E3 Spark Plugs Shares Eight Everyday Culprits Ruining Your Vehicle’s Paint Job

Perhaps he meant well, but this prankster just made things worse for your car’s paint job, E3 Spark Plugs says.

Back in 2008 a (presumably) fictional character in a Carrie Underwood song got back at her philandering ex: “I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive.”

Unfortunately, angry exes aren’t the only danger to your prized ride. E3 Spark Plugs lists eight everyday culprits and tips for making sure they don’t ruin your paint job.

  • Tree sap: You wouldn’t sling a bottle of Elmer’s white all over your car, would you? Well, letting it get hit with tree sap is about the same thing. After all, ancient peoples used the gooey stuff as an adhesive. If your car gets dripped upon, don’t simply try to wipe it off or you’ll make an even bigger, stickier mess. Use bug and tar remover instead. If the sap is already dried, use mineral spirits to dissolve it and a clay bar treatment to remove residue.
  • Automatic sprinklers: No, you are not getting a free, lazy-man’s car wash when you park within striking shot of an automatic sprinkler. Mineral residue bonds to your car’s paint, making dried water spots tough to remove. Avoid parking near planters and garden areas that might have sprinklers nearby, and get your car professionally detailed if you are hit.
  • Dirty car wash tools: Speaking of laziness and car washes, don’t slack on cleaning your own carwash tools. Even the priciest microfiber wash mitt can be trashed with one drop to the ground. Those tiny bits of sand and grit likely won’t ever be completely washed off. They remain embedded in your mitts and cloths and brushes, and cause swirls and scratches on your paint job. Keep extras on hand and throw away any that you drop.
  • Fingertips: Whether it’s a random parking lot punk writing “Wash Me” or your sweetie drawing a heart on your car’s finish, those fingertip messages just did some damage. Dirt acts much like sandpaper when it’s dragged across paint, and the marks left behind are there to stay. And the oils in fingertips don’t do your paint job any favors either. Use a long-handled duster to wipe down your car daily, keeping sand and dirt from collecting.
  • Ash: Some areas are prone to wildfires. And, as the weather cools, bonfires are a popular outdoor activity. If ash settles on your car’s finish, it can form a harmful alkali. And hosing it down with water just makes it worse. Remove white ash with a duster, black ash with a high-quality carwash solution. A professional wash and a new coat of wax may be in order after the fires are out.
  • Bird droppings and bug guts: They’re both unsightly and acidic, which means they can literally eat away at your paint job – Especially bird droppings, which can contain gritty chunks of digested seeds and gravel that scratch your car’s lacquer. Grab a bottle of quick detail and a microfiber cloth and use a lifting, not scrubbing action to clear away bird droppings. Dried-on bug carnage may require a bug and tar remover. Be sure to thoroughly wash your car after either.
  • Coffee and cola: Your morning coffee and afternoon soda contain acids and sugars that can eat away or etch your car’s paint or clearcoat. Dried soda and sweetened coffee add a sticky mess to corrosive chemicals that’s hard to clear away. Wipe down any spills with some quick detail and get to the car was asap.
  • Gasoline: While it’s tempting to top off your gas tank, be careful not to get carried away. Overflowing gasoline left to dry will leave a stain on your car’s finish. Be careful not to fill to a spill point and immediately wipe away any splashed gas with an instant detailer and clean microfiber cloth.
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