collisions of course. Those are the most costly repairs to get your car looking like new again.

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