The car's finish

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Updated: 3/28/2003 1:53 pm
The car's finish is usually the first thing you see when you approach your car and is often the most expensive part of the car. Most modern car finishes consist of a primer (PRY-mer), a base coating that contains the color, and a protective clear coat. Clear coats are clear paints applied over a color base coat. This outer clear coat adds UV (U-V) protection that helps prevent the sun's rays from drying out the base paint. Some new-car dealers may try to sell you an extra clear coating. As far as which car colors provide the most safety, the most visible vehicles on the road have light-colored, single-tone paint jobs, and industry analysts say the safest colors are generally cream, yellow, and white, while the least safe are red and black. If you're buying a used car, it's important to inspect the finish. If the vehicle is dirty, have it washed for better inspection. Is the car's finish glossy and even? Look for rust, especially at the bottom of fenders, around lights and bumpers, on splash panels, under doors, in the wheel wells, and under trunk carpeting. Small blisters may indicate future rust sites. Check for such things as paint that doesn't quite match, gritty surfaces, misaligned body panels, and paint overspray on chrome-- all possible signs of a new paint job that could be masking body problems. Look for cracks, heat-discolored areas, and loose bumpers-- warning signs that may indicate a past accident. Also, see if there's any hail damage, and check for evenly-aligned body panels and secure trim. To best protect your car's finish after you buy it, keep the car covered, and wash and wax it frequently. For optimum shine and protection, follow a regular regimen of washing at least every two weeks, waxing every three months, and polishing at least every six months.

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