Today's topic is the birds and the bees. I'm not referring to that parental responsibility, "the talk," but to protecting your vehicle's finish from bird droppings and bug bodies.
Along with substances such as tree sap and dirt, bird poop and insect innards can harm the clear coat that protects your car's paint, so it's important to wash them off as soon as possible.
Bugs, especially, contain chemicals that can eat through a clear coat in two days, highly rated auto detailers tell our team. They say bird excrement also creates damage when the car's finish material cools and contracts, molding to the shape of the hardened dropping.
While you can't keep birds from doing their thing, although you might want to avoid parking beneath trees and power lines, or bugs from colliding with your car, you can keep your vehicle clean. Plan to have it washed once or twice a week. If you take it to a washing facility, expect to pay $5 to $10 for a basic wash and $10 to $20 for deluxe service.
Be aware that while automatic car washes are convenient, some could damage your vehicle's finish. If a car wash uses rotating brushes or agitating cloths, ask how often they're cleaned or replaced, because those that are too firm or hold dirt might scratch your car. Another option to consider is an auto detailing shop or other facility that offers hand washing.
For quick cleanups in the event of avian attack or bug bombardier, keep a water bottle and microfiber cloth handy. But be careful when wiping; bird droppings might contain gravel or grit that birds ingest and excrete.
In addition to keeping your car clean, get it waxed two or three times a year. Waxing provides an extra layer of protection for the clear coat. A professional wax job costs $50 to $95.
If the price of cleaning and waxing seems high, keep in mind that it costs $300 to $1,000 to repair clear coat or paint damage.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, angieslist.com, a trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home improvement to automotive repair. Follow Angie on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.