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The Most Common Causes of Auto Paint Fading


One day your car is vibrant and colorful, then, overnight, the paint seems to fade. What causes auto paint to fade, and what can you do about it?

Whether the color of your car is straight from the manufacturer or you’ve had it customized and repainted, there’s nothing worse than faded peeling paint. Unfortunately, although auto body paint can last a long time and is quite durable in general, it doesn’t last forever. Paint will naturally fade over time, but certain factors speed up this process. If you want to learn how to protect your car’s color from further damage, you first have to look at the most common causes of auto paint fading.

Prolonged Sunlight Exposure

You must drive your car outside. That means it’s going to have exposure to the sun, which will cause your paint to fade. If you don’t typically keep your car outside and notice fading, this is a sign that you need a new automotive clear coat. However, if you often leave your vehicle outside for extended periods, this will rapidly speed up the fading process. Put simply, the UV radiation “excites” the molecules in your paint, causing them to essentially break apart. The more you can keep your car covered or indoors, the better.

Salt Crystals and Air

Salt can be very corrosive and, when combined with UV rays, can slowly eat away at the paint, only speeding up the fading process. Unless you live in a place that never snows and is completely landlocked, your vehicle will face some form of salt exposure. During winter, people use salt to clear the roads of dangerous ice. And if you live near the ocean, the salt in the air can cause salt buildups on your car. Keeping your vehicle clean and waxing it often is the only way to prevent salt buildups in these scenarios.

Abrasive Cleaning Agents and Tools

Quick drive-through car washes use scratchy brushes and highly abrasive cleaners that can eat away at your car. If you clean your car yourself, you can use stronger cleaners once in a while for a better clean. But use them too much, and they’ll eat away at the paint. Unfortunately, using the incorrect cleaners and tools is the most common and avoidable cause of auto paint fading.

Detergents, acid- or lye-based cleaners, baking soda, bleach, and alcohol-based cleaners are all highly abrasive. Instead, use ammonia, pine, or low-alcohol-based cleaners. To wipe your car clean, use soft, microfiber washcloths instead of harsh, plastic tools.

Bird Excrement

This may go without saying, but bird excrement is incredibly corrosive, especially if you leave it on your vehicle for extended periods. We’ve all been guilty of not cleaning off bird poop as quickly as we should. The longer you take to clean it off, the harder it becomes to remove it, and you shouldn’t simply take a wet towel to the stain either. You’ll just spread it around that way.

There are car cleaners specifically designed for bird droppings, but you can also spray them with a regular detailer. If the spot is fresh, you can pour some sugar-free, unflavored seltzer water on it. This will break up the acids. Scrub the spot with a microfiber towel in small circles, and you should be good to go!


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