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13 Enemies of Your Car's Paint

To keep your paint in good condition, you need to know what assails it. Here is a list of 13 of your paint’s enemies.

As a vehicle owner who cares about the condition of their vehicle, protecting your paint should be a top priority. To ensure protection of your car’s paint, you need to understand all the various things that will degrade it.

The obvious factors are accidental scuffs and dings from careless parking or someone bumping the vehicle. However, any repair technician will testify that there are many seemingly innocuous factors that can destroy your paint, and it’s important that you are aware of all of them.

Here are 13 paint-destroying compounds that you need to keep away from your ride.


Everyone who’s ever done a long drive knows that you usually collect a few (dozen) bugs on your grill, hood, and windshield. What many people don’t know is that this bug splatter is highly acidic, and can quickly dissolve your clear coat and scar your paint.

If you get bug splatter on your paint, you need to remove it as soon as possible to protect against permanent damage. Apply a cleaning solution and let it sit for 30 seconds to a minute before wiping away – don’t scrub!

Coffee & Soft Drinks

Vehicles have cup holders for a reason – nothing is better than a coffee-to-go on a cold morning, or a cold fizzy drink in the heat of summer. Similar to bug splatter, these drinks are acidic. Make sure to be careful when getting in and out of your vehicle, because you don’t want to spill them on your paint.

Dirty Towels and Wash Mitts

Even people with the best of intentions will clean their cars with dirty rags or towels. The dirt that’s on these towels will get rubbed into your paint, leaving scars and swirl marks. When you wash your vehicle, make sure that the towel or mitt you are using is clean – that’s why we recommend the Two Bucket Car Wash Method.

Brake Fluid

Certain formula of brake fluid can act as a paint thinner and dissolve the clear coat of your paint. While your brake fluid may not cause this affect, it’s better to play it safe when handling brake fluid around your vehicle.

If you get any on your paint, immediately soak it up with a towel or cloth (try to avoid spreading it around). Once it’s soaked up, clean the area with soap and water.

Brake Dust

Brake dust is a mixture of iron, carbon, and other metallic particles that become airborne as your brake pads grind into the rotors. Brake dust usually clings to the wheels, but can spread to the paint around the wheel wells. This stuff is nasty, and you want to be careful when removing it, so as to avoid spreading it around to other parts of the vehicle.

You can get specially made brake dust cleaners to help get rid of brake dust, but make sure the product you buy is suitable for use on paint (and not just wheels).


It’s not uncommon to spill a few drops of gas onto your car while filling up. Although gas evaporates quickly, so you may not think it’s a big deal, even small gas deposits can cause stains that are notoriously difficult to remove.

Clean off any spilled gas immediately to prevent staining. Your best defence against this damage is applying a high quality wax ever few months, or a ceramic coating.

Acid Rain

Acid rain is caused by chemical reactions that happen between rain drops as they fall to earth and airborne compounds such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Unless you park exclusively indoors or use a car cover and only drive in dry weather, acid rain is impossible to avoid.

The best strategy is protection – such as a high quality carnauba wax that must be applied every few months, or something more permanent like a ceramic coating. Damage caused by acid rain can be fixed by professionals, so if you are in need to assistance, just give us a call.

Bird Droppings

Like bug splatter, bird droppings are acidic. Once baked on by the sun, bird droppings are notoriously difficult to fully remove and can leave behind etching and scarring. It’s best to act fast with soap and water.

Dust and Dirt

Regular washing is important. Any dust or dirt that is sitting on your car can act as an abrasive and cause micro scratches while driving, or if someone decides to write “wash me” in the accumulated dirt.

Additionally, the dust will react with rain water to form an acidic compound – and we already know why that is bad!

Tree Sap

Especially in the Pacific Northwest, tree sap is a notorious enemy of your car’s paint. Its sticky nature makes it extremely difficult to remove, especially after the sun hardens it in place. Use rubbing alcohol or a cleaning solution with a clean washcloth to dissolve the sap and clean it off.

Getting rid of baked on sap can be difficult, and some people take a box cutter to their vehicles. If you choose to go this route, be extremely careful, as you could easily create a deep scratch in the paint or injure yourself. We only recommend plastic tools to be used on your paint.

Shoe Polish

This one is a little rarer these days, but it’s important to mention, as shoe polish can be nearly impossible to remove. Do your best to keep shoe polish away from your paint, but if you do get some on your car, give us a call and we’ll direct you to the proper cleaning product.

Shaving Cream

We can’t think of many scenarios in which shaving cream would end up on your car, unless someone thinks it’s a funny prank. Shaving cream is more than just foam, and it can cause serious damage to your paint. Clean it off as soon as you can, and use some good old WD-40 to get rid of any residue.


This is probably the most frustrating cause of paint damage. While scratches or graffiti may be claimable on your insurance policy, it might not be the best idea to involve your insurer. Often, independent shops like Island Color can fix this damage for less than the cost of your insurance deductible, and the repair won’t end up on your record.

Your Car’s Friends

With all these enemies, it’s good to know that your car has some friends too! Island Color is here to help you care for your paint, and we are able to restore your paint from damage caused by any of the things listed above. Check out our paint services, and then get in touch.

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