Automotive paint exists for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is to add a splash of color, but it’s also there to protect the vehicle as well. So if it’s there for protection, that has to mean that it’s durable, right? Well, yes and no.
Paint is very durable in a sense that it can take a beating from road debris, harsh weather, and the occasional grocery cart without cracking or chipping. Having said that though, even the slightest swipe of a (clean) finger on a (clean) surface can scratch some paint systems! Don’t believe me? Since I knew there would be some skeptics out there in the audience, I took the photo below the other day just to prove my point.
This car was highly polished with the exception of some clusters around the car where it had been touched. The scratches in the photo above are on the driver’s door, just below the window trim. Obviously somebody has closed the door from the inside with their hand on the door (with the window down), and their fingers extended over onto the paint. Had they closed the door properly by using the inside door handle, this would have been avoided. I saw some other scratches/scuffs around the car where somebody had aggressively wiped or washed. Even with high quality microfiber, you can scratch paint if you use too much pressure. As a test, I very lightly swiped my finger on the paint (and I mean very, very lightly), and it scratched it up!
Granted, this is very soft black paint, but I think it proves a point about just how delicate paint can be.
If you look at the photo below (taken from my TL article), you can see where the paint has gotten beaten up pretty badly over time by closing the door by pushing against the painted surface (the wrong way) as opposed to shutting it by the door handle (the correct way).
I once heard a statement about automotive paint that I really liked: “don’t touch your paint with anything that you wouldn’t put in your eye!”. I think that really puts it into perspective!
Anytime I’m around cars, be it my own or ones that belong to my clients, I get paranoid anytime somebody gets close to them. Why? Because most people have no clue to just how delicate and easily scratched automotive paint can be. One wrong move, and it’s time to break out the buffer once again.
Now that I’ve addressed just how easy it is to scratch the paint on cars, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes for damaging automotive paint.
- Failing to shut the doors by the door handle. If you or your passengers are grabbing or pushing on the door in any area other than the door handle, you’re scratching it!
- Using the wrong wash/dry methods and techniques.
- Getting your oil changed. Those “protective” mats they put over your fenders have been on every dirty car and town, and now they’re just grinding abrasive debris into your paint!
- Leaning against the car. Are you kidding me? Never, ever lean against or sit on a car unless it’s a rusted out junker that you don’t care about.
- “Dusting”. This may be OK if the car is sitting inside a storage facility, but not after it has been driven. Even with a quick detailer, you risk scratching/marring the paint.
- Setting items on the car. I’ve seen so many rooftops and trunk lids scratched heavily where items have been placed, and then literally dragged off of the surface. Never put anything on a car.
- Covers. Car covers are fine, but you need to make sure that the cover is clean, and the car is clean. Otherwise, you’re just rubbing debris against the surface.
- Improper care. Now this goes along with the improper wash/dry item already listed, but I felt it should be mentioned twice. Just because there’s a local detail company that shows up in a van to do a quick wash, it doesn’t mean that have any clue what proper washing methods even are. Your car may be clean when finished, but there’s a good chance it’s being scratched/swirled in the process. That’s not a jab at volume detailers, it’s just a simple fact that not many actually know how to properly care for paint.
Since I’m a bit of a rant here, let me continue about how not to take care of vehicles. Obviously I’m a car guy, and I love to watch television shows about cars…restorations, auctions, modifications, whatever. What gets me all worked up however is when these people on the automotive television shows treat the cars the wrong way for all to see! I mean…they’re supposed to be experts, right? Watch the auctions and not only will you see lots of swirls and holograms on these highly collectable vehicles, but you’ll also see the guys pushing the cars with their bare hands. Now watch the shows about rare examples of automotive history, and see the host actually leaning on a museum piece! Heck, even in (popular) shows where they are rebuilding and repainting…the cars are full of swirls afterwards, only to be outdone by them leaning against the cars at the end of the show. Hmmm, I think it’s time for Todd to have his own television show so that people (including these automotive experts) can learn what they’ve been doing wrong all of these years.
Those of us in the highline professional detailing world understand just how delicate paint can be, and we appreciate it more because we spend so much time correcting these issues. When we spend 20 to 30 hours on a car, we want to see it stay looking that good for as long as possible. Our goal here on the DI Ask A Pro Blog is to educate the masses on proper detailing techniques. If even one of our hundreds of articles inspires you to take better care of your vehicle, then we have accomplished our goal.
So the lesson of the day is…Automotive Paint is Delicate – Don’t Touch It!!