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How our car ages in the sun

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Solar radiation affects our car, not only because of the high temperatures but also due to the effect of ultraviolet rays. They are the main factor of aging when we expose our vehicle to the sun.

A couple of weeks ago, we suffered the first heatwave of this summer with the entry of a mass of hot air through the Gulf of Cadiz. The thermometers in almost all of Spain reached and exceeded 40 degrees, and the vast majority of autonomous communities declared themselves on alert and recommended that citizens should be cautious.

In addition to people, the sun and heat also affect cars since exposure to solar radiation and extreme heat of many of our vehicle’s components has a clear consequence: premature aging. We tell you how our car ages in the sun and give you clues to protect it.

In summer we must be more careful if we want to preserve our car correctly. Longer days and higher temperatures cause wear and tear on different parts of the vehicle. The factors involved in this aging are:

  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Heating

This is how the outside of the car ages.

Exposure to the sun’s rays affects each of the components of our car differently. The first parts affected by the passage of the hours under the sun will be those outside or directly exposed, such as the paint, the moldings and rubbers, the headlights and lights, and the dashboard and rear tray.

The paintwork is attacked by the sun and suffers from loss of gloss in color. The colors that suffer most from exposure to the sun are red, yellow, black, and white. It is ubiquitous for reds to turn pink, yellows to turn beige and whites to lose their factory glow.

The moldings and rubbers lose their properties, drying out, and acquiring a specific whitish tone. Especially noteworthy are the wiper blades, which dry out very quickly. Door and boot seals can lose their water tightness, become more fragile and crack.

How to improve the appearance of the paintwork

The headlights and signal lights, made of plastic materials, also have a bill to pay for exposure to the sun. Headlight lenses lose their brightness and, most importantly, tend to become opaque, preventing the light from our bulbs from properly illuminating the road. According to Youramazingcar.com, the headlights lose color and go from red and orange to white; the problem here is that we will not be adequately seen, and we will not be signaled correctly (you know how important it is to see and be seen when we are driving).

More sensitive areas inside the vehicle

Finally, elements found inside our car but significantly affected by sun exposure are the dashboard and rear tray. These are the areas of a car’s interior that are most exposed to the sun, which has the most significant effect on them because they are located behind large, very sloping windows that facilitate the entry of solar radiation.

Nor should we forget the steering wheel, the upholstery, the door panels…, but these elements are less affected because they are less exposed to the sun. And beware of our windscreen: if it has any impact, in the heat, it is more likely to get bigger, and we will end up without a moon (see how a moon breaks on impact).

Also, new and complex infotainment systems can stop working or be damaged by overheating. Electronic components such as processors or even screens need optimal environments to function, and it’s not the 60 degrees (sometimes more) that can be in our car’s cabin in the sun.

Maybe your car’s system has a security program that turns it off, or perhaps it doesn’t. This is a problem that brands try to solve with heat sinks and gaps in the dashboard to evacuate the heat (an example is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class).