Could this volcano be damaging your car's paintwork?
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Could a volcano be damaging your car's paintwork?

DannyDanny Argent 19/04/10

Early last week we received a question through 'Ask the Experts' about a BMW which had severe etching to the paintwork. At the time I could only answer that I'd never seen anything quite like it before.. but within a couple of days we had seen six, and they are still coming!

Could acid rain be the cause?

During the course of last week we had an influx of enquires about cars with similar damage. First we had two new cars in for paint sealant treatments, this allowed us to see the damage up close. It appears that where raindrops or dew sit on the car, they are corrosive enough to etch tiny rings into the surface of the paint. Some of the damage is quite severe and may be beyond correction.

Acid rain damage?Could this be caused by volcanic ash?Spots caused by some kind of fallout.
Click to enlarge

Interestingly, it doesn't seem to be effecting all cars. It tends to be newer cars, dark coloured cars, and possible cars with softer paintwork. On Saturday, one of our regular customers brought in his company car which was etched, but it had been parked side-by-side with his company car which had been treated with Supagard which had not been effected. So it seems that paint sealants help resist the etching.

We have all heard of acid rain, but we here at New Again have ever seen it, but this kind of damage certainly fits the description. We don't pretend to be volcanologists or climatologists, but a quick look on the internet tells us that volcanoes can cause acid rain.

Of course, we haven't actually had much rain, if we had had a heavy rain it would quite likely dilute the acid so that it did far less damage. But what I think it is is that dust is settling on the cars which contains the corrosive compounds, and then the morning dew activates the acid. So the combination of dust and dew is my best guess... it would also explain why it's not on all cars.

The actual cause isn't so important as it's unlikely we can do anything about it anyway, but the fact remains that cars are being effected by severe acid etching.

Could this dust contain volcanic ash?
[click to enlarge] We have found many cars are covered in a think layer of very fine dust. We usually see this after winds from the South, but we currently have winds from the North. Could it be volcanic ash?

What can be done?

If you have signs of acid etching, or if you can see a layer of dust on your car, we would recommend washing your car with liberal amounts of water and a car shampoo, hair shampoo, or if you have it, an acid neutralizing shampoo. A good coating of wax will offer some protection, but make sure your paintwork is flushed free of acid first, or else you could just be sealing it in.

For cars that are already damaged, thus far we have found that machine polishing alone reduces the marks considerably, although it could be the case that on more severely effected cars wet-sanding may be necessary. It may be worth informing your insurance company, or if a brand new car, returning it to the dealership. Check the warranty on your paintwork.

If you have a garage or car port we recommend using it. We would not recommend using a car cover because if your car is already effected, the cover could keep the moisture in, which would keep the acid active - the acid will only cause damage when it is wet.

Check back for updates.

We expect to hear about quite a few cars with this problem over the coming weeks. We will keep you informed. Even if the volcanic ash isn't to blame, there is definitely something afoot.

If you think your car has been effected by acid etching, you can ask us your questions and send us photos through Ask the Experts.

Update ~

As we have already said, it's not unusual to see quite a lot of dust on cars at this time of year, and it's this which accounts for many of swirl marks that people find in their paintwork. But this volcanic dust is particularly nasty as it's especially hard and the particles are especially sharp.

We recommend that you remove it as soon as possible - the best way would be with a jet washer of the kind you find at a garage. Don't hold the nozzle too close to the paintwork, and make sure you get lots of water on the car. Pay special attention to the window rubbers and windscreen wipers as this dust is harsh enough to scratch your windows. While washing marks to your paintwork can be corrected, scratches to glass are near impossible to fix.

If you don't have access to a jet washer, then use a hose pipe to rinse off as much of the dust as possible before going anywhere near your car with a sponge.

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This page was last updated on Sat, 21 September, 2013
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