Kimberly-Clark
February 1, 2005
Contributers: Kimberly-Clark
Expensive paint jobs such as the one on this car deserve the protection of a car cover.

Car covers can be a misunderstood lot. There are those car enthusiastswho spend thousands on creating their dream car, devote countless hoursresearching and learning about their beloved autos, and then spendless than five minutes picking out the very product that can be mostvital to its protection. We see it all the time: a pristine car trappedunderneath a "shower cap" that a painter wouldn't use to cover a floor.When asked why one would even think of using such an unworthy roll ofcloth over their car, the answer is invariably, "Eh, a car cover is acar cover, right?" Wrong.

Technology and chemistry have caught up with the car cover, makingtoday's covers marvels of protection. The key is not so much choosingone particular brand over another, but taking the time to considerexactly what it is you want from a car cover. That may sound strange,considering the "a cover is a cover" mentality, but modern covers offera variety of features and options tailored to the needs of you and yourcar. To investigate this, we spoke with Bruce Williamson, Director ofSales & Marketing, Nonwoven Fabrics, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, makersof BLOCK-IT(R) car cover fabrics, to learn about what car owners need tokeep in mind when searching for the perfect cover.

Protection from What?

Ask a 100 car enthusiasts what they want a car cover for and you couldvery well get a 100 different answers, but the common thread will beprotection.

"Car owners," Williamson begins, "are mainly concerned about protectingtheir investments, but for a variety of reasons. They may wantprotection from tree sap, rain, snow, sleet, or sun. Or if they're closeto the ocean, salt. But protecting the investment is almost always themain concern."

Even big rear wings aren't a problem for custom made car covers.

High quality outdoor car covers are specifically designed do this withUV protection and waterproof, breathable fabrics to guard against theelements. Breathability and UV chemistry are paramount to the lastingprotection of an outdoor cover. Without breathable fabrics moisture canbecome trapped under a car cover and ultimately damage your car's paint,while UV protection blocks the sun's harmful ultra-violet rays toprevent fading. Just how important UV protection is can be appreciatedby learning that UV chemistry is generally one of the most expensiveparts a manufacture puts into their covers. For example, Kimberly-Clarkputs the same UV chemistry in clear coat paints as they do in their carcover fabrics.

But what about the people that only park their precious cars in agarage? Do they need all that breathability and UV chemistry? Few carlovers are aware of many indoor covers that don't feature the sameelement protection of outdoor covers but are perfect in for them in twoother ways.

"When we hear from folks that park their cars inside," Williamson says, "they mainly have two concerns: dust and objects falling against thecar."

Most people do not have a garage as clean and tidy as top Nextel Cupteams, so there are bound to be rakes, shovels, bicycles, pets, or ahundred other objects just waiting to topple over and scar a vehicle'sfinish.

"For that reason, we encourage people to get a thick four- or five-layercover to protect against items falling in their garages," saysWilliamson.

Protection from the elements and damage are certainly the most commonreasons why people buy car covers, but there are more hazards toconsider such as protection against theft.

"A car cover, obviously, works to protect the outside of your car,"Williamson says. "What is seldom thought of, however, is that they alsoserve to protect the inside of your car as well."

How? The old cliche works here: Out of sight, out of mind. Sure, ananti-theft device such a car alarm or steering wheel lock work well asdeterrents, but what they don't do is conceal your car and its interior.Potential thieves rarely go for what they can't see and besides a garagea car cover is the next best thing in cloaking your car from prying eyesand crowbars.

"Typically thieves will go for the path of least resistance," Williamsonrelates. "When they see a car cover they have no idea what is underneathand usually don't want to hassle with it."

What Do YOU Want in a Car Cover?

Car covers do more than protect against damage as a concealed car is less likely to invite potential thieves as well.

The first thing you need to ask yourself before buying a car cover iswhat are you trying to protect your car from? Is it from the elements,or from dust, from dings and dents, or from theft, or maybe even acombination of all of these? Whatever your reasons there is a car coverto suit your needs, but there are a few basics to keep in mind.

"We encourage people to look for the highest warranty that they can findin cover," Williamson explains. "They should look for, not only thewater resistance of a cover, but also the breathability. Often timesyou'll get water trapped underneath the cover. If there is not anybreathability you'll get condensation and then the car cover will rotand may affect the paint. What we at Kimberly-Clark feel we have is thebest balance of both properties: waterproofing, breathability, UVdurability and softness."

Cheap car covers tend to have very little UV protection, if any at all,so the rule "you get what you pay for" applies here.

"The more expensive car covers have more UV protection, therefore moresun protection, and better protection over a longer period of time,"says Williamson.

Enthusiasts searching for added protection from damage should look forcar covers with four or five layers that can be used as extra padding.The extra layers will go a long way toward protecting against errantobjects and people trying to squeeze by your car in a tight garage.

This one's important: get a custom made cover. Sure they cost a littlemore, but a custom made cover offers the best fit for your car, whichwill save you time and stress when putting the cover on, and gives theadded benefit of being even tougher against the elements.

"For people that are really concerned about protecting theirinvestment," Williamson says, "we encourage them to buy custom covers.They fit like a glove and you don't have to worry about them blowingaway in strong winds."

Easy On, Easy Off

If the front of your cover isn't already clearly designated, like this one, place a mark of some sort on the front to help you line up the cover on your car.

There is a misconception floating about that car covers are difficult toput on and take off - simply put, this is a fallacy. On average, ittakes people about 45 seconds to put on or take off a car cover. That isnot a lot of time to give your ride added protection. Just use the tipsbelow and you'll be a pro at handling your cover.

