The Trouble With Leaves

The trouble with leaves is they aren’t vehicle friendly. They’re beautiful that’s true, but leaves damage paint, cause rust, plug things up, and in general make a mess of your car.
Paint and leaves are a nasty combination so don’t allow them to sit on your car. Leaves combined with moisture and some sun can truly wreak havoc on today’s clear-coat finishes. If you think bird-stuff is bad for paint wait till you see the damage leaves can do.

Leaves are imbued with methyl-ethyl bad stuff, which if activated by water and allowed to sun dry can etch their likeness into clear coat. It isn’t unusual to find the outline of a leaf permanently embossed into a cars horizontal paint surfaces. The imprint resembles a prehistoric leaf fossil. Unfortunately the only way to prevent this is to clean the leaves away as soon as possible after they fall on the vehicle.

A few innocuous looking leaves can also present a serious rust hazard. When leaves land on a car they may wedge themselves under moldings. Once wedged they often don’t let go until you reach cruising speed where the wind causes the leaf to flap back and forth until it finally breaks loose. If you’re wondering what this has to do with rust, read on.

That dastardly leaf doesn’t come loose, no indeed, it breaks into two pieces. The visible part is blown away while the invisible portion remains trapped behind your molding. There it stays and over time is joined by other chunks of leaf debris. Every time the car gets wet the trapped leaf parts soak up moisture and hold it. This leads to those ugly rust blisters around moldings and windows. The only way to prevent this is to thoroughly flush away all the junk that collects behind moldings with a garden hose at least twice a year.

But there’s still more! Leaves can really do a number on your car’s drains. The evaporator drain for the air conditioning is a common problem area. Leaves get sucked through the heat and air conditioning air-inlet where they are promptly sliced and diced by the blades of the fan. The now minced pieces of leaf collect in the bottom of the evaporator housing where, over time, they plug the drain. This causes water from the air conditioner to spill onto your feet or carpet inside the car.

You may also experience raindrops on your head thanks to leaf debris. That is, if your car has a sunroof. Sunroofs have drains that can be blocked with small chunks of leaves. Contrary to what you might believe sunroofs are not water tight. Water easily flows around the glass, collects in a trough, and is channeled into drains. The drains are usually positioned at each corner of the sunroof. Clogged sunroof drains cause water to build up in the troughs. Once the water exceeds the capacity of the troughs it drips inside the cabin or gives you a startling surprise when it cascades over your head.

Keeping leaves off your car is an important task that takes a little effort and planning but can save a ton of grief.

3 comments

clearanceman said:

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October 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

If you park on leaves that are too deep on the side of the road, your converter can actually cause a fire.

Andrew Merrill said:

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February 21, 2018 at 4:19 pm

So how do you fix the leaf marks? Will a good buff job remove them?

Marcy said:

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February 21, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Depends how deep the impressions. If like most a good buffing will do the trick but deeper impressions may require professional help ;

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