June 21, 2019

Environmental Factors that Affect Automotive Surface Finish

There is a common misconception that a car’s value begins to depreciate almost as soon as the customer has the keys. This is at least partially due to aesthetics, with evidence suggesting that as much as 30% of a vehicle’s value is based on aesthetics. The underlying assumption therein is that visual appeal is bound to regress once the showroom car becomes the daily driver. Yet there are myriad industrial factors that affect surface finish which can be corrected with the right products. These same products can be used to correct flaws that occur due to environmental factors too.

Industrial fallout is one of the few factors that can affect surface finish in workshops as well as on the road. This unsightly defect arises when small particles of metal that are deposited onto clear coat oxidize and bond to the bodywork. These flecks may proliferate from grinding sparks on assembly lines, rail dust when cars are being transported from assembly lines to showrooms, or simply from airborne pollutants in heavily urbanized areas. Minor industrial fallout can be removed using a polishing product with extremely fine abrasive particles, and the surface finish can be protected from further contamination by simply cleaning and waxing the panels.

Surface Finish

Recovering paintwork with minor industrial and environmental flaws truly is that simple. While there are numerous additional environmental factors that threaten the surface finish and aesthetic value of a vehicle, there are many specialized products suitable for combatting the environment’s effects on your daily driver.

Environment vs. Surface Finish

The environment can exert a massive influence on both the aesthetic and functional performance of vehicles. Common airborne pollutants in built-up, industrialized areas can be deposited onto the clearcoat where it will gradually damage the paintwork underneath. These small, rusty specks are a common sight on vehicles that regularly park near railways, motorways, airports, and factories. Yet the natural environment can have just as severe consequences for the aesthetics of your vehicle.

Among the most frustrating environmental factors affecting vehicular surface finish is water spotting: dull spots or agglomerations of spots that may cause discoloration and a slight lifting of the paint surface. The cause of this is hard water. When cars are washed with a hard water source and allowed to air-dry, the water evaporates and leaves mineral deposits behind. This can largely be avoided by rinsing vehicles with soft water and hand-drying with a chamois cloth. However, remedying existing water spots will require polishing with a high gloss abrasive such as IDEAL Finish, otherwise, the mineral deposits could contribute towards costly corrosion of the underlying paintwork.

Another potentially expensive source of environmental damage is acid rain. This practically unavoidable factor is visible as droplet marks on surface areas where the acidic concentration was particularly strong. Mild damage from acid rain can be repaired using a sequence of polishing products, starting with a high cut-rate abrasive like IDEAL Super before progressing to a higher gloss product.

Biological matter is another significant factor that is often overlooked as a contributor to surface finish degradation. Bird droppings and insect secretions are often simply cleaned off the car just like any organic product. However, the acidic content of bird droppings and the alkaline residue of insects can cause minute topographical degradation of the clearcoat that contributes towards overall optical inconsistencies. These defects can often be corrected using a high-strength abrasive product with an extremely fine particle size distribution (PSD). This guarantees a uniform surface finish with minimal chance of propagating new flaws such as scratches and swirls.

Improve Surface Finish with Saint-Gobain Surface Conditioning

Saint-Gobain Surface Conditioning offers a selection of IDEAL abrasives for every stage of automotive polishing. If you would like to learn more about our competencies in this area, read our previous blog post: 3 Paint Defects that Affect Surface Finish or explore our IDEAL range of abrasive particles for yourself. If you have any questions about any of our products, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.