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Using a cover will help protect your car from damaging ultraviolet rays

Using a cover helps protect your car from the sun and is like having a second clear-coat to protect your car's finish — just like keeping your car in the shade.

Just as your skin can be damaged by the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, so can your car.

Paint colors can fade, and are likely to fade unevenly over time as the paint binder chalks, erodes and loses color vi-brancy.

In addition, UV rays can cause the clear coat over the paint to cloud or crack, dry out and deteriorate, thus accelerating gloss reduction. UV rays also cause loss of adhesion between the clear coat and the base coat and oxidize the base coat.

Inside the car, trapped heat can dry out and deteriorate vinyl, leather, plastic and rubber. It bakes and breaks down foam padding and adhesives. It can "cook" audio components, tapes and disks.

In a recent national survey, 15 percent of vehicle owners said their car has faded paint. Twelve percent said their car has a faded interior. Eight percent said their dashboard and interior components are cracked.

Most sun damage comes from short-wave UV light — UV-B rays in the 280-315nm band.

Damaging effects are cumulative. The problem may not be immediately visible.

Scientists studying the ability of textiles to protect against solar radiation developed the term "UPF rating" — ultraviolet protection factor — to quantify the degree of protection. The extent to which a fabric transmits, absorbs or reflects UV radiation determines its UPF rating. A number of properties, such as the fibers, fabric construction, color and treatments, affect a fabric's UPF.

Not all car covers protect against sun damage the same way. For example, one fabric has a UPF rating of more than 100.

Most other specialty protection fabrics offer UPF values around 75 and most general protection fabrics offer UPF values around 25.

But at least one with a a UPF rating of more than 100 uses technology similar to that employed by clear-coat paint manufacturers to inhibit the degradation of paint-titanium dioxide — used in sunscreens — and HALS, or hindered amine light stabilizers.

Using a car cover is like having a second clear-coat to protect your car's finish — or like keeping your car in the shade.

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