How To Keep Your Car Paint in Good Condition

One of the most impactful aspects of your car’s appearance is its paint job. If it’s looking good, your vehicle will look like it’s in great condition and will appear as if it’s well looked after. 

If you’re interested in the prospect of selling your car in the future, ensuring that the paint is in good condition will help the vehicle keep its value. Plus, a good paint job will help you create a favourable social impression if the car is used for business or travelling. 

Keeping your car’s paint in good condition doesn’t need to be hard. Here’s a guide on everything you need to do to ensure the paint always looks good. If you need more maintenance tips for other aspects of your car, you can find helpful articles here on Car Adviser.

In this guide

What damages car paint?

Many things can cause significant damage to your car’s paint, so it’s important to be aware of the potential risks so that you can avoid them and thus take better care of your car’s paintwork. Some of the most common sources of paint damage include: 


Sunlight can cause severe damage to your car’s paint, both on its own and in conjunction with other things. When a vehicle is left in direct sunlight, the light can cause paintwork to start to fade. This can make your car lose its glossy shine and appear dull. It can also make the colour of the paint look far less vibrant, making the car look older than it actually is. 

Plus, the sun can increase the effects of other potential issues. For example, sunlight can make bird droppings harden faster, potentially damaging the paint. 

You can use a cover to protect your car from sunlight or keep it in the shade when parked. 

Bird droppings 

Bird droppings are a nightmare for your car’s paintwork and are something that you’ll have to deal with sooner rather than later. This is because bird droppings are acidic, meaning that if it’s left on your car for a long time, they can eat away at the paint and cause a noticeable stain. In serious cases, bird droppings can also cause the paint to strip off your car, especially when you try to remove it. 

Although unpleasant, the best way to deal with droppings is to remove them quickly with a wet cloth and wipe them off. When clearing bird droppings, ensure not to rub the affected area too hard, as seeds and grit within the droppings can scratch the car’s surface, causing even more damage. 

To minimise the risk of bird droppings damaging your car’s paint, park away from trees and bushes and anywhere else with a lot of bird droppings on the floor.


It’s highly likely that when driving, especially on gravel roads, your wheels or the wheels of the vehicle in front of you will kick back small stones that could potentially damage your car’s paint. 

When driving, stones and other debris can scratch, chip, and potentially even dent your paint and exterior of the car. After some time, this can make your car unsightly. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to prevent this other than adding some protective measures to your car’s bodywork. 

Road salt

In the winter, when roads get wet and icy, they will likely be laid with salt to help provide a better grip and to make them safer to drive on. This makes the roads much safer. However, it can lead to some pretty big issues for your car. 

Salt can make your car much more vulnerable to rust and speed up corrosion. Rust will seriously damage your car’s paint and make it look bad. The best way to protect your vehicle from the damage from road salt is to wash it regularly and treat it with wax or another kind of sealant before the temperature drops. 

5 Steps to look after your car paint

To help keep your car paint looking quality, you can do a few things to ensure that your paintwork looks quality and like new.

Wash regularly 

When driving your car, the vehicle’s exterior, such as the windshield and paintwork, can naturally get dusty and covered with light debris. To help keep the car looking good, make sure to wash your car with soap and water. 

When washing your car, make sure that you use the appropriate car shampoo and avoid using household washing-up liquid. This is because these products usually contain bleach or ammonia, which can break down the paint and any wax you may put on your car. 

Using specially designed car shampoo will help condition the car and stop it from peeling, protecting it from rust. It will also help make the car shine. 

You should wash your car at least every month, and you can either mix the car shampoo in a bucket of warm water or use a hose to wash the shampoo off. 

Polish the car

One of the best ways to make your car look like it’s just come out of the factory is to use car polish. This will help smooth out any imperfections in your vehicle and will also visibly reduce the appearance of scratches and scuffs. 

Polishing your car after washing it will make it appear much better, as it removes suds, streaks from the shampoo, and any other minor blemishes. 

When applying polish, you want to do it when the car is dry and apply it with a dry and clean cloth. The polish effect won’t look as strong or vibrant if the car is still wet. You can also use a foam pad to apply the polish.

