You’d be surprised at the damage a car can sustain from exposure to the elements. The damage from wind, rain, dirt and the sun’s rays can accumulate over time and potentially break your bank due to repair costs. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to maintain your car regularly if you tend to park it outside (or have no choice but to do so).
Here’s how to protect a car that sits outside:
- Purchase a car cover
- Apply a weather-resistant wax once a month
- Protect the plastics on your vehicle
- Use sun shades for your windows
- Wash your car regularly
- Pay a little extra for covered parking
In this article, I will cover in more detail the tips above. Keep reading to learn more about protecting your car and avoiding unnecessary repair costs.
1. Purchase a Car Cover
A car cover will protect your car from unsightly dings and scratches. If you’re leaving your car parked outside for extended periods, this is the best and quickest way to protect it from rainwater, sun, and minor scratches.
Finding the right protective cover for your car can be daunting. There are tons of brands, materials, and types to choose from. Here are some of my recommendations (available on Amazon):
- Budge Lite Car Cover: This one is made of polypropylene that can protect against harmful UV rays, dust, and other things that can damage your car. It comes in a neutral gray color, and you can choose between a cover for a sedan or SUV.
- EzyShade 10-Layer Waterproof Car Cover: With ten layers of material, including taffeta, aluminum, and cotton, this protective gear is worth your investment. In addition to a layered cover, it’s waterproof and comes with zippers to easily access your headlights and side mirrors.
- MORNYRAY All Weather Waterproof Car Cover: If you have a sedan and you want your car cover to have a little more pizzazz, I recommend this one. You can choose between a black one with blue, orange, or purple accents, or a silver one with a blue accent. Aside from the color, the material isn’t bad either: It offers enough protection from UV rays and is fairly resistant to most types of damage from the elements.
2. Apply a Weather-Resistant Wax Once a Month
Another way to protect against damage to your car is via regular waxing. Ideally, you should wax your vehicle at least once every month.
Car wax protects the clear coat on your car, which in turn protects the paint. Wax protects against damage from rain, bird droppings, dirt and runoff spray from the road, and the sun’s UV rays.
Applying wax to your car is simple. Just follow these steps:
- Pick the best type of wax for you. You can choose between carnauba wax or paint sealant. Carnauba wax is an organic product made of Brazilian palm leaves that can leave your car looking radiant. Meanwhile, paint sealant is a synthetic wax that can leave a great shine and can protect your car’s clear coat for a longer period.
- Apply some wax to the part of the car you want to focus on first. With a soft towel or buffing machine, rub the wax into the vehicle in a circular motion. Only a thin layer of wax is needed. Be sure to cover the entire part you’re working on with wax to provide the most protection.
- Let the wax settle and dry. Once you see a chalky, dry texture on your car, grab a soft towel and remove the excess wax. A buffer would be most helpful in this situation, but rubbing your car with fast, repetitive motions will also remove the excess wax and leave your car shiny and protected.
3. Protect the Plastics on Your Car
Many car owners forget to apply sealants to the plastic moldings on their cars. Unfortunately, these components are susceptible to damage from the elements and can leave your vehicle with some unsightly cracking and discoloration.
Protecting the plastics in your car can be achieved in two ways:
Wash the Plastics on Your Car Regularly
Every time your wash your car, you should also take care to scrub down any exposed plastics. This includes bumpers, plastic panels around your vehicle’s body (if applicable), and lights. Just letting the soapy water run over these plastics is not enough to fully clean them of pollutants.
Apply a Sealant to All Exposed Plastics
Plastic sealants are synthetic polymers that form a bond with the plastic material on your car to protect it from weather damage. When you use these protectants, keep in mind that they need to be stripped off your car once in a while. If you don’t use a cleaner to strip it off, the sealant will continue to layer and cease to bind to the plastic.
Using a microfiber towel, apply your sealant of choice to any exposed plastic on your car. Most sealants protect from pollutants in rainwater and UV rays from the sun.
If you want a sealant and wax rolled into one, I recommend Meguiar’s G200416 Hybrid Ceramic Liquid Wax. Even though it’s not your ordinary car wax, you don’t need to take additional steps to use it: Just apply it like regular wax. Best of all, it isn’t going to leave any unsightly white marks on your car, which is always a plus.
4. Use Sun Shades for Your Windows
The sun’s harmful UV rays can damage the paint on your car and even contribute to dry rot in your tires. After long-term exposure to UV rays, the paint on your car will oxidize, making your vehicle look grimy, old, and faded. To protect your car from UV rays, you should use sun shades.
Aside from your car’s exterior, sun shades will protect your car’s interior too. Too much sun exposure can bleach the color out of your seats and dashboard. Also, you won’t have to worry about the inside of your car heating up to an unbearable temperature.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a sun shade, such as size, mechanics, and storage. For example, the Autoamerics Windshield Sun Shade comes with a storage pouch, a non-slip pad, and two panels. On the other hand, the BDK Universal Sun Shade is one solid panel that protects from UV rays and heat and comes in two sizes.
5. Wash Your Car Regularly
Washing your car regularly can help stave off damage. The general rule is to wash your car every two weeks to clean off dirt residue and pollutants. If you don’t wash your vehicle on a regular basis, the contaminants, dirt, dead bugs, and debris can damage your paint and top coat. Also, runoff from washing cars flows into storm drains, polluting natural water systems.
You need to keep a few things in mind as you wash your car. That’s where an eco-friendly soap comes into play. The EPA recommends using a water-based, phosphate-free soap when washing the grime off your car.
If you don’t mind spending a few more bucks, you can visit your local car wash to keep your car spic and span. Chances are they’ll have a range of soaps, brushes, and cleaning tools for all your car washing needs. Also, car washes use 60% less water, which is good news for the environment and your water bill.
6. Pay a Little Extra for Covered Parking
If you’re lucky, your apartment complex will offer covered parking for an extra cost. Most complexes charge a small fee for this additional protection, but in the long run, it will save you money on car repairs, as you don’t have to worry about the elements ruining your precious vehicle.
Make sure you inspect the parking area your complex is offering. If birds or animals can make it into the rafters, you might want to pass on the extra fee and purchase a car cover that provides guaranteed protection instead. You can also invest in a carport or larger covered area for your car.
You don’t have to leave your car to the mercy of the elements. As you can see above, there are plenty of ways to protect your vehicle when it sits outside. Taking advantage of these simple solutions is in your car’s and wallet’s best interest. If you do those steps regularly and properly, you can rest assured your vehicle will last as long as you want it to.