Changing Seasons, Falling Leaves, and Your Car

September 21, 2017

As the weather begins to cool down, our thoughts turn to football, bonfires, and all things pumpkin spice. You may also think of the fall foliage that's either here or on its way! The gorgeous reds, oranges, and yellows of fall are spectacular to look at, but did you know that those beautiful fall leaves can actually cause damage to your car?

Okay so technically a leaf or two isn't going to cause too many issues, but left unchecked – or unbrushed off – those leaves can do some serious damage to your paint job, especially if you drive an older vehicle without that fresh clear coat it once sported.

fall leaves truck
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

How do leaves damage my car's paint?

Falling leaves contain residual amounts of sap and pollen that can damage the surface of your paint. If the leaves are wet or damp, acid leeches out of the leaves and penetrate the clear coat to cause dull spots and peeling. If allowed to accumulate, wet leaves can cause rust to form, especially if pieces of leaves get trapped behind moldings and trim. If wet leaves stick to the surface of your car and remain there until dry, you can be left with a leaf print in your paint. Now, that works great if you are trying to create a camouflage effect, but most people don't want to drive around in a car with leaf fossils embedded in the paint.

Leaves can damage more than just the paint.

Piles of leaves trapped between the body and hood can cause damage to the air conditioning and heat system by sucking in little pieces of leaf debris. Leaves left to accumulate can block air inflow and damage the engine or heating system. Additionally, rotting leaves can cause mold and mildew to grow, which can get into your cabin air filter and make it a very unpleasant ride in your car.

So, how can you protect your car from falling leaves?

A few simple steps can make all the difference. First, just try not to park directly under trees. This will help prevent large buildups of leaves on your car.

Second, if leaves do appear on the surface of your car, hose them off as soon as possible. Resist the urge to wipe them off with your hand or a brush because you can actually scratch your paint. If you're gentle enough, however, a quick brush off shouldn't be too much of a problem. Just watch for jewelry and rings, along with spiky leaves.

Third, lift the hood and use an air compressor or high power vacuum to remove any leaves or pieces of leaves that you see. When you take your car in for routine maintenance, ask them to inspect the engine compartment and ensure no leaves have accumulated in places they shouldn't be!

Lastly, keep your car washed and waxed at regular intervals. Visit your car wash and take advantage of undercarriage sprayers and high-pressure wands to get to every nook and cranny of your car. Apply a coat of strong, durable wax to help protect the paint from acid and sap in leaves.

If you take these steps to protect your car, you can enjoy to the majesty of the fall foliage without being worried about damage. Go ahead, take a road trip, sip on a pumpkin spice latté, and look at the beautiful colors!

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About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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