Arizona has one of the hottest and most arid climates in the United States. The oppressive heat and sun are not only dangerous to your health in some cases, but can also cause significant damage to your vehicle. It’s crucial for Arizona residents to know how to properly care for their vehicles and prevent sun damage. There are also a few things drivers can do to keep their vehicles cooler and more comfortable during the Arizona summer.
How the Arizona Climate Can Damage Your Vehicle
Arizona car damage is common thanks to the extreme heat and lack of cloud cover. Sun exposure causes a lot more problems for vehicles than most people realize. While it’s certainly uncomfortable to get into a car you parked in direct sunlight all day, the level of sun exposure in Arizona is doing more than just making your commute unpleasant. The sun can damage your vehicle inside and out unless you take proper precautions. Possible damage can include engine problems, faded paint, damaged upholstery, and significant discomfort for drivers and passengers.
Interior Damage from Sun Exposure
Your vehicle’s dashboard will receive the greatest amount of sun exposure while parked. The windshield actually intensifies the effect of the direct sunlight, which can lead to fading and cracking over time, depending on the material. No matter what type of dashboard you have, too much sun will eventually cause it to lose its luster and fade. Additionally, the dashboard and steering wheel will become very hot to the touch if left in the sun too long. This can make it uncomfortable or even impossible to drive safely until everything cools.
Upholstery also suffers under the harsh Arizona sun. While cloth upholstery stands up better than leather over time, the cloth will still show discoloration or fade over time, especially the parts of the seats that get the most sun exposure. This can lead to uneven coloring on your vehicle’s upholstery. Leather seats pose additional problems. Arizona drivers with leather seats are likely well aware of how hot to the touch leather upholstery can get after sun exposure, but the sunlight will also cause the leather to crack and fade. Sunlight slowly evaporates the natural oils in leather, causing it to lose flexibility, dry out, and then crack.
While you can purchase some products designed to protect leather upholstery from sun exposure, these items typically only delay the inevitable if you consistently park your vehicle in direct sunlight.
The Arizona sun can also cause problems for your vehicle’s exterior. Sun damage to car paint can affect any car, but is especially prominent for darker colors like blue, red, and black. Sun exposure can also be a problem for the unpainted parts of a vehicle’s exterior such as fenders, bumpers, mirror covers, and cargo racks.
Protecting Your Vehicle Year-Round in Arizona
One of the best things you can do to protect your car from sun damage is keeping it clean. Wash your car on a regular basis to remove dust, dirt, and other debris. In direct sunlight, these materials will corrode the exterior of your vehicle, causing significant damage. Washing your vehicle regularly will protect the paint and provide additional resistance to heat and sunlight.
Waxing is another great choice for protecting your vehicle. A waxed exterior makes it more difficult for debris to stick to the car and will also provide an additional layer of protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
Protecting the Vehicle’s Interior
When it comes to preventing sun damage in Arizona, car care is more involved than in more moderate climates. There are several options for protecting your vehicle’s dashboard and upholstery, and you can improve the comfort level inside the vehicle as well. Tinted windows reduce the amount of sunlight that will reach your vehicle’s interior, but it’s vital to select tinting options that are legal in Arizona. Arizona’s tint law requires that any window tinting allows more than 33% of sunlight inside the vehicle through the driver’s window, and any level of tinting is legal on the rear windows and back windshield. For the front windshield, any tinting is legal above the manufacturer’s AS-1 line. In general, tinting cannot be more than 35% reflective.
You can also purchase specialized window film designed to block ultraviolet rays without reducing visibility. Window tinting or filming can reduce the interior temperature of a vehicle by up to 20 degrees, which can make a tremendous difference during a trip.
Another great idea is to purchase a windshield screen. These heat-reflecting screens fold up to conveniently fit under a seat or in your trunk while not in use. When you park your vehicle, you unfold the screen and fit it into the windshield, effectively blocking the sunlight from entering your vehicle while parked. This is a fantastic option for drivers who must park in direct sunlight while at school or work. The vehicle will be much cooler at the end of the day than a vehicle without a windshield screen.
Arizona used cars and new models alike are all vulnerable to sun damage. However, Arizona weather involves more than just extreme heat and sunshine. Monsoon season brings rains, dust, mud, and debris from the road, so it’s essential for drivers to understand Arizona car care in all types of weather.