Improved body finishes still need attention

You lay down your money and drive your brand-new car out of the dealership delivery lot, the finish sparkling in the sunlight. The car looks beautiful, but how long will it last?

Take a good look, because it will start to deteriorate in all too short a time.

An automobile finish is subjected to sunlight and rain (and in some areas acid rain), exhaust smoke, salt spray in winter if you live in a snow-prone state, and all kinds of airborne industrial pollutants. Insects strike it in the summertime and birds fly overhead.

After a while the surface looks dull, maybe long before you plan to replace the car.

While today's new-car finishes are much more durable than they were a few years ago, they're still not impervious to everything that can be thrown at them. Simply, they still lose their sparkle and have to be taken care of.

Exposure to sunlight is by far the worst enemy to a car's finish. In time, the ultraviolet rays in the sunlight break down the paint film. Then the paint oxidizes and the only way to remove the oxidation is by applying a good liquid or paste cleaner/wax, especially on the newer cars. On older cars it's more of a problem and can take much more work.

If the deterioration is too severe, the only way to restore the finish is to repaint the car.

While a periodic washing and waxing will minimize the impact of the sunlight, it will not stop the process altogether. Don't neglect to wash your car in the wintertime as well, particularly in the snow belt states where salt is used on the roads.

If the paint is metallic, the surface may craze; that is, develop a network of small cracks that may extend all the way through to the metal. If the crazing is severe, the car wax or polish may become trapped in the cracks, and streaking is the result. Wash paint with detergent, using a soft brush. If necessary, rub out the affected areas with a rubbing compound. Then apply polish to the car. Of course, if nothing works, a paint job may again be required.

Soot and other contaminants in the atmosphere can discolor a car's finish. Frequent washing is the best response. Again, in severe cases you may have to go to a paint shop.

To remove water spots, use a rubbing compound and then apply polish.

When the entire paint surface within the periphery of each water spot is eaten away, etching occurs, the result of insect residue, bird droppings, and leaves, as well as road dirt and tar. If rubbing doesn't work, once again the only solution is to repaint the damaged area.

Good advice: To bring the surface of your car through the fall, winter, and spring months in the best way possible, keep the paint finish clean and well polished.

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