Do Car Covers Cause Rust?

There is a lot of reluctance by some car owners in using a car cover for their car as they are unsure whether the car cover causes more harm than the benefits ascribed to it. One of the issues raised in association with a car cover is whether it causes rust or not. This is the primary issue addressed here in this article.

So, can car cover cause rust? Ironically, car covers that are meant to protect both the car’s exterior and interior tend to cause rust in the car. However, this is not a common finding except when the car cover is of questionable quality and when used inappropriately.

car covers play a good number of roles in a car’s protection, but there is no evidence of them directly preventing the rust in the car.

They however protect the car’s paintwork especially from scratches caused by a passerby, tree branches, and other outdoor and indoor elements. By so doing they indirectly prevent rust in the car as the car’s paint is its primary protection against rust.

unfortunately, there are to show that car covers do cause the car to rust. To understand how this happens, it is helpful to take a look at the science of rust formation to understand the role of a car cover in all of these.

How do car covers cause rust?

The first question that deserves an answer is what is rust and how is it formed. The basic science behind the formation of rust is the exposure of metal to moisture in the presence of air or oxygen in particular.

The metal undergoes a chemical reaction known as oxidation leading to its corrosion. The rust can thus eat through the metal and deep into it.

In the case of a car, mare exposure of the car’s metal to air and moisture may not be enough to cause rusting or corrosion, rather the additional presence of contaminants such as salt, debris, dirt, pollen, and others is why the metal undergo corrosion and begin to rot. 

Rusting is prevented in a car primarily by painting the car. The paint prevents direct contact between the car’s metal, moisture, and air.

Without these three elements coming together, rust formation is impossible. This explains why a scratch that goes deep enough to expose the metal housing of the car will lead to the development of rust.

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How to prevent rust in a car

Although car covers are an age-long practice. Before this time, car owners who wished to take extra care of their cars covered them up with different types of materials ranging from plastics and cloth fabric to keep the car protected from environmental elements such as debris, dust, dirt, droppings from birds amongst others.

Nowadays, there are different styles, types, and designs of car covers. They are made from varying construction materials and are of different types and made for different usage.

Some of designed for indoor use can only protect the car from indoor elements such as dust. They are made from materials such as satins which may not be suited to protect against the sun’s UV rays.

The outdoor types are made from more durable construction material such as polyesters, which allows them to protect against outdoor elements when the car is parked outside a garage such as scratches and rain and snow.

 all the types of cars covers, non is designed purposely to prevent rust in a car, therefore, buying a car for this purpose may not be of much help.

What is most important when it comes to car covers and rust is to not the quality of car cover you use for your car and to use car covers appropriately. This in summary is how to prevent car covers from causing rust in your car.

So, what quality of car cover should be avoided? Cheap car covers may save you some money, however, in the long run, they are more likely to cost you more as they are known to cause the car more harm than good.

Car covers with waterproof properties are not ideal for cars, this is because they tend to trap moisture underneath. The trapped moisture brings about rusting especially if the paint has a deep crack and there is the presence of some contaminants such as debris.

Whenever such cover is placed over a car while it is raining, it tends to collect water on the car’s top, if left for a significant period, this could lead to rust formation later on. The ideal car cover is that which is breathable, which does not “trapped moisture”, but rather allows evaporation.

In terms of the wrong usage, the commonest inappropriate practice when it comes to using a car cover that can lead to rust formation is using the car cover while the car is wet or while the car cover itself is wet.

Remember, water or moisture is at the centre of rust formation, therefore, whenever a wet car is covered up or a wet cover is used to cover the car, this creates the right atmosphere for rust to form on the exposed metallic parts of the car.

To prevent this, ensure the car is dried up before covering it with a car cover. This can be achieved by either allowing the car to stay uncovered for some time or drying it up using a microfiber towel. This is soft enough not to leave any fur or scratch on the paint.

Ironically, some car covers have been implicated in creating scratches in the car’s paint. This results from metallic fittings in the car cover.

When the cover does not fit the car perfectly which is the case most of the time except where the car cover is custom made for that particular car.

When using a generic car cover which as designed with the principle of “one size fits all” the cover depends on its stretchy nature to fit the car, a non-fitting cover flaps around especially whenever the wind blows, this causes any metallic fitting in the cover to scratch on the car’s paint.

A scratch deep enough to expose the underlying metal can cause rust later on. So, car owners looking to buy a car cover for their cars should either go for the customer-made type that will fit their type of car perfectly well or buy straps alongside to help secure the car cover.

Advantages of using a car cover

There are many advantages to using a car cover for your car. This explains why irrespective of the negative reviews on car covers and the myth around their use, they continue to have patronesses.

The primary function of any car cover is the protection of the car from environmental elements such as rain, snow, hail, falling nuts, and fruits, droppings from birds, scratches from tree branches, and passerby.

Car covers also reduce how many times you have to wash your car. Whenever the car is parked, debris and dust in the air come to settle on the car.

This is worse in environments with lots of environmental air pollutants. However, when the car is covered, upon removal of the cover, the car appears as neat as it was when it was parked earlier.

Car covers keep the car’s paint as well as it’s interior protected/ shielded from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. the paint, therefore, does not fade easily nor does the interior suffer from cracks and deterioration. They are inexpensive and can be stored easily when removed.

When cars are covered up, their alluring design and make are kept hidden from intending criminals. Therefore, although the car cover cannot physically protect the car from thieves as it has no security feature such as a lock system, it keeps the car out of sight of thieves and therefore out of their minds.

Breathable car covers keep the car’s paint dry and free from moisture, this reduces the chances of rust and other moisture-induced effects such as moulds and mouldy smell.

Disadvantages of using a car cover

Car covers are not completely free of drawbacks, however, in the grand scheme of things, their advantages outweigh their disadvantage.

One of the limitations of car covers is that they can be easily stolen, unlike garage, carports, or canopies, car covers can be easily removed and taken away by a thieve.

Although they are much more affordable than other methods of protecting the car, some car covers may cost up to $200, constituting a considerable loss when stolen.

Car covers sometimes do not fit properly especially when it comes to getting the side mirror to fit into the cover, some cheap types may trap moisture or scratch the car’s paint, any of these can lead to rusting of the car’s metallic parts.

Is a car cover worth it?

Although there is a lot of debate about this, car covers are worth spending on and are a good investment especially when you live in cities with rainy or humid weather conditions or those with a sunny atmosphere.

Some towns and cities have scarce garages making car covers essential. They can be used to cover up the car even during office hours. Rather than faulting car covers generally, fix the scratches in your car’s paint, get the best quality car covers and ensure it fits perfectly well.


So, depending on the quality of the car cover and usage, car covers can be become a cause of rust in your car and may devalue the car or cause you to spend on repairs and repainting. The key is to get the right type of car cover and to make use of it appropriately.

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