How to Keep Your Car’s Paint from Fading

Car paint faded

Why does it feel like your car is looking duller each year? Either you’re falling out of love with it or the paint is simply fading. A lot of cars fade thanks to a mixture of different situations that you’ll run into every day. Don’t worry though, there are some ways to keep your car’s paint from fading.

Your car is fading because of the sun, outside contaminants, and acidic materials that come in contact with your vehicle. To keep your car’s paint from fading, avoid these environments and clean your car regularly. There are a few ways to achieve both of these feats.

How? That’s what I’ll review in this piece. I’ll give you 10 things you can to do keep your car’s paint from fading and I’ll also explain why it fades in the first place and what you can do if your car is already faded. Let’s get started.

What’s So Bad About Fading Paint?

So what, your paint is fading? Some people might think that I’m just being materialistic when I say you should prevent this from happening.

The truth is that faded paint will hurt the resale value of your car. Fading also turns into worse things like peeling and bubbling.

Fading paint could also be the early stage of corrosion. Rust is a known car killer and can damage your car to the point where it’s not worth fixing.

No, fading isn’t just an aesthetic issue, it can mean losing money or destroying a car.

How Your Car’s Paint Works

When you paint a wall in your house, it’s pretty easy. You spread around paint from a can and let it dry. Problem solved.

Car paint factory
Factory car paint being applied on the production line

When it comes to a car’s paint, it’s dramatically different. The metal on your car gets a colored layer of paint. This is the color you see when you look at the vehicle. On top of that paint is another, transparent, layer called a topcoat. This prevents corrosion and fading.

When the topcoat is disturbed, the car’s paint can be attacked and faded over time.

Why Is Your Paint Fading?

There are actually a few reasons why your paint might be fading. If your paint isn’t fading yet, dealing with these issues will prevent it from fading (more on this later).

The Pesky Sun

The sun seems like it’s always trying to ruin our day. Pretty ironic. Anyway, the UV rays that are sent out from the sun are one of the big reasons why paint fades.

It reacts with the chemical makeup of your paint and starts breaking it down.

You’ll notice that a lot of things fade when they’re in direct sunlight, and cars are no exception.

In addition to UV rays, the heat from direct sunlight can do damage to a car’s paint job.

Car paint faded 2

Oxidation

Oxidation is when oxygen interacts with things that love oxygen. In the case of cars, I’m talking about exposed metal.

Just the oxygen from the air is enough to start the oxidation process, or as it’s better known, “rust”.

That’s right, rust is a huge problem in any vehicle. Corrosion will eat away at your paint. It starts by just making the paint look faded but then continues to rust the body of your vehicle.

This is a common problem in areas near oceans or beach communities. I remember seeing a show before that talked about how rust is such a huge problem in Cuba since their cars are made from iron and they’re exposed to salty air all the time.

The Wrong Chemicals

Using the wrong soaps or cleaners will start to eat away at your paint. That was a huge point I stressed in my article about car care products you need to have.

Sometimes, picking a random car cleaner just because it’s cheap can fade your paint and lead to even more issues.

Car washing

Contaminants

Whenever your car is exposed to contaminants, you risk your paint fading. Things like pollen, tree sap, and leaves can actually fade your paint.

The actual reason why will differ from contaminant to contaminant, but usually has to do with the level of acidity in the object. Something like a bug splattering on your hood has a lot of acid in its guts, causing your paint to fade (gross, I know).

Bird Poop

Speaking of gross things, let’s talk about bird poop. Not only is it an eyesore and super annoying to find on your car, but it’s also a reason why your car’s paint can fade.

Again, it’s a matter of acidity. Bird droppings are acidic, so they’ll start eating away at your car’s topcoat and paint.

Salt from the Road

You also have to be careful about the salt from the roads. In wintertime and colder areas, road salt prevents icing, so roads are safer to drive on. As you ride along, this salt is flung all over your vehicle.

Salt hurts your car two ways:

  • It can nick your clearcoat. These small cuts can get worse over time and expose your car to the elements, leading to oxidation.
  • It is corrosive. When it’s in contact with your car for long enough, it will simply eat through the paint, corrode, and fade everything.
Car with snow and salt on it

Be Careful with Darker Paints

This process is even worse and more noticeable with darker paints, especially black cars. It’s just a matter of the paint being so dark and rich, to begin with, that any fading is easier to pick up on.

There’s no real science when it comes to the paint pigments, just this aesthetic difference.

Still, if you have a black car, you’ll want to really pay attention here.

10 Ways to Keep Your Car’s Paint from Fading

Without further ado, let me explain 10 ways to keep your car’s paint from fading. You’ll notice that all of these methods are a means to avoid the previously described reasons why your paint fades in the first place.

In other words, these are all preventative steps. If your car is already fading, you can use these to stop the fading before it gets worse. In addition, check out the following section about what you can do once your car is faded.

