Did you know that the earth is a mere 92 million miles away from that blazing ball of gas in the center of our Solar System? While that seems like a long-distance, it’s relatively short in an interstellar point of view.
While we depend on the sun’s warmth, and Superman needs those UV rays to supply his Kryptonian superpowers, it causes nothing but havoc on the paint jobs of our daily drivers and garage queens. UV damage is a constant threat to car owners across the globe.
From being a major source of oxidation to fading or causing the paint to peel, sunlight continues to cause frustration to vehicle owners. But there are a few ways that car owners can protect their paint, plastic trim, headlights, and other vehicle components from sun damage. That’s what we’ll explore today.
In the information below, we’ll provide a guide that explores what causes sun damage to vehicles, how to protect it, and the benefits to using a high-quality car paint sealant or ceramic coating to provide an SFP 1 Million level of sunblock.
How Does the Sun Damage Car Paint?
For those who are fair of skin (like me), dealing with sunburn and the potential of being sunburned is a daily struggle. The leading cause of sunburn is ultraviolet radiation that is produced from the sun over 92,000,000 miles away from earth. The same cause of sunburn is also the root issue that causes the paint to become damaged over time.
For those who are not fully aware, ultraviolet or UV light is invisible yet extremely powerful. It emits a band within the electromagnetic spectrum with a wavelength that measures anywhere from 10 nanometers to 400 nanometers; which measures shorter than visible light and longer than x-rays. It occurs naturally in sunlight and represents about 10 percent of the complete electromagnetic radiation output of the sun.
So – why does it cause damage to car paint?
Well, quite simply, it’s a potent energy producer that stimulates a surface to react when it hit. It produces a quick burst of energy, which is given off as heat but also results in molecular bonds that break.
Over time, it begins to break down the molecules found in automotive paints, clear coats, and other materials, which causes it to be less reflective or transmitting less brilliance of ‘color’ that our eyes see. This is known as the dulling effect that UV light is responsible for creating with automotive paints, plastic trims, headlights, even automotive glass, tires, and wheels.
Does UV Light Cause Some Car Colors Fade Faster?
It is a statement of fact that some colors of automotive paints or more susceptible to becoming damaged by ultraviolet rays. You see, every color that we see has a unique wavelength that it produces. And each automotive paint color is engineered to absorb all the wavelengths in the visual spectrum – except the one that is associated with that color.
So basically, red automotive paint absorbs everything – except for red. The red is refracted from the surface, streamed into our visual cortex, and tells our brain, “Hey, this is red – dude”.
Red is one of those paints that tend to ‘fade’ more due to UV light. This is because it’s that tiny wavelength of energy that is represented in light that is visible. It appears ‘faded’ because UV light breaks down the molecules in “red paint” more aggressively than others. You’ll see this same issue with minor blends of ‘reds’ such as purples or oranges.
Other Factors that Expedite the Breakdown of Paint Molecules by UV Light
UV rays are the primary source of paint fading and degradation. However, there are additional environment considerations that can accelerate damage to the paint – or specifically, the clear coats.
When a car is dirty, it is covered with contaminants that slowly eat away at the clear coat or the surface of a porous material. Over time these contaminants and debris can weaken the protection of clear coatings. This accelerates the process of UV light penetration and thus oxidation.
The simple act of keeping your car clean by washing a vehicle every two weeks can significantly reduce the potential of paint damage caused by UV radiation.
Bird Shit and Bug Splatters
Animal by-products such as bird droppings, tree sap, or bug guts contain high levels of acids that also accelerate UV radiation damage with automotive paints and other surfaces. Bird crap specifically contains high levels of uric acid, which can begin to breakdown clear coated paint in a matter of hours.
Combined with the heating and energy-stimulating attributes of sun exposure, this provides a mecca for paint damage to occur. Using a product with UV protection is the best way to also protect the exterior from acids found in animal byproducts.
Salt and Road Grime
Salt is another contaminant that opens the door for UV light damage to occur in the automotive component. Sodium Chloride can also quickly penetrate a protective surface, whether it’s car wax, clear coating, or even some automotive paint sealant products. Road grime is a combination of chemical toxins like tar, gravel, and oils that likewise slowly open the door for UV rays to do their dirty work.
