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Changing Seasons, Falling Leaves, and Your Cars Paint

Changing Seasons, Falling Leaves, and Your Cars Paint

As the summer temperatures vanish, the autumn leaves on oxygen-producing trees begin to change into visually stunning colors. The beautiful colors produced by fall seasonal changes also introduce the inevitable situation of falling leaves. While this opens hours of raking or blowing leaves into a huge pile, it also introduces the potential of leaves falling on your car.

But did you know that falling leaves can be hazardous to your car paint? Introduce rain, morning dew, and late fall snowstorms to the equation, and you’ve opened Pandora’s Box of possible paint pain-in-the-ass problems (alliteration FTW).

If you’ve ever wondered about how leaves impact the overall quality of your ride’s paint, this article is tailor-made for you. In today’s AvalonKing blog, we’ll dive into the facts about fall leaves like a kid plunging into your freshly raked pile on the lawn. We’ll explore the science behind common tree leaves that tend to damage paint, explain why this is amplified by water, and what you can do to protect your vehicle from this all-too-common paint damage.

How Do Leaves Damage Your Paint?

Most of us never blink when blowing over a pile of fallen leaves on the side of the road. In fact, I know dudes who get off on this – just about as much as splashing pedestrians on a sidewalk with their right-rear tire (yeah – they’re dicks).

This pretty lame activity of those special drivers spreads leaves all over the road. Not only does this reduce on the road traction (seriously, many accidents are caused by leaves), but it enhances the potential of a leaf landing on the surface of your car, truck, or SUV.

While the leaf itself is not going to dent your vehicle, it can stick to the paint, windows, and other automotive surfaces. If the leaf is dry, it’s more than likely just going to blow off your vehicle when you reach about 30 mph. But, introduce wet stuff, and it’s gonna stick like glue, creating the perfect storm of introducing tree sap, acids, pollens, and other contaminants to begin their paint deconstruction.

What Can Happen to Your Car as the Result of Leaf Damage?

So, it’s that time again to get scientific and shit. Leaves that fall from trees during the fall season in North America are comprised of multiple layers that serve as a ‘powerplant’ for plants and trees. In most vegetation, leaves store energy or food and serve as the primary location of food production for the plant or tree.

The layout or structure of the leaf absorbs sunlight and converts those UV rays into chemical energy by using Chlorophyll as the agent. Leaves also absorb Co2, that damaging stuff that kills us humans and other animals when inhaled.

As sunlight is absorbed, the leaf uses its chlorophyll to turn water and carbon dioxide gases into oxygen and sugar. This is known as photosynthesis (your 5th-grade teacher would be proud if you remembered this basic Earth Science shit).

There are several layers that make up the leaves that land on your car, one of which is the epidermis. When the leaf is on the plant or tree, the epidermis secretes a wax-like substance called cuticle (you probably can see where I’m going here). This waxy stuff is not good for protecting your car, because one of the main byproducts is rather acidic.

So, when the leaf falls off the tree, it’s served its food-producing task, begins to shrivel, and becomes loaded with acids, tree saps, and other items that can corrode your paint’s clear coating.

It’s estimated that the acidic level of leaves from Aspen, Maple, Oak, and other common trees in North America rivals that of bird droppings when mixed with water. The form of water can range from rain, salt water, snow, or dew in high-humidity regions.

The water acts as an electrolyte, that can accelerate the process of corrosion to develop rust. But it also expedites the breakdown of acids contained in leaves. If the leaf remains on your vehicle for more than a few hours, it can begin to penetrate the clear coat, embedding a stain, or if continually left to corrode – can penetrate to the paint, past the primer, and begin to rust.

Other Issues Falling Leaves Cause with Your Car

While a falling leaf is typically attributed to causing accidents due to poor traction, and of course, paint damage, there are other automotive areas of concern. Mainly, falling leaves can cause havoc with your car’s cooling system, filtration, and even lead to braking issues.

Falling leaves commonly stick to the front of your vehicle, especially on a radiator. This reduces the radiator’s ability to naturally ‘breathe’ – which decreases the cooling process and can lead to overheating.

Leaves can also find creative ways of clogging your filtration system, including cabin air filters or even intake filters. In most cases, the leaf will break down into small particles in order to clog the filtration system, but this can lead to poor engine performance.

Additionally, leaves tend to become trapped between brake pads and the rotors on disc brakes. While leaves can blow away quickly, they can stick causing braking issues.

Ways You Can Protect Your Car from Fall Leaf Damage

The best way to protect any vehicle from potential leaf damage is to remove them immediately. We’re not saying you should pull over on the side of the highway to take a leaf off your hood during rush hour traffic, but you should take them off ASAP.