Either way, if you apply the polish, make sure not to use too much pressure. You just want to use the weight of your hand and rub the polish in until it’s almost transparent. Once it’s at this stage, you should leave the polish to cure. This may take a few hours. To know when the polish has adequately cured, it should run clear if you rub your finger on it.

Once cured, you should then buff the polish off. This is best done with a microfibre cloth, and the aim is to simply remove the residue of the polish. 

Apply wax 

Once the polish has been applied and looks good, one of the best things you can do is apply wax. Wax basically acts as a protective seal and will stop the paintwork from getting damaged by things like dirt and stones. It will also make the car look even more shiny and glossy, helping it to look amazing. 

There are multiple types of wax, and many are applied differently. Currently, the most popular forms of wax can be sprayed onto cars. This gives you an even coating and is much easier to apply. Once on the vehicle, you can rub it in with a cloth. If you’re using wax that comes out of a tub, then you need to use a wax pad to apply it to the car. 

Wax can dry very quickly, meaning that you must focus on each section of a car at a time to prevent it from fully drying before removing it. This is because hardened wax can be very difficult to remove. Letting wax harden on your car won’t damage the paint, but it just means that you’ll have a hard time getting it off in the future. It’s best to remove the wax with a soft cloth, and once the visible wax has gone, you can buff it to increase the lustre and shine of the paint.

Keep out of the sun 

In addition to washing the paint and applying different protective layers, one of the best things you can do to make sure that your paint remains in great condition is to keep it out of the sun for prolonged periods. Sun can cause the paint to fade and lose its colour, making it appear old and dirty. 

One of the best ways to protect a car from the sun is to keep it covered. Garages are best at this, but if you don’t have one, you can always use a tarp. Also, don’t park your car under trees or bushes in an attempt to keep it in the shade, as that puts it at risk of being damaged by bird droppings. 

Use synthetic coating 

Synthetic coating is an alternative to wax. Also known as paint sealant, this substance bonds to your car’s paint and permeates into your car’s pores to create a superior protective seal. 

Synthetic coating lasts a lot longer than wax, meaning that you won’t have to apply it as often, and it’s also pretty easy to put on your car. 

The synthetic coating doesn’t just protect your vehicle and the paint, but it also gives your car a quality-looking, mirror-like shine that can enhance the looks of your vehicle. 

Car Paint FAQs

Applying polish and wax isn't something that you should be doing regularly. Instead, it's recommended that you do it at least twice a year, once in the spring just before the height of summer and once in autumn just before the harsh winter season hits. 

To provide an even look and ensure that your paint is in optimal condition all year round, car experts such as Car Adviser recommend polishing and waxing your car four times a year at the start of every season. This will ensure that your vehicle is free of scratch and looks pristine all year round.

If looked after properly and washed often, the paint should last between 10 and 15 years without showing any sign of wear. However, many external factors can make the paint on a car decay faster. 

Exposure to the elements such as ice, snow and sun can cause damage, and acidic substances such as brake fluid, fuel, and bird droppings can also cause damage to the paint. Plus, the type of paint used on your car will also factor into how long it lasts. 

If you follow the various maintenance tips in this Car Adviser guide, your car should last at least 15 years and potentially even longer. 

Multiple factors influence the resale value of a car, and the paintwork that a car has is definitely one of them. 

If your car is covered in scratches and dings, or if the vehicle has faded paint, that can influence the value of the car and the maximum price you'll be able to sell it for. You'll likely be offered a lower deal for your car if the scratches and swirls have built up on the car's surface and if there is superficial rust on the vehicle. 

A car with a glossy finish free of scratches will look like it's been looked after well, which can make a potential buyer trust the overall quality of a car and be more inclined to buy the car. A good paintjob can make a vehicle a lot easier to sell, meaning that you can increase the asking price for a car if it's been well maintained.

In addition to the quality of paint, another factor that can influence the price is the paint's colour. On the secondhand market, most people look for metallic and sober colours, such as silver and black. Cars with bright colours have a harder time being sold and make up a much smaller portion of the secondhand market. 

Also, be aware that if you have had a car repainted, perhaps to cover up cosmetic issues, the car's value may also decrease by a fair amount. This is because the paint used is likely to be worse quality than the paint used originally by the manufacturer. This is something to think about if you're considering selling your car in the future. 

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