What Every Car Owner Needs to Know about Preventing Damaging Oxidation

By Ryan Adams © 2016 All Rights Reserved

You know that dull spot on the hood of your car, where the paint just isn't as shiny and smooth as it should be?  Most people would call that oxidation, but that isn't always the case.  It could be damage to your clear coat.  How would you know?  By understanding just what oxidation is and how it - and other types of damage - can hurt your car.

Contamination & Radiation Poisoning for Your Car?

No, it's not some sci-fi hoax.  Radiation and contamination damage happen daily.  The first layer that suffers is the clear coat. 

UV radiation causes fading, dullness and a loss of shine. Eventually, if you don't do something to stop it, UV radiation can remove theentire clear coat layer.  How do you prevent it?  You don't.  (Unless you never drive your car.)   The next best thing is to keep your vehicle out of the sun as much as you can and always… ALWAYS keep it well waxed.

Contamination, on the other hand, comes from all sorts of stuff.  Everything from actual, tiny pieces of debris that fall from the air (like near airports) to ordinary brake dust.  You can remove these, but you have to be very careful.  Use an extremely soft cloth with gentle motions, so you don't scratch the clear coat or paint.

What is Oxidation?

OK, we’ve already said that all rough and dull spots aren't necessarily oxidation.  So what is?  Oxidation is a chemical process that happens when oxygen molecules bond with – and change – practically anything else. It occurs everywhere oxygen is (which is everywhere!), whether in the air, water or certain chemicals.

Cars are built of metal, but not stainless steel.  The metal will rust if exposed to the air.  This (along with making the appearance look great) is the primary reason car manufacturers started painting cars in the first place.  Eventually, automakers went one step further and developed a clear coat of paint that protects the underlying, colored paint.

Yes, you can see oxidation through rusted surfaces, but it's not always in the form of rust. Oxidation comes in many forms, but for this article, the issue is what oxygen is doing to your car’s finish.

Best Bet? Use a Protective Coating

There's no way to keep your car away from oxygen and water.  The only way to preserve the clear coat and paint is to put a layer of protection between them and the environment.  That helps prevent damage to the paint that causes dullness.  This is extremely important.  You want to do everything possible to protect the clear coat and paint.  Once they are gone, you're left with exposed metal that can rust.

When you're talking about cars, wax is the protective coating of choice.  Wax makes it possible for the clear coat and paint job to last much longer than they would if left unprotected.  Because the finish of a car is always wet (even when it's dry), it needs to be kept semi-sealed to retain the moisture. Otherwise, you end up with those aggravating dull spots due to constant exposure to air and the other contaminants we mentioned earlier.

What's the bottom line with preventing oxidation?  Waxing is what smart car owners do to protect the clear coat and paint, and to avoid premature problems. You want your ride to look awesome, but you also want to ensure your investment holds its value when the time comes to sell or trade.

Stay tuned for part two of "What Every Car Owner Needs to Know about Preventing Damaging Oxidation," where you'll find out how to repair some of the damage your car might already have.

 Ryan Adams writes for with Carnu-B, a carnauba wax specially formulated to prevent water spots and easily remove bug splats, bird droppings & tar. Watch the video demo at

Ryan Adams