7 Surprising Things That Can Damage Your Car’s Paintwork

Want to keep your car’s paintwork in good condition? There are lots of things that can damage a car’s paint. Below are some of the more surprising sources of damage. 

Bird droppings

Bird droppings aren’t just unpleasant – they can also destroy your paintwork. This is because bird droppings contain acid, which is able to corrode through your car’s protective coating. You should clean bird dropping off of your car within 48 hours if you don’t want them to cause damage. Avoid parking under trees where there is more risk of getting pooped on. 

Tree sap

Tree sap can also corrode paintwork. It does this gradually over time, so you can usually avoid damage by scrubbing it off as soon as you notice it. Tree sap can be tricky to clean – you may want to buy a tar remover to help get rid of. As with bird droppings, you can avoid getting tree sap all over your car by not parking under trees. 

Brake fluid

When topping up brake fluid, you should always be careful not to splash any on your car. Brake fluid is very corrosive – it will burn through your car’s paintwork and expose the metal beneath if not cleaned off. To clean it off, use a towel to soak up as much as you can and rinse the rest away. 


When filling up at a gas station, always be careful of letting petrol splash on the car. Petrol is very difficult to remove from paintwork and it will cause permanent stains (they’re a bit like bleach stains on clothes). If you do splash any petrol on your car, soak up as much as you can with a towel and try to rinse the rest off. 


Many of us have seen permanent coffee stains on tables or flooring – spilling coffee on your car’s exterior could have the same effect. Take care when handling flasks or cups of takeaway coffee around your car to avoid spillages. If you’ve already spilled some on your car, wash and scrub off as soon as possible to avoid permanent stains. 

Direct sunlight

Direct sunlight can cause car paint to fade and even peel as a result of oxidization. If you live somewhere that gets very hot and sunny, your car could be at particular risk. Parking in a garage, parking somewhere shady or covering your car up with a protective sheet are some of the best ways to protect your car’s paint from the sun. 

Automatic car washes

Cleaning your car can protect it from various forms of dirt listed above, however you’re better off doing this by hand. The harsh brushes on automatic car washes can sometimes damage paintwork by causing swirl marks. Manually washing a car is a lot more work, but it could help you to preserve your paintwork. 

How to protect your paintwork

There are lots of ways in which you can protect your car’s paintwork from the above.

A clear bra installation could be one way to protect your paintwork. This is a clear film that coats your car’s exterior. Any substances can be easily cleaned off of this without affecting the paint below.

You could also consider waxing and sealing your car to protect the paint. This can be cheaper than a clear bra, but requires manual ongoing maintenance. Make sure to research into waxes and sealants to ensure that you’re using the right product for your car.

Emily Muelford
Emily is a British writer whose love of car culture is augmented by a fascination with both the European and American automotive markets. Her perspective is uniquely fish and chips.