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Question Answered: Can Car Covers Scratch or Damage Paint?

When it comes to car covers, it’s super important to be careful when using these. Car covers do what they are designed to do, but really should only be used sparingly to avoid the potential for damage.

In this blog post, I’ll answer this common question of whether or not it will scratch paint, and do my best to provide you with all the information you need if you are considering a car cover.

Can a car cover scratch your paint?

Simply put, car covers can scratch your paint. No matter what material your car cover is made out of (whether that be neoprene, plastic, or a tarp-like material), you do risk scratching or damaging paint if you are not careful.

This is mainly due to dirt, debris, or moisture that gets trapped underneath the cover.

3 tips to prevent scratching and damage from a car cover

That being said, there are a few things you want to be are of to avoid this from happening.

1. Never place a clean car cover on a dirty car

This is simply not a good idea. Car covers should be used very sparingly, but more importantly only after a vehicle has been washed and is clean. Instead of using a car cover every day if you live in an apartment, I would only recommend one if you plan to store the vehicle for an extended period of time.

2. Leave it be! Taking it on and off increases the risk of scratching

Back to the previous paragraph, taking a car cover on and off is really the biggest threat you have two leaving scratches behind. If you are looking for a more permanent solution for leaving a car outside, I would recommend simply purchasing a carport or canopy.

3. Select the right material and type of cover to avoid paint damage

Among the options, you have in terms of car covers are a range of materials from cotton to felt (for indoor covers), to tarp-like materials designed for outdoor use like the WeatherShield material.

Whenever using an outdoor car cover, you always want to take precautions in order to prevent scratching. Since your cover will be exposed to the elements, you need to guard against:

  • Wind – many outdoor covers have drawstrings or tie-downs to keep the tarp from flapping. Be sure to use these as directed and make sure the cover is snug
  • Rain – Always use a waterproof tarp for outdoor covers. Condensation, as mentioned previously, is a huge
  • Sun – Many car covers contain UV protectants, which is crucial if you live in an area where the sun is likely to take a toll on your clear coat and paint.

Check out this interactive tool by CarCraft to help decide which one is right for you. CarCraft is a highly reputable brand that makes various car covers to protect against the elements.

The way you wash your car also matters. Check out the post I wrote: 7 best practices to avoid scratches when washing your car to learn more.

Fit matters

Car covers obviously come in a bunch of different colors and materials, but they also fit differently. Typically the higher in car covers will contour to your specific model of vehicle, and will leave less room for the cover to slide around when taking it off.

The safest car cover you can buy is one that fits your car specifically and is made out of a softer material like neoprene.

Weatherproof car covers typically do not follow this category, so if you are looking to take your cover on and off fairly often like when protecting a show car from dust, a weatherproof cover is not going to be your best choice

Get a waterproof car cover for outdoor use. Moisture is bad!

Before you throw a new car cover on your vehicle, you want to make sure both the car and cover are completely dry. Also, if you plan to use your car cover outside in the elements for any reason, you need to make sure your cover is waterproof.

I generally don’t recommend covers in extreme weather conditions, but if you do use one during a rainstorm, just be sure to inspect it from time to time to make sure it doesn’t have any tears or holes in it.

I have heard of horror stories where moisture seeps under car covers, causing water spots on the paint. This can cause milky-colored staining, potentially ruining the clear coat.

While rare, this type of moisture can also cause mold, which is why you always want to be cautious when leaving a vehicle in a humid area with a car cover on it for an extended period.

Breathable car covers to encourage evaporation

If stored indoors (where moisture is usually less of a problem) a breathable car cover material can be a good choice for allowing evaporation to happen more easily.

Many waterproof covers do not fall in this category since their main job is to protect. After all, evaporation can’t happen when a huge amount of water is trapped underneath.


The most important thing to know when it comes to car covers is that they should be used sparingly to avoid scratching or damaging your vehicle. For long-term storage they are a solid option, but for everyday use, I really wouldn’t.

Also, be sure to wash your car cover from time to time! Car covers typically have instructions for cleaning, which is critical to avoid scratches.

Car covers are great for extreme weather like hail, and even the occasional rainstorm if you just waxed your vehicle, but selecting a high-quality cover and never placing a car cover on a dirty vehicle should keep you in the clear!

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