Rain: You'll Pay for That Free Car Wash with Your Car's Paint

If you've ever looked at your car right after a heavy rainstorm, you know how shiny and clean the car can look if the rain lasted long enough to wash away all the dirt. It seems like the best way to get a car wash because you're not using extra water. But rain actually isn't that great for your car. While it can make the car look good for a short time, over the long run the paint on the car can become dull and damaged because of the combination of air pollution and rainfall. Here's what you need to know about this phenomenon and how to mitigate the effects.

Acid Rain and Air Pollution

As rain falls, it knocks particles out of the air. So if you live in an area with a lot of smog, the rain will kick those smoggy little particles down onto the ground—or onto your car if that's what is directly below. The particles don't always wash off so easily, especially if the rain doesn't last long. If the dirty drops get a chance to dry, the pollution can eat away at the paint layer, making it weaker and more susceptible to wearing off. If the pollution in your area is particularly acidic, you end up with acid rain, which can have a more pronounced effect.

Water Marks

Even if the pollution in your area is mild and you don't get acid rain drifting in from other regions, you can end up with water marks marring the surface of your car. As the rain dries, the minerals and salts in the rain stay on your car in little spots. As they dry, they become harder to wash off. If this cycle repeats for a long time, the mineral spots can become quite noticeable and make your car look bad.

Mitigating Effects

It's not really possible to predict how much damage acid rain or pollution can do to your car simply because the levels of pollution and acidity vary from day to day. North Carolina State University notes that equal amounts of acid rain can actually have more effects in certain areas than others. But you can take general precautions to protect the paint on your car.

Cover your car whenever you can, be it in a garage or under a car cover. If you have to leave it out, wash it once the rain is over and no other rain is forecast for at least a few days. Adding a layer of wax to the car during the car wash can help.

If you want more strategies for keeping your car looking great, talk to an auto body repair or detailing shop like Boyd Autobody & Glass. They will have seen the effects of rain in the area and know how far you should go to protect your car from the elements.