How That Trip to the Beach Affects Your Car

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The sound of the ocean and gulls, the smell of sunscreen and saltwater in the air, the feeling of the sun on your skin; yes, beach season is upon us! But before you pack your cooler and the family into the car, it’s worth knowing a thing or two about how a trip to the beach can affect your vehicle.

Here are some of the ways your car may be affected by time down at the coast and how you can prevent too much damage from occurring.

External damage

You may notice that houses at the beach, even if they are relatively new, can look pretty weathered. This is because saltwater in the air is very corrosive.

Salt in the air and seaspray acts like those microbeads in your toothpaste or body wash. Tiny, gritty little particles being pushed along by the ocean breeze can scratch and wear down paint very quickly.

There is also a bit of chemistry involved. On its own, salt doesn’t affect metal very much. But when combined with water, it becomes an excellent conductor and leads to rapid oxidation–known commonly as rust.

So in effect, salty moist air can, over time, strip the paint from your vehicle and then cause the exposed metals to rust very quickly. Not good.

If you’re just headed down for a week or so washing your car after your trip will suffice. If you plan on spending an extended time near the coast, make sure to wash your car at least twice a month to keep your paint in tact.

Internal damage

While it may seem like a nice idea to bring the beach home with you, it can be detrimental to your car.

Driving on the beach presents an opportunity for sand to get under the hood of your vehicle. Your tires can pick up sand in the treads and then kick that back up into the chassis. Salt is incredibly abrasive, especially when it combines with any kind of fluid or oil.

Your car’s interior may also suffer from people bringing sand in. More than just an annoyance, sand can scrape and destroy fabric and leather seats, seriously diminishing the resale value of your car.

Avoid driving on the beach when possible. It sure is fun, but it’s bad for the beach and bad for your car. If you do need to drive on the beach, see if you can use a hose to rinse off everything under the hood after you get back.

 

Sun damage

Usually the sun is nothing to worry about. Sure, it will fade your paint and dash over time but that’s just the way of life for a car. Unless you plan on moving to northern England, there just isn’t much you can do about it.

Where sun really does some damage, however, is at the beach. Sunlight and heat cause the pores in your car’s paint to expand. While this isn’t a problem on its own, it means that salty air has an easier time working its way into the paint. This will lead to more rapid corrosion.

Try to park your car in a garage or under the house if its on stilts. Also, as mentioned previously, make sure to wash your car after your trip.


With a bit of prevention and some after-care you should be able to enjoy some time at the coast worry-free. As always, the first and most important step is awareness.

For more helpful tips and advice, head to the Strutmasters blog.