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Why Does Auto Body Paint Fade?

Why Does Auto Body Paint Fade?

No matter how much you love your shiny new paint job, you should remember this: It will not last forever. All paint jobs will eventually deteriorate with time, and there are numerous reasons for this fact. You probably know that already, but you may not know why it happens. Let’s go over the most common causes of the problem so that you can fully understand why auto body paint will eventually fade.



This is probably the main cause of fading auto paint. Unless it happens to be a show car, your car is going to spend most of its time in the sunlight. Whether that might be on the road, in the parking lot, or in your driveway. This is harmful to the finish because sunlight does not just consist of light alone. It also contains UV radiation, which isn’t too good for your paint job. While this kind of radiation is not particularly harmful, it will cause degradation of a vehicle’s finish over time.

This happens because the paint absorbs that UV radiation and is changed. Its molecules become “excited”, meaning that their particles become more active. This eventually causes those molecules to break apart. When enough of them become damaged, the whole finish will start peeling and fading.


Road Salt

If you live in an area where road salt is frequently used to clear the roads, it can also be a hazard to your vehicle’s finish. Much like UV radiation, salt is corrosive over time. It may not cause damage in the short term, but it can cause a lot of damage over the long haul. Salt is corrosive because of its ionic properties. The presence of salt, water, and iron in the same place results in several chemical reactions, and this is why salt can be corrosive.

Salt will eventually result in rusting, but that won’t be the first stage. Long before any rust begins to form, the color of the paint will begin to fade. This is, of course, a warning sign that should not be ignored. When the salt has caused your paint job to fade, rusting issues will not be far behind. If you live in a colder-weather area where salt is a frequent problem, you might want to consider giving your car a quick daily rinse with the water hose.


Atmospheric Pollution

Pollution can also play a role in the fading of vehicle paint. the effects of pollution are magnified by wind speed, so highway driving can aggravate this issue. If you live in an area with an acid rain problem, you really need to worry about pollution issues.


Paint Color

It sounds a little weird, but the color of your finish can impact its longevity. There are just certain colors that lose their luster more quickly. Silver paint is one of the biggest culprits, as it has been proven to have a shorter lifespan. Water-based acrylic paints are also quicker to fade, and they are often used on cheaper cars for budget reasons.

In many cases, this happens because of differences in the hardness of the finish. Some paints are formulated to have a harder or softer finish when they dry. Needless to say, the softer options will fade much more quickly.


Cleaning Agents

If you are the kind of person who likes to keep your car squeaky clean, you should choose your cleaning products carefully. Some cleaners are abrasive, meaning that they are rough on the surface of the paint. An abrasive cleaner works kind of like a piece of steel wool…it cleans by removing the top layer of material. These abrasive cleaners will make your paint job thinner and thinner until it finally starts to fade and vanish.

Examples of abrasive cleaners include:

  • Baking Soda
  • Bleach
  • Acid-based cleaners
  • Lye-based cleaners
  • Strong alcohol-based cleaners
  • Most detergents
  • Any cleaner that contains small solid particles

Examples of non-abrasive cleaners include:

  • Pine-based cleaning products
  • Ammonia-based cleaners
  • Low-powered alcohol-based cleaners
  • Oxidation-based cleaners


Excessive Washing

Automatic car washes can also be very harmful to your car’s finish. We should clarify that an occasional run through the auto wash is nothing to worry about. However, the abrasive action of those big brushes can be bad for your paint. The high-pressure water spray is also pretty hard on the finish, and the strong soap that they use doesn’t help, either. Thankfully, this problem isn’t too hard to handle. Just limit your visits to the automatic car wash and/or do most of your washing by hand with soft brushes and non-abrasive cleaners.



No matter how careful you are, your car’s paint will eventually fade. However, it is possible to extend the life of that finish to a great degree. By limiting exposure to anything harsh and rough (like direct sunlight and noxious chemicals), you can keep that paint job looking bright and new for as long as possible. At Elmer’s Auto Body, we specialize in creating attractive and durable finishes that will last for years to come. If you find yourself asking: “Where is the best auto body shop near me?”, then you should know that we offer the best service in the entire New Jersey area. If you would like to know more about our expert services, please call Elmer’s Auto Body at (856) 218-0202.


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