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Car Life in a Garage Versus in the Elements

Car garages are the ideal place to park your vehicle when it's not in use. Not only will the structure protect your car from the elements, but it is also a layer of defense against theft. A car parked on the street may seem like an easy target, but one parked in a properly secured garage will make most thieves think twice. A snatch-and-grab thief, one more interested in the contents of the car than the car itself, won't bother trying to break into a garage to see what is in your car when there are easier targets around. This is one reason why many insurance companies give lower premiums to those able to park their car in a garage.

Aside from protection from thieves, car garages protect your car from the elements. Even in places without seasonal weather extremes, constant exposure to sun, rain, and wind will slowly take their toll on your vehicle both inside and out. There are five major climate zones, and each zone has its own challenges for car owners, even if you don't use your car regularly. For instance, sea breezes feel great on a hot afternoon, but living in a coastal environment can mean major problems for your vehicle. Marine zones tend to stay cooler in summer and warmer in the winter than inland, but moist sea air contains salt and sand. Salt is corrosive and helps promote rust, while sand can create tiny chips in the paint, exposing the car body. Keeping your car in a full garage limits the amount of salt and sand your vehicle is exposed to when not in use.

Beach living isn't the only possible danger for car owners. Leaving your car sitting in the sun during the hot summer months can make the interior feel like an oven. Unfortunately, scorched legs aren't the only problem that comes from leaving your car in the sun. Exposure to sunlight, even in winter months, means exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UV exposure leeches the color from your car's paint job over time, and the damage isn't limited to the exterior: Dashboards and seats are also damaged by UV rays and can fade and crack with continuous exposure. While regular waxes and conditioning can slow down the process, keeping your car in a nice, shady garage when not in use is one way to keep it looking new.

Desert environments bring the worst effects of coastal and hot living. Wind-blown sand can scratch away at your car's paint, while high temperatures and intense sunlight work together to dry out upholstery. In deserts with extreme changes in temperature, car owners also have to fight cold-weather problems like freezing fluids. Colder climates pose plenty of problems, too. If you live in a place where road salt is used to combat ice, that's another threat. Road salt is just as corrosive as sea salt and is just as harmful to your car. And exposure to fluctuating temperatures can contribute to mechanical failures and speed general wear and tear on your vehicle, too. A garage, even an uninsulated one, gives some protection from extreme temperature changes.

While car garages are the ideal place to keep your vehicle, not everyone has access to one. For those of us without access to a garage, there are many ways to protect your car from the elements. Car tents are collapsible, temporary shelters you can set up around your parked vehicle. Most shelters are waterproof and protect your car from harmful UV rays. A permanent solution to a lack of garage is a carport. Made of metal or wood, these structures can be built to fit almost anywhere. Some carports are simply a roof designed to keep the car dry and out of the sun, while others are fully enclosed. Unlike tent shelters, carports must be built to code. If space is a major concern, another option is a car cover. Like a car tent, these covers can be treated to be waterproof and UV-resistant, but instead of being a raised shelter, they fit closely on the car itself and are made for the dimensions of your vehicle. Because they completely cover the car, they are an excellent way to protect your vehicle from the elements when a solid structure is not possible.

So which of these shelters will work best for you? Car tents can work in almost any climate zone but do not protect from extreme temperatures. Heavy snows can make removing a car cover problematic. In moist or humid zones, an open carport can help prevent the buildup of mold by allowing air to flow freely around your car, but they do not protect against debris such as sand and salt. Determine your climate zone, budget, and other considerations when deciding which solution is right for you.

If you'd like to know more about how to keep your car looking and running great despite the weather, the following resources offer a wealth of advice:

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