Want to hear something spooky? Halloween tricks typically start before the holiday, and your car is not immune from that mischief.
Every October, goblins, ghouls, and even zombies prowl the night and "trick" cars. But these cars aren't tricked out, they're hit with broken eggs, Silly String, or smashed pumpkins. If left on the paint for a period of time, this nasty mess can cause permanent stains that are not only unsightly but can lower your vehicle's resale value.
Egg whites, pumpkin, bird droppings, bug splatter, and other substances contain acids that can eat into your car's finish, says Jim Policare, body shop director at Vinart Collision Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Fortunately, if you drive a newer car, you might not have to worry: Over the past 10 years, automakers have developed clearcoat paint that is specifically designed to resist the type of acid damage that can result from eggs and Silly String, says Donald White, global technology manager at DuPont Performance Coatings.
If you drive an older car, however, there are still steps you can take to guard against Halloween pranks. Three auto-finish experts we talked to offer these tips to protect your car:
Wax on. Your best defense is a protective coat of wax. The week before Halloween is a good time to apply it. Not only does a good waxing prepare your vehicle for the threats of All Hallows Eve, but, if you live in a snowy area, wax can help protect the paint from the salt, sand, and road grime related to winter driving. For the best protection, we recommend having the wax applied by a detailer or do it yourself by following our experts' tips. Consumer Reports' tests of car waxes have shown that most begin to wear off after only a few weeks.
Take cover. If you can, park the car in your garage on Halloween night or use a car cover. This might not be the bravest strategy, but surviving the zombie hordes and avoiding the mischievous youth often demands prudence.
Quick rinse. If your car is hit on Halloween night, rinse off solid residue that can scratch the paint, such as eggshells, as soon as possible. (The heat of the sun speeds up these chemical reactions.) Then give your vehicle a thorough washing to get rid of the other material. If you do it yourself, follow our experts' car-washing tips.
Be prepared. To clean off any small mess quickly, Policare suggests keeping handy a small spray bottle of water mixed with a dedicated car-washing soap. A spray-on car wax would also work well. Then, whenever you find a contaminant on the paintwhether it's on the morning after Halloween or a bird dropping at the beachyou can just spray the solution on and wipe away the mess with a soft towel. Even if you can't remove it right away, just spraying the solution on will dilute the acid and minimize any damage.
Last resort. If a contaminant has had time to set in and cause paint damage but hasn't eaten completely through the clearcoat layer, wash it thoroughly and try using a cleaner wax. These are products formulated with some abrasives; they can remove a thin layer of paint to expose the undamaged paint beneath. (Our car wax Ratings show which waxes provided the best cleaning and gloss improvement.) If the damage extends through the clearcoat and into the color paint or metal, however, that area will need to be repainted.
If you have a later-model car, you can feel reassured by the knowledge that modern paint finishes have been engineered and tested to resist common pranks. If your car gets hit with any of this debris, it's likely to resist damage better and be easier to clean than ever before.
Learn more ways to protect your car with our care and maintenance guide.
Copyright 2005-2015 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.