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International Carwash Association Offers Tips To Protect Car's Finish


The fall and winter weather can wreak havoc on your vehicle's exterior with rain, mud, snow, sleet and salt breaking down its delicate finish. The International Carwash Association (ICA) offers several tips to protect and maintain your vehicle's finish all year round.


"Keeping your vehicle clean by frequenting a professional car wash every 10 days is one of the best defenses in protecting its finish," said Mark Thorsby, ICA executive director. "Professional car washes are gentler to auto finishes than the hose-and-bucket method, and cleaning solutions used are specially formulated for clear coat and other new car finishes."


"And, as an added benefit to the environment," explains Thorsby, "professional car washes use biodegradable cleaning solutions, far less water than do-it-yourselfers, and dispose of wastewater according to strict federal and state environmental regulations. On the other hand, wastewater run-off from driveway washing flows directly into storm sewers, which leads to lakes and streams where contaminants in the wastewater can harm fish and wildlife."


One of the most critical times to wash your vehicle is immediately after a rainfall. Even after the lightest rain shower, the water evaporates, but the acid remains on the vehicle's finish. Acid rain is caused when high concentrations of emissions from fossil-fuel burning engines or plants react with your car's paint to form sulfuric and nitric acids. Although you cannot prevent acid rain, you can keep it from ruining your vehicle's finish by removing it at a professional car wash.

In some parts of the country, mud is so prevalent that it causes a constant problem for vehicle finishes. Unfortunately, the importance of cleaning mud from the undercarriage is often overlooked by motorists. Undercarriage treatments, offered by most car washes, remove caked-on mud that holds moisture to metal and causes rust and body rot around wheel wells and door sills.

Snow and sleet can result in the same damaging effects as acid rain and are often compounded by chemicals in road salt. To prevent this damage, washing your vehicle during the winter is highly recommended -- especially in geographic areas where snow and road salt are plentiful. This potential for damage can be minimized and even eliminated by the following ICA suggestions for cold weather car washing:


If at a full-service car wash, ask one of the attendants to thoroughly dry the area around the inside of the door and trunk, as well as around the area where a power antenna is mounted to the car. (This is usually done without being asked, but it doesn't hurt to offer a reminder.) If at an exterior-only or self-service car wash, bring a few extra dry towels with you to perform these tasks yourself.


Immediately after washing the vehicle, open and close all doors, the trunk, and other outside parts of the car with locks several times before parking it. Periodically apply a good silicone spray to all weather stripping during freezing weather. (Water will not collect evenly on silicone-treated surfaces.) A professional car wash can help protect your vehicle from the harsh elements of the fall and winter weather. When you follow these basic car care tips, you'll extend the life of your vehicle's appearance, and feel great driving a clean car.

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