Park in a Garage or Carport

For extended periods of parking, nothing beats a garage. It keeps the sun away and hides your car from outdoor contaminants.

If you don’t have a garage to park in, consider building a carport. These are an open-air equivalent that will at least protect your car from the sun and add a layer of protection from the nasty outdoors.

Get a Car Cover

If you’re not in a position to park under a covered garage or carport, think about getting a car cover. This is a large piece of cloth or plastic that covers the entirety of your car.

You’ve probably seen them on cars around your neighborhood as you drive down the street.

This helps to prevent a lot of the car fading that comes with parking outside.

Car cover

Get Rid of Tree Sap and Pollen

As I mentioned, pollen and tree sap are going to wreak havoc on your car’s paint. One way to avoid this is to park away from the trees and bushes when you’re at a store.

Even still, your car might eventually be exposed to pollen. I’d suggest cleaning off the sap and pollen whenever you come across it.

It doesn’t even need to be a full car cleaning. Just using a microfiber towel and rubbing down your car might work.

Clean Bird Droppings Immediately

The same is true for bird droppings. When you see that white bird poo on your car, grab a wet towel and wipe it off.

Again, you might be able to get away with not fully washing your car.

Quickly Wash Your Car After Driving on Salty Roads

During the winter months in the north of America, there are two things you can almost guarantee:

  • It’s going to snow
  • Salt will be used to de-ice the roads

For the first point, a set of winter tires could help you a lot. The second part is what will fade your paint. During winter, salted roads just become something that we’re used to.

We will see cars with that salt all over their vehicle as they drive down the road. They might not realize that it’s going to fade their paint, but now you realize it.

Vehicle Cleaning car wash

You’ll want to quickly wash your car off after driving on salty roads. Depending on the conditions of the salt, you might be able to use a hose and some towels to quickly clean it off. Otherwise, you’ll need to go through a full cleaning.

If you want my two cents, you really only need to clean the parts where the salt is stuck to your car. Namely, the lower half of your vehicle.

Wash Your Car Regularly

I actually got into the habit of regularly washing my car. I’ll switch it up when it comes to going to a local car cleaner or doing it myself.

I make it a Friday treat for myself. The actual cleaning process only takes about 15 minutes since I’ve got it down to a science now. It’s not a huge waste of time, and it means that my car’s paint stays fresh for longer.

There are a lot of other reasons to wash your car regularly. Did you know that it can help your car last longer?

Hand-Dry After Washing

After washing, you should avoid air drying your car. Go in with a dry microfiber towel and dry everything by hand.

Why? When water sits around as a droplet, it can create water spots. These are little droplet-shaped collections of minerals that leave a chalky dot-matrix across your car.

These minerals can cause your paint to fade quicker.

Car hand polish with microfiber towel
Detailing the vehicle with a microfiber towel after a car wash.

Wax Your Car Regularly

After a good washing and drying, your car can benefit from wax. You don’t have to do this on a weekly basis, but try to do it a few times a year.

The wax adds a layer of protection over your topcoat that keeps your paint looking fresher. In addition, it will remove added contaminants that your wash might not have.

Avoid Abrasive Products

Whenever you’re using a car care product, you should check the label. If it contains any abrasive material, then you should throw that product in the trash.

The abrasive material is like sandpaper on a smaller scale. It will wear away your topcoat and make your car’s paint seriously vulnerable to fading.

Park in the Shade When Shopping

Another best practice when you’re shopping is to find a shady spot. Preferably, it won’t be a tree that’s providing the shade because that will lead to pollen and sap getting on your car.

Something like a large sign or building will give your car the protection from the sun that you need.

Car parked in the shade of the trees

Is it Too Late? My Car’s Paint is Super Faded

I tend to be an optimist in most situations. When a car starts to fade, it doesn’t mean that it’s too late. Even if the fading got really bad, there are still ways to correct it and return the car to its former glory.

What to Do When the Fading Isn’t Horrible Yet

If the fading isn’t too bad, you might be able to correct it with a simple wax. Use an orbital buffer and a high-quality wax, like a Zymol Z503 Wax.

Apply it generously to the car and work it throughout.

You’ll be left with a car that looks much less faded. If this doesn’t work, then the fading might be worse than you thought.

What to Do When the Fading I Really Bad

If your car’s paint is super faded, bubbling, chipping, and peeling, there’s really only one option: a new paint job.

You can go to a car painting shop, and they’ll be able to put a new coat of paint on the vehicle. It’s not cheap and the process can take a while, but it will completely restore your car’s color.

Conclusion

There you have it. Now you know 10 ways to keep your car’s paint from fading. I also talked about what causes the fading in the first place and what to do if your car is already fading. Be sure to check out my other blog posts for all of your car care needs. I also have a list of products that I highly recommend if you want to pick some of them up.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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