You probably know that snow, salt, and ice are rough on the exterior of your car. Salt and gravel can leave scratches and paint chips, and create a perfect environment for issues with your paint.

Here are some other less obvious yet important pitfalls to be aware of as temperatures fall.

1. The Christmas Tree:

You may love the scent of a real Christmas tree; however, be careful when you’re bringing it home. Tree sap is very acidic and can eat through your clear coat and paint if it isn’t removed quickly.

Outsmart Sneaky Threats to Your Car's Paint This Winter

Once the sap hardens and solidifies into pitch and then resin, it can penetrate the paint’s clear top coat. This can leave stains, rough patches, and discoloration.

Daryl Collette is President of Automotive Quality Solutions in Ashburn, Virginia. He says the key is to remove the sap as quickly as possible. However, a regular wash isn’t enough for this job if the sap has already hardened. Collette says at this point you should move your car into the garage to let it warm up. Then remove the sap with rubbing alcohol.

“If there is only minimal damage to the clear coat, we can use paint correction. That means we use a variety of buffing pads and different compounds,” Collette says. “We’ve seen other cars where tree pitch has just destroyed the surface and there was nothing to do but repaint.”

Automotive Quality Solutions tailors its paint correction techniques based on the unique circumstances of each car and its degree and type of damage, to get each car back to looking its best.

Collette also suggests being proactive by using paint protection.

He says Opti-Coat PRO+ is the best tool in his arsenal. Opti-Coat PRO+ is a ceramic clear coating that prevents scratches by bonding permanently with the car’s original clear top coat. Automotive Quality Solutions is one of the few authorized installers in Northern Virginia for this treatment.

If you do have to carry that tree home on top of your car, cover it well with a blanket. Collette also suggests being careful to avoid parking under evergreen trees.

2. Clearing snow with the wrong tools:

While snow and ice certainly aren’t friendly to your car, even bigger problems arise if you aren’t careful with how you remove that snow. Use extreme caution when trying to chisel ice off the car, and make sure the tool you use to clear snow isn’t too rough.

“Some people have used brooms or coarse brushes to clear snow from their cars and we see the little scratches, or the broom catches some tiny rocks that get dragged over the paint. It’s worth it to buy a soft brush, some of them are made of foam. It might sound obvious, however, we recommend not using a shovel as we have repaired many cars that were cleared with a shovel and received thousands of dollars worth of damage,” Collette says.

Outsmart Sneaky Threats to Your Car's Paint This Winter3. Carelessness with coffee:

It feels great to ride with a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning. Be very careful not to put your coffee or soda cup on the hood or roof of your car while getting in.

“The acid levels in both of these drinks are capable of damaging and corroding your paint,” Collette says.

You can use a quick detail spray, or dilute the spill with water if temperatures are above freezing. Also, clean it up as quickly as possible before the acid has time to sit on the surface.

4. Fueling up too fast:

It’s no fun to pump gas in frigid weather. It’s tempting to hop back into the car as quickly as possible. If you let a few drops of gas spill on to your car and they get left there, it can stain your clear coat. A wax on your car may be enough to help avoid damage, but a ceramic coating like Opti-Coat Pro+ can provide permanent protection.

5. Not taking care of bird droppings right away:

When you get back home, the last thing you want to do is deal with is the day’s bird poop. However, bird droppings are also very acidic, and damage may begin in as quickly as 15 minutes. You should remove them with a damp cloth, then ideally use a quick detail spray with a microfiber towel.

Check out our blog post on “Bird Droppings and Paint Damage (Etching)”.

So as winter gears up, don’t let cold temperatures distract you. Protect your car carefully from tree sap and anything acidic that can eat away at its exterior. Lastly, please be careful when you’re clearing that snow and ice so not to clear paint along with it. Happy Holidays!

About Automotive Quality Solutions: Established in 2012 by Loudoun County resident and serial entrepreneur Daryl Collette, AQS offers premium detailing, reconditioning, paintless dent repair, paint protection, and cosmetic body restoration to private individuals and car dealerships throughout Northern Virginia. AQS maintains a 15,000 square-foot facility in Ashburn full of state-of-the-art equipment, including a curing booth and a whole-car photography stage.

In 2017, AQS was honored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce as its Innovative Business of the Year. Come visit our shop at 21670 Red Rum Drive, Suite 149, Ashburn, VA, for a tour of our facilities. Learn more about AQS at and call 571-291-9401 or drop by to make an appointment.

AQS is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday (for estimates, dropoffs, and pickups) from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.