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How to protect your car in a desert climate

Sporty black car on a road in the middle of a desert full of dry, brown shrubs.

(Photo: Flickr/Rennett Stowe)

How to protect your car in a desert climate

June 05, 2013

Q: I'm moving from Florida to Las Vegas. Because of the heat and desert, what special care do cars require there?

A: Depending on where you lived in Florida, the desert air is very different and can be brutal on paint and interior surfaces. (I lived in Phoenix for 10 years.)

Must-haves for the desert are the darkest tint allowable by law on all side & rear windows; not only does this shade and keep the interior cooler while sitting, your air conditioning doesn't need to work as hard while running. Also get a full coverage windshield shade/screen for when your car is parked outside; they make a world of difference.

As far as the exterior of your car, you need to keep a resilient coat of wax on the car to help reduce paint fade and clearcoat degradation, I washed weekly and waxed monthly on a silver car. If I was driving a black or dark vehicle, I'd wax every other week.

Also avoid using silicone-based products on your tires and dash, like Armour All; silicone dries out and destroys rubber, vinyl, and plastic. Because of the heat of the road surfaces, your tires need all the strength they have; sidewall blowouts are very common on the highways out there.

I have been detailing cars for over 15 years all over the country, and I found the desert to be pretty harsh. Less tree sap and fewer bugs, but definitely a paint and interior destroyer.

As far as mechanicals are concerned, keeping everything in tip-top shape is key as in any environment, but your cooling system gets tested out there in the summer. Make sure you have quality antifreeze/coolant in your system and that there are no leaks. If your water pump is recommended for change, heed that advice. Use quality fuel, change you air filter regularly, keep your tire pressures up to spec, and make sure your air-conditioning system is in perfect working order.

Keeping your vehicle in a good state of tune will eliminate headaches and keep you worry-free. The manufacturers all have their proving grounds out in the desert for a reason, because things get really tested in that environment.

-- Answer from Brian V., automotive technician on JustAnswer.

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