What Are Water Spots?
Water spots are a very common issue experienced by most vehicle owners at one time or another. These annoying little spots can make your nicely washed vehicle look dirty, and can potentially even create some very serious damage over time.
It seems like the majority of tap water is considered to be “hard water”, meaning it is rich with minerals. When hard water is left to dry on the paint, the water evaporates and mineral deposits remain on the surface of the vehicle. These mineral deposits, or water spots, are very stubborn and will really bond to the paint which can make them difficult to remove. Spots can also be formed from acid rain (We will discuss how to remove water spots in depth in another article).
If the water spots are left on the paint for too long, they may start to etch into the clear coat. Once this etching has started, the damage has now become a below surface defect within the clear coat rather than a bonded contaminate on top of the clear coat and will therefore need to be dealt with differently. In severe instances, these etchings can become so deep that they may require repainting to completely repair.
How to Prevent Water Spots
Now that we have a basic understanding of what water spots are and what kind of damage they can cause, here are just a few simple solutions to help avoid the risk of harmful water spots to keep your paint looking its best.
Do Not Wash in Direct Sunlight
This may seem like common sense, but many people do not have a covered driveway or area to work in, therefore they try to struggle through washing in harsh sunlight. If you live in a warm climate, this is even more difficult. It is nearly impossible to keep the vehicle wet enough to avoid spots while washing in direct sunlight. For those who do not have a shaded area, garage, or other covered work space that will allow you to wash during the day, I simply suggest washing at dawn or dusk when the sun is very low in the sky. You may even consider washing in the evening once the sun has set. This will make it much easier to take your time while washing and not have to worry about water spots and soap scum drying on your paint.
Be Aware of Hard Water Sources
Do not allow hard tap water to dry on the surface of your vehicle. Some people have a habit of simply rinsing off their vehicle with hose water or the pressure washer when it is not that dirty. This practice will surely lead to water spots if your local water source is rich with minerals. A great alternative is simply using Optimum No Rinse and doing a quick rinseless wash to remove the fine layer of dust, pollen, or dirt from your vehicle.
Likewise, water from sprinkler systems and other municipal water utilities should be avoided. Be aware of sprinkler heads around parking lots, water lines in parking garages, etc. and try your best to avoid parking near them. A little proactive planning can save you a lot of time, frustration, and potentially money in the end.
Use a Spotless Water System or Alternative Washing Methods
If the water in your area is particularly tough to work with, don’t worry, there are some options that will make your life easier.
The CR Spotless System is a de-ionizing system that removes all of the minerals from your water supply allowing you to rinse your vehicle with pure, spotless water. This system is perhaps the ultimate solution to hard water spots and is available in several sizes and form factors to fit your needs. Since the CR Spotless removes all of the minerals from the water, you will simply be able to rinse your vehicle and even allow the water to evaporate from the surface without the risk of spotting. This system is a fairly sizable investment, so for some people, it may not be a reasonable option.
If a spotless water system doesn’t fit your needs, I will again recommend rinseless washing. Using a product like Optimum No Rinse for routine washing greatly reduces the amount of time the water is on your vehicle, and therefore reduces the risk of the water evaporating and leaving spots behind. If you haven’t ever used a rinseless wash before, you simply wash one small section of the vehicle, and then immediately dry it. No hoses needed!
There are some great articles about ONR and the CR Spotless system on the Blog, so be sure to check them out for more info.
If you’ve got some water spots to deal with, be sure to stay tuned for my future article which will highlight various ways to deal with removing water spots and water spot etchings.
As always, thanks for reading!