Cover a clean vehicle only. Dust, dirt, and grit between a cover and thefinish can cause scratches, swirls, abrasion and dullness. If you have abreathable cover, your car does not have to be totally dry before youput on the cover.

Put on a clean cover. Bringing dirt to a clean car via the cover onlyincreases the odds for damage. Spot cleaning when necessary willminimize this risk.

Take off a clean cover. If your cover has collected dirt, leaves, etc,clean it off before you remove it from your car. Tips on cleaning acover are below.

Keep your cover off the ground. If your cover should touch the ground,shake it out and make sure it is free of dirt and grit.

Unfold going on, fold up going off. Never drag or slide your cover -sideways motion could cause particles of grit to scratch the surface ofyour car.

On average, a person can put on a cover in about 45 seconds.

Click Here to See BLOCK-IT's Video on How to Take a Car Cover On and Off

Putting the Cover On

1. Mark the front of the cover with the word "front" to help you get itpositioned correctly on the car.

2. If your vehicle has an outside radio antenna that doesn't unscrew orretract flush with the vehicle body, you will have to provide an openingin the cover. Place the cover over the antenna before moving to the nextstep.

3. If your cover has side-mirror pockets, position the cover over themirrors.

4. Stretch the ends of the cover over the front and rear bumpers.

Caution: If the car has just been driven, be careful not to allow thecover to come in contact with hot exhaust pipes.

Tip: Some vehicles may have sharp bumpers, hood ornaments or moldings.You can minimize abrasion and the possibility of tearing the cover byreinforcing the inside of the cover and taking extra care wheninstalling and removing the cover.

Removing the Cover

1. Release both ends of the cover from under the bumpers.

2. Fold both sides of the cover onto the top of the vehicle into a pileapproximately 2 feet (60cm) wide.

The custom car cover for this Mustang provides a nice snug fit despite all the body add-ons like a front spoiler and rear wing.

3. Start at the front of the vehicle and fold the cover in 3 foot (1meter) folds from the front to the back.

Taking Care of Your Cover

You did the right thing and purchased a quality car cover and slipped iton your car successfully - but your not really done. Proper care of acar cover is simple but vital to prolonging the protective qualitiesthat you purchased the cover for in the first place.

Cleaning your cover is easy as they are washable in large commercialwashing machine (preferably one without an agitator), but DO NOT put acover in the dryer. This cannot be stressed enough, as Williamsonstates.

"You can put a car cover in the washing machine but it can't go in thedryer. Good quality car covers are made of fairly versatile fabrics aslong as you don't put them in the dryer. Other than that they are prettymuch a no-brainer product. We encourage people to use water a lightdetergent like Fantastik(R) All Purpose Cleaner because many of theharsh detergents, such as the type you use for your clothes, can gettrapped into the cover and make it porous, thus reducing the cover'sprotective qualities."

You can hand clean small areas with a brush, but for a washing machineuse two cups of cleaner. Rinse thoroughly making sure all the cleaner iswashed away, then just air dry. Light amounts of dust can be hosed offwhile the cover is on the vehicle.

If there isn't time to air dry a cover, is it safe to simply roll thecover up and plop it in a trunk? Williamson says yes, but make sure thecover is resistant to mold and mildew - even another reason to get aquality cover.

"All of Kimberly-Clark's fabrics are mold and mildew resistant so theywon't support bacterial growth. The cover may be wet when you pull itout the next time, but if the cover is in your trunk for a period oftime, the moisture will just evaporate away. The polymer technology willnot melt. Well, our fabrics melt at more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit,but you don't see temperatures above that, so the cover is safe to leavein your trunk."

Here lies the reason not to put your cover in a clothes dryer wheretemperatures exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The trunk of your car isfine, the dryer is not.

When storing your cover you always want to have the outside of thecover, well, on the outside, or in other words, exposed when storing.This is to prevent harmful particles from getting on the inside of thecar where they may be dragged across your car's paint the next time youuse the cover.

Much like a new car's resale value begins to drop the second you driveit off a lot, a car cover's protective chemistry begins to break downalmost immediately when it is exposed to the sun, but better the covercatches the brunt of the sun, then your car's paint.

"There is a chemistry that's put into the car cover that basicallydecelerates or prevents the degradation of the car cover fabric,"Williamson says. "So, the way we explain it is, if you didn't have yourcar cover on, the sun would be degrading your clear coat paint."

Depending on use, a car cover can last from six to ten years.

Much like a paint job, a variety of factors such as frequency of use,exposure and even the UV chemistry and how much a manufacture puts intoa cover, determines how long the protection of car cover will last.There are, however, some guidelines Williamson can offer.

"Typically, for our customers who are using their covers a few timesweek, they can expect the cover to last about 10 years. In very harsh,sunny climates a good car cover will still last about six to eightyears."

Now You Know...

The bottomline on car covers is this: if you love on your car, spend theextra money for a quality car cover. Why spend thousands on a paint job,or even more on a new car, and then turn around a buy a cheap "showercap" cover to save 50 bucks? Cheap car covers do little more than simplycover your car. They offer minimal protection from dents and dings, thesuns rays and other harmful elements, and may not even be there after awindy night outside. Even worse, they can actually trap paint-damagingmoisture underneath the cover, which can be more harmful than having nocover at all. You spend a lot on your car, so give it the protection youwould want by going the extra mile and plunking down the dough for agood cover.