Now, don’t get us wrong. We are the caretakers of our environment and it is our duty to make sure it endures for future generations. That being said, environmental factors (including weather) can really do a number on your car, especially the exterior.
Rain is a pretty big deal for us now in California. We are in the midst of perhaps the most severe drought in recorded history and we really, really, REALLY don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. The fact is, however, that factory pollutants basically convert to acid in our atmosphere and adhere to moisture that makes its way down to our cars as rain or snow. Sulfuric acid and nitric acid are the most common.
Basically, when the water from either rain or snow evaporates, it leaves the acid to eat away at your car’s paint job. Sunlight exacerbates this problem, since acid doesn’t evaporate like water. Some blame clear coat paint technology, which creates a mirror-like finish. Any etches or blemishes would show prominently with such a sheen. In addition, there are certain chemicals that can no longer be used in paint that makes it less resistant to the elements.
Marks left by acid rain look like a splattered raindrops, and unfortunately, they cannot be washed off after they’ve made their mark. One way to mitigate the negative effects of acid rain (or snow) is to have your car washed after it rains. Now, we understand that this could get tedious, but thankfully there are some remarkably convenient ways to get your car washed nowadays. Another option is tougher paint. Most of the time though, the “better” paint tends to be used on more luxury models.
Dust, Debris, and Heat
While this does not necessarily count as debris, bird poop has a similar effect on paint as acid rain because of its acidic nature. Leaving bird poop on your car to bake in the sun is a recipe for a pockmarked paint job.
When you don’t wash your car regularly, dust and debris (like leaves) collect in various nooks and crannies. Dust and debris that sit on the exterior of your car have the potential to scratch the paint. This is obviously not like someone took a key to your car (depending on the debris). It’s subtle, but can still compromise the integrity of the clear coat and weaken your car’s defense against the elements. Wiping off dust and debris yourself, without washing your car, will scratch the paint as well. Washing your car is the safest bet.