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Dear Driving for Dollars,
I recently moved to Arizona and I’m noticing quite a few cars with paint damage, cracked dashboards and the like. Is that from the hot sun? I have a pretty new car and I’d like to keep it for the next 10 years or so, as long as it doesn’t give me mechanical trouble. But I don’t want my car looking terrible after a few years out here. Do I really need to be worried about sun damage?
— Hot in the Southwest

Dear Hot in the Southwest,
Just like your body, your car can get sun damage, too. Intense sunlight, as well as the heat that builds up on a car’s surface and inside the car, can cause all of the problems you’ve noted on cars around your new neighborhood.

If you have the advantage of parking your car inside a garage or in full shade, such as a carport, then there may not be too much cause for concern. If your car will be parked outside frequently during the day, then it’s likely that the sunlight and heat will result in excessive wear and tear on your car over the years.

To help keep your paint well-protected, be sure to apply a regular coat of wax.

  • Start with a polymer wax, which is what a good detail shop will use. (You can do it yourself if you like. It just takes some elbow grease.)
  • Once your car has a good coat of wax, use a spray wax, which sprays on and wipes off easily.

To protect the interior, use a sunshade regularly, and consider applying an aftermarket window film. There’s no need for darkly tinted windows though. New crystalline window films are nearly clear, allowing 40% to 90% of the sunlight into your car, yet blocking 97% of the sun’s infrared rays, according to 3M.

What’s more, window film also benefits you. 3M says that it blocks up to 60% of the heat coming through the windows and 99.9% of harmful UV rays. That’s good news, because nearly 53% of skin cancers in the United States occur on the left side, the driver’s side, of the body, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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