Airborne fallout is your paint’s enemy. Basically, these are contaminants that fall from the sky, land on your paint, and make it unhappy. When I say unhappy, I mean damage it, and sometimes to the point of needing a repaint to fix it correctly. You need to protect your paint so that you and it don’t have, well, a falling-out.
Know Thine Enemy
Fallout types to be concerned with include acid rain, airborne overspray, and metallic fallout.
Acid Rain - Acid rain is rain (or snow) that contains nitric or sulfuric acids, and can cause acid rain etching (those little circles) if left unattended. This atmospheric pollution is primarily caused by the industrial burning of coal and other fossil fuels. The acidity of acid rain varies depending on the area and weather patterns.
Airborne Overspray - This includes paint, tree sap, bird droppings, concrete sealers, pesticides, and liquid waste from manufacturing plants. While it might be difficult for concrete sealers, and liquid waste from manufacturing plants to actually reach your paint, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how tree sap, bird droppings, and overspray from paint and pesticides easily could. Also to be considered is industrial soot; this author experienced soot fallout from the smokestacks of an electricity generation plant that landed on his then new 1988 Acura. Combined with dew that had condensed on the car, it significantly damaged the paint after just sitting overnight. That was heartbreaking.
Metallic Fallout – This includes metal particles from foundries, under-burned ash from industrial furnaces, and even metal flakes from internal combustion engines. When the metal flakes are exposed to any kind of moisture such as rain, dew, etc., the process of rusting begins and this penetrates the painted surface allowing the metal flakes to attach to the surface.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
The best way to avoid fallout is keep your vehicle sheltered indoors. However, what if your vehicle has no comfy garage to call home and needs to live outdoors? Moreover, the probability is high that it will be exposed to fallout when being driven. So, how can you protect it?
First is good old sealant and wax. I’d apply both a sealant and a wax such as carnauba. The wax can last three to four months before needing to be reapplied. A sealant can last up to a year. Applying a sealant and then wax provides both excellent and long lasting paint protection, as well as a deep lustrous shine. Keep in mind this forms a “sacrificial barrier” that will slow down the damage, but can’t totally prevent it. Just remember to reapply the wax at least every three months or so.
Wash the vehicle on a regular basis to get the fallout off. Use a carwash, rather than dishwashing detergent, which is harsh on paint. After a rain or snowfall wash the paint as soon as possible.
If the vehicle is parked outdoors, and has no enclosed garage to live in, you are going to want to put a physical barrier between the fallout and the paint. This means at least using an outdoor vehicle cover. An outdoor cover absolutely must be breathable, as a waterproof outdoor cover is non-breathable and will trap condensation under it, which can ultimately damage paint, as well as create rust issues. Catch-22: When it comes to protecting from fallout, the limitation with breathable covers is that they are not waterproof. This means that fallout on the surface of the cover will wash through to the paint when it rains, or when snow melts on it. Once again, an outdoor vehicle cover will help, but it has drawbacks when it comes to protecting from fallout.
The best outdoor storage solution for protecting against fallout is the Outdoor versions of our CarCapsules and BikeCapsules, as well as the Outdoor ShowCase. This will completely seal off the vehicle from fallout when it is parked, and outside air circulated through the capsule is filtered. I guess you could call it a fallout shelter…
In summary, an excellent plan for protecting your vehicle from airborne fallout includes sealant and wax, regular washing, and an Outdoor version of our capsules or ShowCase.