People in Los Angeles spend a lot of time in their cars. Unlike cities like New York, Los Angeles is not walkable. You might spend hours on the 405 just trying to go grocery shopping. All of this driving around, or in some cases, sitting around, can do a number on the exterior of your car.

Your Car's Exterior

Your car's exterior is more than just a shiny paint job. Sure that fire engine red exterior makes you look cool, but there is more to the exterior of your car than just paint. Most factory paint jobs are made up of three layers - the primer, the paint, and the protective coating.

The primer layer helps the paint adhere to the car, protects the metal, and keeps the coloring even. The paint shows off your personality and seals the primer coat. Finally, the protective coating seals the first two layers and keeps your paint looking great. These three layers protect your car against rust, corrosion, and paint fading.

Keep them in good shape and your car will still look great when it's a classic. Skip the basic maintenance, and your beauty will turn into a beast.

Construction Zones

Construction Zones

Image via Flickr by Grant Hollingworth

It seems like there is always construction somewhere in the city. Cones and barrels litter the highway and block off your favorite shortcuts. All this construction can do more than just make your commute longer; it can damage the exterior of your car. Concrete dust, road tar, and tiny rocks are the biggest killers in a construction zone.

Concrete dust is made up of tiny concrete pieces. Those pieces are very hard. A child walking down the street, brushing his hand along every car in his wake can easily grind those particles right through the protective coating and into the paint layer on your car.

The small rocks around construction zones can be kicked up and ding your paint. Rocks that bounce higher might even crack your windshield.

Road tar is the worst of the three construction zone killers and must be removed carefully if you want to keep your car's exterior intact. A clay bar is the safest way to remove road tar and keep your paint job intact.


The haze above Los Angeles is much better than it was in the seventies, but still, it persists and can do damage to the exterior of your car. The smog is made up of tiny particles of dust, exhaust, and ash that can leave a dirty film on your car. Not only will this make your car look dull, but if it is wiped in by a “wash me” jokester, it can be pushed into the protective layer and damage your paint job.

The other problem with smog is the chemicals it might leave on your car. If not washed off, those chemicals can eat away at the protective layer of your paint job and dull your paint.

The Sun

One of the best parts of living in Los Angeles is the abundant sunshine. All of that sunshine is great for you, but not so much for your car. As the sun beats down on the hood of your car, it can cause microcracks in the paint. This will allow water and chemicals into the finish of your car and can cause the metal to rust and the paint to peel right off.

Keep your car covered if you can. If not, make sure you are using a wax with UV protectant to give your car the best chance of surviving the California sun. Think of it as sunscreen for your car.

Protecting Your Car

To keep your car looking its showroom best, you will need to take a few simple steps.

  • Wash your car regularly with a quality wash that will remove the dirt without damaging the finish.
  • Dry your car after you wash it to prevent the dirt and chemicals from spotting up your finish.
  • Use a clay bar to remove road tar, bugs, or any other stuck on material.
  • Wax your car with a wax with UV protectant every four to six months.
  • Keep your car under cover as much as possible to keep all of the pollutants and the sun from damaging your car's exterior.

California Dreaming

Living in Los Angeles is a dream come true for many people. Even the natives love the perfect weather, easy beach access, and diversity that makes the city great. The city living can be perfect for you, but not so great for your car. A little elbow grease and some sun protection will keep your car just as happy as you are living in the city of Angels.

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