Everyday Things That Can Cause Damage to Your Vehicle’s Paint

Vehicle owners beware! As a vehicle owner, it’s vital to know what eats paint off a vehicle. Besides keeping your vehicle looking great, safeguarding the paint can also help boost its resale or trade-in value.

Unfortunately, chips and dings caused by accidents or poor parking jobs aren’t the only whys and wherefores your paint is scuffed up. Any collision repair professional will reveal that it’s not the big things that will damage your vehicle’s paint but more often a few run-of-the-mill substances that a vehicle encounters that will often harm the paint and even produce permanent damage.

So, what damages vehicle paint? Keep reading to learn about some of those things to steer clear of in order to keep your vehicle’s paintwork in good condition.

Bird droppings

Without delving into the science of bird droppings and their consequences with vehicle paint, you can simply trust us when we say that they can wreak havoc. When a bird confuses your vehicle with a giant portable potty, the best thing you can do is get rid of it promptly. A wet cloth will normally do the trick but be cautious to wipe with a lifting motion, so you don’t grind it into the paint.

Tree sap

Be aware that tree sap can damage the vehicle’s clear coat which can lead to discoloration and staining. Furthermore, hot weather can speed up this process. It’s best to act quickly when you detect a sticky substance on your vehicle, even though removing it can be a bit awkward.

Rubbing alcohol or another cleaning solution of choice can be used to clean the sap.  


When the outside temperatures peak, it’s more likely to spot tar that has begun to melt. If you drive through fresh asphalt that has just been laid, this can also be problematic. The substance is apt to stick to a vehicle’s paint and, if permitted to dry, it can be rather troublesome to remove. Your local vehicle accessory store should stock products that will help dissolve the tar without damaging the paint.


Whenever you refill your gas tank, you need to steer clear of spilling gas onto your vehicle paint. When the gas fades away, it can leave behind a stain on the paint or clear coat. And these stains can be almost impossible to get rid of once they’re on your vehicle.

To avoid gas stains in the first place, make it a habit to not top off your tank, and clean up any incidental drips right away.

Washing your vehicle with a dirty rag or sponge

One of the mistakes many vehicle owners make is applying dirty rags, towels or sponges on their vehicle’s exterior which can harm the paint. Be sure to always use a clean towel or sponge. Also, avoid placing it on the ground while using it. Apart from the fact that it’s unhealthy, the material can pick up dirt that can scratch your vehicle and you might not notice it in time.

As for using automatic vehicle washers, some older ones still employ grainy brushes rather than a soft brush, which can still scuff the paint. A safe bet here is a “touchless” vehicle wash that features high pressure water jets.

 Acid rain

The buildup of acid rain on your vehicle’s exterior can result in damage. That’s because the acid material in place after the water evaporates can adversely affect your paint. Washing your vehicle routinely can help but there are several methods to get rid of rain marks on your vehicle. One of the more familiar techniques is clay bars.

Clay bars, on hand at most hardware stores, are frequently used to remove stains from a vehicle’s paint layer. Using the clay bar is easy. You only need to wet the surface of your vehicle, gently put the clay on it in a back-and-forth motion and wipe it off with a microfiber towel. You can also do away with acid rain by manually buffing with a finishing compound.

You should always ask a professional when you’re not sure of which method to use.

Coffee and soda

When grabbing your morning cup of joe or a soda on your lunch break, be cautious not to let it get on your vehicle paint. Or, if you’re someone who sets your drinks on top of your vehicle when getting in, please make sure you don’t forget and drive away!

You see, both coffee and soda have high acidity levels and can eat away at your vehicle’s protective layer of paint. However, if you do spill one of these drinks on your vehicle, wash it a.s.a.p.


Who hasn’t seen a vehicle with “WASH ME” written in the dust accumulated on its surface? While this might be humorous, the driver should take notice of this cautionary notice and wash their vehicle. A buildup of dust can affect your vehicle’s paint. When this dirt mixes with rain, it can produce an acidic compound that damages the surface and can lead to corrosion over time.

Road salt

In many areas, and Pennsylvania is certainly no exception, salt is used to prevent ice from forming on the roadways. PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, reports it uses an average of approximately 800,000 tons of salt over a typical winter. Road salt can make your vehicle more vulnerable to rust and speed up the corrosion process. To help protect the paint, wash it often during the winter. You might also want to have it treated with wax or sealant before the first snow of the season.


We saved the worst for last. When it comes to an impaired paint job, stones are perhaps atop the list of perpetrators. Not only can they harm the paint on your vehicles, but they could result in major damage as well, such as a broken windshield. Unfortunately, you can’t defend your vehicle from such a threat. However, you can execute a low-cost fix on a scratch as soon as it is formed rather than waiting for them to mount up and turn into something a bit more costly.

Final thoughts

A leading auto body and collision repair center, Becker Body Shop serves Hummels Wharf, Selinsgrove, Shamokin Dam, Sunbury, Northumberland, Lewisburg, Winfield, Danville, and the Susquehanna Valley. Whether you’re looking for a collision repair center, body shop or auto painting, our fully trained staff has the know-how and experience to restore your vehicle to good-as-new condition.