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What are Car Covers?

Darrell Laurant
Darrell Laurant

Car covers make so much sense that it's surprising more people don't use them. Even car owners with garages still have occasions where their vehicle is parked out in the elements, sometimes for days. Nor is it just the weather that menaces an automobile's finish -- there are also aerial assaults from birds and trees and the inevitable scratches and nicks that appear as if by magic in the shopping mall parking lot.

To combat all these threats, car covers have come a long way from their origins in the 1950s, when most were made of canvas, tent-like material. Today, the range of materials used ranges from the starkly utilitarian (polyester and other plastic-based wraps) to the cuddly (flannel material) to the showy (satin). But there are other considerations that transcend choice of color or cloth -- geographical location, for example. A car owner in Tucson will have very different concerns than someone in Seattle.


Ideally, car covers will guard against the damaging effects of both direct sunlight and precipitation. As most car owners in the Northeast will tell you, it is not a given that rain will clean your vehicle. In areas of high pollution, it may even leave a film on the surface. Acid rain not only kills trees, but can actually pit the finish of an automobile or truck over time.

Make sure that your cover has UV protection -- otherwise, the sunlight may actually penetrate it. Also, it should not only shed moisture, but dry quickly itself, to reduce the possibility of mildew. Car covers with fabrics that don't breathe can actually defeat their own purpose by locking in condensation under the surface.

Nor is a cover much use if it isn't securely attached. Car covers that come partially loose and flap against the vehicle they're supposed to be protecting can even cause scratches themselves. Many car covers now have elastic at each end that can slide over the bumpers for a glove-like fit. Ease of use is another factor. If a lightweight cover can serve the purpose, it is obviously preferable to a thicker fabric that has to be wrestled with. Also, consider that the cover itself will have to be frequently cleaned.

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