Should I Garage My Car? (do it and see the difference)


I’ve been around cars all my life, my father ran his own garage and I’m a mechanic for over twenty years. I can always spot a garaged car by the condition of the paintwork. Older cars just look newer for longer when garaged.

It is good practice to garage a car when not in use. Garaging protects paintwork and mechanicals from extreme weather conditions like low temperatures, snowfall, rain, wind, and direct sun. In addition, garaging protects the paintwork from bird droppings, rodents, and tree fall debris.

In this post you’ll understand why garaging your car will save you money, you’ll also get some really great tips on keeping your car in great shape for years to come.

Weather Damage To Paintwork

Paintwork damage is a primary concern for vehicles that live outdoors all year round. Rain falling on a car isn’t the real problem, it’s what rain contains. 

rain beads on red Porsche hood

Pollutants, sometimes called Acid rain, is a paintwork killer. It may appear as a watermark or white water sports on the paint surface. 

Rain falling on your car is unavoidable, regular washing and waxing is the best defense. Obviously, the less time your car spends standing in the rain the better.

In severe cases of acid rain damage, the paintwork may need a full buffing to restore the shine and this can run to several hundred dollars.

Similarly, prolonged exposure to wind and dust blowing across your paintwork won’t do the topcoat any good.

The act of clearing snow from the car hood and roof also risks damaging the paint surface. Particulars of grit and road salts in the snow or on the paint surface are dragged across the paintwork. Ouch!

Strong direct sunshine is a paint killer too, especially red cars. Faded paint is the most common weather-related damage. Modern paint does have UV protection built-in but it isn’t a match for the power of the sun.

Regular waxing and less time in direct sunshine the better the paintwork will look. Faded paintwork requires a specialist touch and no surprise will cost hundreds of dollars.

In severe cases, the paintwork may need a body shop and a paint gun.

Check out the products the pros use to protect and repair the paintwork on the Car cleaning tools page.

Bird Droppings

Birds, cats, mice, and lots of other small wildlife can cause damage to your car. Bird droppings on the flat surfaces are hell to get off especially when it dries in hard. Acids contained in the bird poop are strong enough to damage the paintwork, but only when allowed to sit on the surface.

Buffing red cars paintwork

Wash bird droppings immediately, otherwise we’ll be looking at a buff job to repair the damage. Garaging your car won’t eliminate poop strikes but it will reduce them.

We have cats at our house, three. And I swear they have an infrared sensor. During the winter, when our car returns from the school run, they are standing at the back waiting for the car to pull to a stop so they can hang out on the nice warm hood.

Problem is, their little padded feet pick up grit that they walk into the hood, 100’s of little hood visits will leave their mark.

Neighborhood Risks

Most people don’t think about the risks associated with parking on the street or in their driveway, here are a few common threats to your paintwork.

Neighbor paints the house on a windy day and accidentally paints your car with fine speckles of paint.

Car parked in street

Neighbors dog places front paws on the driver’s door to greet your return to the pack. Nice, but not great for the paintwork.

Neighborhood kids playing ball on the street, using your car doors as a wall. I guess it’s called life.

Tree Fall Damage

My father collects old cars, he’s got more cars than space and so his everyday car (old Jaguar) lives outdoors. Its usual spot is under a tree at the front of the house, and although he knows only too well the damage parking under a tree can cause, he still got caught out.

Last season the tree shed its pine needles and blocked up the windshield scuttle drains. During heavy rainfall, the scuttle panel flooded and leaked into the cabin through the heater intake. We had to remove the seats, carpets, and soundproofing and wait half a week for them to dry out.

Drying car carpets

In the Jaguars case, no damage was caused, however, I’ve worked on a ton of cars that weren’t so lucky. Many modern cars have multiple control modules located inside the car, when they get wet, expect electrical issues and thousands of dollars to replace them.

Tree sap on the paintwork is a real pain in the jacksie and washing alone won’t remove it. Sap flow is at its worst in the spring and early summer. If your car is covered in sap you’ll need to polish the whole car and use bug remover on the glasswork. 

Heavier treefall debris like fruit or branches will obviously leave their mark too, trees are wonderful, just avoid parking your car near them.

You can check out all my favorite Pro cleaning products on the Car cleaning tools page.

Damage To Mechanicals

Extreme cold is hard on all machinery. Electrical and mechanical components struggle the most. I lived and worked in Canada for a few years where the temperatures got down to -35 F and lower.

The components that are affected the most by these types of temperatures include:

  • Battery
  • Tires 
  • Oil
  • Coolant systems
  • Fuel lines
  • Wipers
  • Belts
  • Power steering
  • Heaters

Batteries, as you know, hate low temperatures, they are at their least efficient and if your battery is a little weak, come winter it will make it known. 

The kindest thing you can do for a battery is moved it out of the extreme cold. Parking your car in a garage will help shield it from the extreme cold.

Heavy snowfall on the windshield places a load on the wiper assembly and the motors, we regularly had to make wiper repairs.

Old serpentine belts hate the cold, they become brittle in the super low temps and simply break.

Check out Trunk essentials, where I list emergency trunk tools and supplies that have saved my ass many a time.

Frozen wipers

Warm oil moves freely, cold oil moves like a treacle and that causes power steering hoses to blow off their fittings. The power steering pumps struggle to move the thick oil through the lines.

As a mechanic, I much prefer working on a car that is garaged and in many cases, the labor content of a job is less on a garaged car. The reason is simple. Moisture causes corrosion and as a car ages, it becomes worse. To a mechanic that means extra time removing rusty and broken bolts. 

Conversely, a car that is garaged its whole life will have a ton less corrosion and therefore be easier to work on.

Many of the problems associated with parking your car outside will cost money to correct. But I can promise you, a car that lives undercover costs less to maintain and will have a higher resale value.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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