There are some other helpful hints that we’ve compiled that any car owner can follow.

First – Don’t Park Under Trees

While this seems rather logical and basic, you’d be surprised how many folks simply don’t consider this to be an issue. If you have a choice, opt for parking with less potential for leaves to fall onto your car in the first place.

This tip isn’t only for the fall season – but throughout the year. Spring and summer also introduce potential of leaves falling and can likewise cause stains on your paint and other issues described above.

Second – Remove Fallen Leaves Quickly

We addressed this tip earlier, but it should be enforced. A leaf will start to eat away at your clear coat within a few hours of exposure. While major damage and stains typically take a few days, minor scarring can occur with exposure to UV rays. So, if you see leaves on your paint, spray them off with water. It’s also a good idea to wash the car, as they will ‘leave’ residue, which can continue damaging your car’s paint.

Third – Wash Your Car Every Week in Fall

The fall season and leaves that are roadside as opposed to hanging from trees also accelerates the spread of tree saps, pollen, and smaller leaf particles onto your paint. These smaller or microscopic materials can still cause damage to the paint. To reduce this potential, wash your car using the two-bucket method every week from September through November.

Fourth – Protect Your Cars Paint with a DIY Ceramic Coating

When you review the information above, the damage to automotive paint via leaves is due to landing on the clear coating and starting to eat away at the unprotected surface. The simple act of applying some sort of hard protection on top of the clear coating can significantly reduce paint damage due to leaves.

DIY enthusiasts have three affordable paint protection options to consider.

Natural Carnauba Wax

Automotive wax like carnauba paste wax or liquid formulas is great at providing a hard layer of protection that bonds to the clear coating of car paint. It’s derived from a palm tree leaf that grows naturally in Brazil, so you’re literally fighting fire with fire. The main problem with car wax is they only last about two months, causing you to continually remove, apply, and repeat this process about six times per year.

Paint Sealants

A paint sealant is a synthetic, lab-created automotive wax that does the same job of natural wax – but with longer-lasting results. The paint sealant is typically a liquid product, that is usually blended with polishes, leaving a nice finish on the paint, and can last about a year.

Ceramic Coatings

Armor Shield IX ‑ The Ultimate DIY Kit

The automotive owner has two options with regards to ceramic coatings, the professionally applied stuff or a DIY variant. The ceramic pro stuff is an industrial version of the DIY products, with higher percentages of SiO2 or ‘liquid quartz’ – which infuses to the clear coating by penetrating those microscopic imperfections.

Featured Product

Armor Shield IX DIY Kit

The Most Complete Ceramic Coating DIY Kit for Consumers

The DIY Kit includes everything you need to perform a professional grade ceramic coating without any prior experience. Get the feeling of driving a new car, every day.

Once it’s cured, it leaves an extremely flat and smooth layer of protection, only a few microns in thickness, but can last for several years.

The DIY nano-ceramic coating is slightly different, with SiO2 percentages not as high – which makes it easier for novice car care enthusiasts to apply. The really good DIY ceramic coatings, like Armor Shield IX, are sold as an entire installation kit.

The kit will include the ceramic coating (a 30ml bottle – good enough for a coupe or motorcycle), protective gloves, an applicator sponge, applicator cloths, detailed instructions, and a microfiber cloth for removal. The installation process is simple – watch the video below to watch how it’s done.

Wrapping it Up

The fall season is a great opportunity to drink beer, watch football, the beginning of NHL Hockey, and deciding champions in NASCAR and NHRA Championship Drag Racing. It’s also that time of year to be proactive about removing leaves from your paint ASAP or protecting your car with a durable layer of protection that can last up to five years.

If you’re looking for the best, long-lasting, paint protection options, a DIY ceramic coating is arguably the best solution. Plus, those cooler temperatures make it easier and more convenient to apply the coating yourself.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.

Tim Charlet

Tim is part of the AvalonKing team as a content editor. A 30-year automotive guru, marketing super freak, and accomplished publicist & columnist, “Timmah” is also a licensed NHRA Drag Racer, a proud dad of two, and loves a good Guinness two-part pour.
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These are our recommended quantities for the respective type of vehicle. The Volume Savings can be seen besides/below.

Type of Vehicle Recommended Quantity Volume Savings
motorcycle   Motorcycle 1 bottle*
small car   Small car 1 bottle*
sedan   Sedan 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
pick-up truck   Pick-up 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
jeep   Jeep 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
suv   SUV 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
van   VAN 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
boat   Boat 4 bottles+* Save $110 (39%)

*Please note that it may be a good idea getting an extra bottle, ensuring you don't run out when doing an application.

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