June 29, 2014

News & Features

How to protect your car inside and out from sun damage

Special to NWautos

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Brett Buehler, owner of Midnight Window Tinting, applies tint at his Shoreline shop. (Jeff Layton / Special to NWautos)

Here in the Northwest, most of us rejoice whenever the sun makes an appearance. But if our cars could speak, they would tell a different story.

Exposure to ultraviolet light and summer heat can wear on a car and slowly damage the interior and exterior. Rest assured, there are ways to protect your automobile. For advice, we turned to area experts.

Window tinting
Sunlight can gradually fade interior components such as upholstery. Plus, on a hot day, surface temperatures in your car can surpass 195 degrees, according to the State Farm Vehicle Research Facility.

A window-tinting film affixed to the inside of your windows can combat this. It can help block harmful rays and cut the heat as much as 20 degrees, says Brett Buehler, owner of Midnight Window Tinting, which has locations in Bellevue, Everett and Shoreline.

There are about 30 brands of film on the market that block 99 percent of harmful UV rays, he says. Tints are affixed using soapy water and pressure, and the chemical bond lasts up to 10 years with no lasting residue. A professional installation ranges from $200-$500, but do-it-yourselfers can find kits to install for around $30.

Outer coatings
Modern cars have a clear coat over the paint to protect against fading. That clear coat suffers from nicks and scrapes while driving, so beefing up the clear coat can protect your paint.

There are three tiers of coatings, says Rob Vanisko, owner of Deuces Detail in Kirkland.
The basic level is traditional car wax. Think of it as sunscreen for your car; it provides a thin layer that wears off quickly. It makes your car shine, but it doesn't offer much protection.

The second tier is a paint sealant. This synthetic product goes on and protects much like car wax, but it is designed to hold up longer, especially in the rain.

The third option is a nano coating. Twenty-four hours after application, it turns into a hard, glassy coating — essentially another clear coat — that will last two or three years. The spray-on products start at about $23.

Car wraps
The only way to truly protect a paint job is to block environmental factors completely. Vinyl car wraps do just that.

These thin, UV-resistant films adhere to your vehicle when heated. They can be removed after a few years without damage to your car.

"You're essentially sealing in the paint with an opaque sticker," says installer Tim Connor of NorthWest Auto Salon in Lynnwood. The shop lists a starting price of $3,750 for a wrap.

While they're typically used to change the color of a car, vinyl wraps offer extra protection by deflecting rocks and debris — especially on the front end of the vehicle.

Interior products
Inside your car, your dash takes the brunt of the sunlight. Likewise, leather can become brittle from sun exposure.

Vanisko recommends a product called Gtechniq to protect both. It's a clear liquid that absorbs into the material and won't alter the appearance. It has the added benefit of protecting light-colored seats from dyes in your clothing.

Detailer Paul Anunson, of Shine by Design in Poulsbo, says that keeping a car's interior clean is one of the best ways to avoid drying and cracking from the sun.

He recommends Lexol products, because they have a matte finish and don't build up like many products do. He also advises do-it-yourselfers to steer clear of high-shine products such as Armor All, which may cause sun glare.

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