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Going for an autumn drive is one of the best parts of being a car enthusiast. But as beautiful as they are, those fall leaves can ruin your car, and we’re not talking about tracking them all over your floor mats. Fall leaves can damage car paint, cause accidents, and even start fires. Here’s how.

Can leaves damage your car paint?

Fall leaves ruin your car paint
Fall leaves on a car’s paint | Jonas Walzberg/picture alliance via Getty Images

In a word, YES! Falling leaves are one of the worst things that can happen to your car’s paint. Not only can removing them cause scratches if not done properly, but it doesn’t take long for falling leaves to leave stains on your precious finish. Whether they’re green, orange, yellow, red, or brown, a leaf on your car’s paint is sure to cause some damage. It only takes a few hours of a damp leaf sitting on your car for it to leave an impression, quite literally.

Leaf marks are the result of pigment transferring from the leaf to your car’s paint surface. But it isn’t just some color that makes the journey. The organic compounds within a fallen leaf can damage your car’s paint and clear coat, and it only takes an afternoon in the hot sun for it to happen.

How to get leaf marks off your car

So that leaves the question of how to remove the leaf marks from your car. If you get to them quickly, it may be as simple as a car wash to take care of your car’s paint. But on a sunny or warm day, it takes just a few hours for fallen leaves to ruin your car’s clear coat.

At that point, removing leaf marks from your car means some polishing, though it can be done by hand if you have the skills. However, the quickest and safest option is to get out that polisher and buff away the damage. Getting leaf marks off your car isn’t exactly critical, but if you want to keep your car looking good, you won’t want to leave them behind.

Fall leaves can clog drains and cause water damage in your car

Even if you don’t care about your car’s finish, letting leaves fall on your car causes myriad other problems as well. Those leaves get stuck in the creases in your doors, hood, and trunk, but it’s more than just an aesthetic problem.

Fallen leaves can plug up the drains in those panel gaps. When this happens, rain and car wash water can’t properly drain away from your car’s interior. In critical cases, it can back up enough to flood your interior.

Under the hood, that means water entering the footwell and soaking the floor mats. It can even work its way into the center stack and affect electrical components. This interior flooding can also cause mold and rust, rendering an otherwise clean car a write-off, as both problems are expensive and difficult to remedy.

Dry leaves can cause car fires

It’s not just leaves on your car that can cause problems. Dry leaves can damage your car in other ways as well. Parking over dry leaves can lead to car fires, as the heat from your engine can be enough to ignite them. Those crunchy leaves are satisfying to step on, but that same dryness makes them easy to catch fire.

While driving, you’re typically moving quickly enough to stop any ignition from happening. But if you’re parking on a lawn full of dry leaves, a car fire is a distinct possibility. Similar to parking on dry grass,  

Driving on fallen leaves can cause crashes

Car driving on a wet road in fall
A Volvo drives down a wet fall road | Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Going for a nice drive is one of the best parts of fall. But all it takes is a little rain to turn that joyride into an expensive repair. Fallen leaves on the road can be incredibly slippery when wet. And if you’ve ever slipped on a fall-covered sidewalk, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The same thing can happen on the road, and it doesn’t take much for slippery leaves to send your car careening off the asphalt. And even if the rest of the road is dry, layers of leaves can trap moisture and remain slippery even hours after the rain stops.

Fall leaves are beautiful to look at, but terrible for your car

Fall is a paradox for car enthusiasts. It’s boost season, the air is perfect for your convertible, and there are plenty of scenic drives in the northern two-thirds of America. But those falling leaves can also damage our cars in a number of unfortunate ways. So, enjoy your drive, but keep in mind how to take care of your car before, during, and after your fall road trips.

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