Tips for Protecting Your Car from UV Rays
It’s pretty clear in obvious that the best way to protect your car from exposure to UV radiation is simply washing the car as recommended. the leading causes of UV radiation essentially break down to not taking care of the vehicle, or specifically the surface materials.
However, washing the vehicle is a much more complex process then simply showing up to the local automatic car wash. Those machines or facilities are a haven for destroying automotive paints due to the materials used in the car wash your process.
In the section below, you’ll find a few tips for washing your car.
Breaking Down the Two-Bucket Car Washing Technique
If you’ve followed our blog for any time, you’ll know how much I love the two-bucket method. The video below will explain how this is done.
For those who like written instructions, here are the steps you should follow to correctly complete an effective hand car wash.
Step 1 – Prewashing the Car & Washing Wheels
The pre-washing step is often overlooked. It’s also quite simple – just spray the entire car down with a hose. This helps to remove surface debris and provides the required lubrication to properly begin the washing process.
Once you’ve gathered the correct materials, you should start by washing tires and wheels first. This will make sure all brake dust and other crap are removed – and you don’t spread it to your paint.
How to Clean Wheels Correctly:
- Use a specific wheel degreaser or cleaning agent, and allow it to soak for a while. This permits the cleaner to soak into the wheels, and remove that sticky brake dust.
- Use a wheel cleaning brush or wash mitt to clean the wheels. Do the tires at the same time.
- Use a high-pressure hose to wash off those wheels and tires of all soap and debris.
- Repeat based on how many tires and wheels you have.
Step 2 – Washing
Car owners have several options for washing their rides. The best by far is the two-bucket method. When you have finished with your wheels and tires, move onto washing the car. Always work in small sections, work from top to bottom, left to right, and always in a side-to-side method.
When you’re done – complete a final rinse over the entire vehicle.
Step 3: Drying the Car
Drying is arguably the most important step when it comes to finishing the job correctly. Make sure to use clean microfiber towels (like multiple ones). You can use a chamois if you opt for that method, don’t use anything that is dirty. Again – no circle-jerking here – dry in a side-to-side pattern.
Applying a Ceramic Coating to Protect Against UV Rays
There are several products you can use to protect your car against UV radiation. The most effective, however, is a ceramic coating. Basically, nanocoatings are designed to fill those tiny valleys and imperfections in clear coats. It can be applied to any solid surface that is porous including plastic trims, wheels, vinyl wrap, PPF, headlight covers, and windshields.
During the application process, the coating is spread from left to right then top to bottom of each panel. Once you’re done with the section, you need to wait for a few minutes to allow the coating to flash or initially cure before buffing off with a clean microfiber towel.
The exact wait time depends mainly on the ambient temperature of the area you’re applying to. The hotter it is, the quicker the coating bonds. However, our product Armor Shield IX should only be applied in areas that fall between 55 to 85 degrees – maximum.
Once you’ve waited the right time, you’ll simply buff off with a microfiber towel. You’ll then proceed to each section on the car, your wheels (if desired), windshield and more. After you’ve completed everything, follow up with a second coating, to ensure you don’t skip anything. This also verifies that your application is complete and no bare spots exist.
Ceramic coatings deflect UV rays, which helps to reduce the potential of exposure to the paint or clear coat surface. This results in virtually no chance for oxidation or clear coat damage.
If you apply the coating correct and complete the prep work as directed, the coating should last for 2 to 5 years. In fact, AvalonKing is the only DIY ceramic coating that guarantees our product for two years.
For comparison, carnauba wax only lasts about six weeks, so if frequent waxing your car is cool with you, that option is something to consider. A protection film or PPF is the other extreme, as they can last up to 5 to 10 years.
Wrapping it Up
We all need the sun to survive. While UV light is a pain in the ass to our paints, it provides life-sustaining illumination, improves Vitamin D absorption, and creates photosynthesis that permits plants and vegetation to thrive. It’s part of the circle of life, but you don’t need to hate it to be protected from it.
Whether you simply park in the shade, opt for wax, paint sealants, a vinyl wrap, paint protection film or a ceramic coating, applying automotive sunblock to your daily driver or show car is a simple and proactive measure to reduce UV ray damage.
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.