Want a glossy car finish? Here are the secrets behind flawless paint

By Mate Tongola | Jun 09, 2023

Ultraviolet rays are the primary cause of faded car paint. [iStockphoto]

In the realm of automotive aesthetics, few things are as disheartening as watching the once-vibrant paint on a cherished vehicle gradually lose its shine and succumb to an inevitable fate- fading.

It is common to notice a car whose paint is visibly dull, rough, and sometimes flaking off in patches. The most affected areas are the rooftop, trunk, and bonnet. This is as a result of the areas being most exposed to direct sunlight. 

This week on Motoring, we decode the mysteries of car paint fading, while helping you uncover the hidden secrets behind the fading and explore the factors that contribute to this gradual metamorphosis.

Causes of car paint-fading

The scorching and harsh Ultraviolet rays (UV) are the primary and number one cause of faded car paint.

The rays automatically affect the pigment found in car paint and gradually break it down resulting in oxidation. The invisible assault eventually erodes the car's once vibrant exteriors dimming its brilliance.

What factors come into play?

Sunlight: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun causes fading of the car’s paint. UV rays can break down the chemical bonds in the paint, causing it to lose its luster and fade over time.

Oxidation: When car paint is exposed to oxygen in the air, it undergoes a process called oxidation. This can lead to a gradual breakdown of the paint's pigments, resulting in fading and a dull and or rough appearance.

Environmental pollutants: Pollutants such as acid rain, industrial fallout, and airborne contaminants can gradually damage the paint's surface. These pollutants contain chemicals that can react with the paint and contribute to its fading.

Harsh weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions like high temperatures, humidity, and heavy rainfall can accelerate the fading process. Additionally, exposure to salty waters can have an adverse effect on the car's exterior painting.

Improper care and maintenance: Lack of regular cleaning, waxing, and other protective measures can also contribute to fading of the paint. Neglecting to remove dirt, or bird droppings from the car's surface can lead to long-term damage.

Low-quality/substandard paint: If the car was originally painted with low-quality paint or if the paint was improperly applied, it may be more prone to fading. Inferior paint formulations or inadequate surface preparation can result in premature fading.

Age: As a vehicle ages, the paint naturally undergoes wear and tear. Over time, exposure to various elements and the stresses of driving can cause the paint to fade, chip, or peel.

Mechanics repairing a car inside a car garage at Shabaab estate, Nakuru West. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

Below are practical tips to help you keep your vehicle's paintwork-looking showroom fresh for years to come.

To minimise paint fading, it is recommended to park your car in shaded areas as this helps in preventing direct sunlight exposure to your car.

It is also advisable to regularly wash your car and once in a while wax the vehicle’s exterior, apply protective coatings or sealants to keep the paint in mint condition.

In cases where a car will be left idle or stagnant for some period of time, it is recommended to make use of car covers as they are made from materials that prevent direct sunlight attack.

Detergents- Most car manufacturers recommend the use of foaming car wash detergents since they create a thick foam that clings to the surface by encapsulating contaminants, reducing the risk of scratching the paint during the washing process.

It is also key to note that car wash detergents are specifically formulated to be gentle on automotive paint and clear coats as they have a balanced pH level and do not strip off wax or other protective coatings.

Washing materials used during the cleaning process can have an effect on the vehicle’s paint. Use high-quality microfiber wash mitts or soft sponges.

The time taken to rinse off the soap from a washed car determines the long-term outcome of the body paint, especially the swirl marks.

Lastly, avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials during cleaning as this can also help preserve the paint's appearance.

Note that it is possible to restore the car paint although the process can set you back financially depending on the extent of the damage, colour codes, and most importantly, the labour charges involved.

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