Heat and UV light can wreak havoc on your car’s paint and interior, but by taking a few preventative steps, you can limit the damage and keep your car looking good for years to come.
Why Does the Sun Damage My Car?
The sun pumps out a lot of electromagnetic radiation, and that radiation takes different forms depending on the size of its wavelength. What we perceive as visible light has a wavelength between 400 and 700 nanometers. Just below this range is infra-red, which we feel as heat, and just above it is ultraviolet light, which can break molecular bonds.
The sun’s heat can attack the exterior materials directly, but its effects are higher on your car’s interior because the windows act like a greenhouse, letting heat in without letting it out. On a hot summer day, temperatures inside the cabin can go over 200ºF, literally baking anything inside.
By breaking molecular bonds, ultraviolet light alters the makeup of materials, fading paint, turning clear plastic cloudy and making vinyl and leather brittle.
The color we see is light reflected from an object. The darker a paint is, the more light it’s absorbing, and the faster it will fade. Red light is at the very bottom of the visible light spectrum, so it holds the least amount of energy. As a result, red paint absorbs almost as much energy as black paint, while changes are easy to notice, making it the most susceptible to fading.
Steps You Can Take to Protect the Interior
Park in the shade: If there’s less light reaching your car, there’s less UV light and heat reaching the interior.
Use a sunshade: Placing a reflective shade behind the windshield can decrease sunlight entering the interior significantly. This one step can lower interior temperatures by as much as 50ºF.
Add covers: Dash and seat covers can take the brunt of the damage, and they’re cheaper to replace than interior components.
Keep it clean: Dirt can literally be baked into your interior. The cleaner you keep your car, the less chance you’ll have of staining leather and fabrics.
Use conditioners and protectants: Applying a conditioner to leather and a protectant to vinyl and plastic parts can keep these surfaces pliable and prevent cracking when heated. Look for products that include UV protection to slow their breakdown.
Look for window tint with heat and UV protection: Cheap window tint blocks some light from getting through the windows, but it costs just a little more to get a film that will reflect heat and UV rays, protecting your interior and making it more comfortable in the summer. Darker isn’t necessarily better: innovations in heat and UV reflection allow manufacturers to make tint that keeps the sun out without needing to be overly dark.
Protecting the Exterior
Keep it covered: If you keep your car in a garage or a carport, or you use a car cover, the sunlight can’t reach the paint.
Wash frequently, especially after storms: While the outside won’t get as hot as the inside, dirt can still be baked into paint. Dirt buildup is obvious after driving on unpaved roads, but the layers left behind by rain are less obvious. Raindrops are formed by moisture collecting around particles of dirt, leaving a thin layer of grime on your car when they dry.
Wax your car at least twice a year: Car wax seals the surface of the paint and can act as a shield against UV light. If you don’t wax frequently, look for a synthetic formula: it may not deliver the same shine as carnauba wax, but it will last longer.
Don’t forget to protect plastic and rubber parts: The same protectant you use inside your car for vinyl can also be applied to rubber and black plastic pieces on the outside of your car.
Consider protection film: Clear bras and headlight films are thin layers of plastic designed to take the brunt of damage from heat, UV light, and dirt, protecting the vehicle. While it’s possible to apply these yourself, it’s best to leave this work to the experts, as they have the tools and techniques to get a perfect fit. Be sure to heed the care instructions: most films can be damaged by pressure washing.
Apply tire dressing: Exposure to UV light can damage your tires’ sidewalls, leading to cracks that can leak or cause the tire to fail. If you can’t keep your car in a carport or garage, applying a dressing with UV protectant can slow this aging.
No Preparation Can Prevent an Accident
When you need collision repair, go to Merton Auto Body. For over 70 years, our autobody shop has been the first choice for car repair in Lake Country. We’re located between Lisbon and North Lake, just a short drive from Pewaukee.