With all our contributions to polluting this planet, nature does find vengeful ways of getting even with us—in this case, it's our vehicles who suffer the wrath of the environment. Who would've thought decades ago that something supposedly as gentle and neutral as rain could turn into something harmful to our cars' finish?
Acid rain, especially in industrialized urban areas, is about as real as our tormenting traffic. I've had my fair share of dealing with this issue whenever a light shower occurs after a dry spell in the city. It turns your clearcoat into a map of an archipelago and can make you panic in the process!
Fear not, as there are tried-and-tested ways to remove these ghastly marks. Here they are:
1) Claying. For those of you who have no idea what this is, claying is the process of using a pliable automotive clay bar to rid your painted surfaces (including glass) of built-up dirt, grime and stains. This is done by kneading a clay bar into a soft flat pancake-like shape along with a detailer/spray bottle containing distilled water. After that, you're ready to rock.
Provided you've cleaned the affected paint, begin by spraying the area until surface is evenly wet. While holding the clay on the tips of your fingers, lay it flat on the surface and gently press as you 'wipe' the paint with it in small, circular movements. Moisten the surface when the clay begins to stick.
The key here is keeping the clay sliding smoothly on the surface until the entire area has been worked. Inspect the paint by wiping the surface to see if it has removed the acid rain marks. Repeat if necessary.
This method usually works when acid rain stains are still quite fresh. You can find clay bars at reputable car care retailers and popular hardware stores.
2) Watermark remover. This is a chemical concoction commonly used on glass but can work on painted surfaces as well. Since this is a potentially harmful liquid, I highly suggest wearing rubber gloves when employing this treatment.
As always, ensure that the surface has been appropriately cleaned. Add a few drops of the watermark remover on a clean applicator sponge. Then wipe the paint's surface in linear strokes, covering a small area at a time. Avoid getting the solution on your plastic and chrome trims. After application, soak with detailer/distilled water spray and wipe dry. Check if the marks are gone and repeat if needed.
Note: To preserve your clearcoat, do not allow remover to stay for any longer than a minute or two on the affected surface.
3) Rubbing/buffing. This is definitely the last resort, especially for acid rain marks that have been left on the paint for prolonged periods. It can be done with the use of a dual-action polisher or by hand combined with a finishing compound.
* When using a dual-action polisher:
Not everyone has one, or the skill and experience to use a machine like this. If you decide to go with this technique and have never tried it before, it would be best to go to a professional detailing center. It may cost a bit but it's surely worth it versus causing significantly more expensive damage to your paint.
If you do have one laying around, consult a professional on proper usage. Then again, Youtube is also just a click away for a myriad of educational videos.
* When going with good old elbow grease:
Pick up a quality finishing/polishing compound, a couple of microfiber towels, and a detailer spray.
After cleaning the paint surface of any abrasive dirt, spray a bit of detailer on the affected section. Tightly wrap the microfiber towel around your index and middle fingers, followed by dabbing some compound onto your fingertips. Approach the job with a high degree of care and reserve by lightly rubbing away in a fast circular motion while maintaining equal and very gentle pressure. Check your progress after covering a small section at a time.
The purpose for keeping the surface moist while hand-buffing is to reduce the chances of marring (very tiny scratches) that can lessen your clearcoat's clarity and sheen.
Complete this hack by spraying more detailer spray and buffing the finish to a radiant shine with a clean microfiber towel. Scrutinize the treated area under different angles with a bright flashlight and tackle spots you may have missed.
Once you've kissed those stains goodbye, wax your car with a sealant or nanotechnology wax to keep your paint shielded from future attacks. Remember, being protected is better than being vulnerable on any given day.