How to Protect your Car from Hail if You Don't Have a Garage

The damage that a severe hailstorm can do to our car is really significant and ranges from denting the bodywork to destroying the rear and front windscreen.

Large hail

By now we have all noticed: extreme weather phenomena are becoming more and more frequent, the energy that accumulates in the atmosphere can turn into cloudbursts, tornadoes and violent hailstorms.

The latter are among the most frequent, unfortunately, causing extensive damage to unfortunate motorists who may have invested a lot of savings in buying a new car.

Hail is the joy of body shops and the misfortune of car owners. In both cases, it is millions of dollars circulating, every year, out of the pockets of some and into the pockets of others.

If you own a car, therefore, you need to put into account the possibility that a violent hailstorm could seriously damage your car and then provide, to the extent possible, to protect your investment.

In some extreme cases it can rain hailstones as large as walnuts or, even, as large as eggs! During these hail storms, not only the safety of the car is at risk, but also the safety of people.

Such ice conglomerates can destroy the car but also go so far as to kill a human being who should, unfortunately, find himself exposed to the phenomenon.

hail damage to the car

What to put on the car in case of hail?

The simplest answer to this question might be: anything.

Anything that can form a barrier between the car and the hail can be useful in limiting the damage but, as we shall see, certain impromptu solutions can be useless or even harmful under certain circumstances.

It goes without saying that the heavier and stiffer the barrier, the less damage there will be, but this clashes with the difficult practicality of the solution.

Putting a thick plywood panel over the car roof will certainly preserve the bodywork, but then where do you store such a panel, how do you hoist it over the roof, how do you secure it?

That's why the most practical solutions are those that are lighter and foldable even if they suffer from a protection deficit, precisely because they are thinner and less rigid.

Before we look at some of them, a necessary premise: It is said that trouble never comes alone, and this, very often, can also apply to hail.

Why do I say this? Because hail phenomena are often accompanied by wind gusts, which can also be very intense.

These must also (perhaps especially) be taken into account when choosing hail protection.

In the absence of wind everything would be easier but when the gusts are intense here is where most of the protection is likely to fly away.

With what consequences? First, hail protection for your car is lost, and secondly, these materials can take flight to fall even meters away, perhaps damaging other cars or injuring passersby.

1. Check the weather.

Hail phenomena are difficult to predict and, for the most part, are highly localized.

However, weather warnings are issued when conditions exist that are suitable for hail to form, and while we do not know exactly where or when, we can be reasonably certain that the phenomenon will happen, so we should be prepared.

Being prepared means having something in the trunk (we will see what) with which to protect the windscreens and bodywork.

2. Look for the nearest covered place

It may seem trivial, but the best way to save yourself from hail is to avoid it.

To do this it may be helpful to reach the covered parking lot of some supermarket, if it is on our route, and wait for the sky to clear.

If the hail is carried by gusts of wind, we try to pull the car over to a building that covers the side from which the wind is blowing (and the hail is falling).

PS: Speeding to get to a sheltered place can prove counterproductive! The faster we go, the more the hailstones turn into actual projectiles hurled at the bodywork, with the easily predictable consequences.

If we are on the road and a hailstorm strikes, however, we may not have time to reach a covered place and be tempted to take refuge under the first tree we see in our path.

Beware: this may prove to be a risky choice because in the face of a heavy hailstorm even tree branches may break off and end up on top of our car. Especially when hail is accompanied by strong winds and lightning, placing the car under a tree can be a big risk.

3. Plywood panel

If our car is equipped with a roof rack here is where a plywood panel, even one only 5 mm thick, can offer some protection, certainly for the sunroof and to a good extent also for the front and rear windscreen.

There is one catch, however. As I mentioned above, the panel must be carefully secured to prevent a gust of wind from moving it or blowing it away.

Secondly, the rear and front door glasses, as well as the car hood, are at risk of being exposed to hail, all the more so if it will not fall perpendicularly but obliquely, dragged along by gusts of wind.

4. Pieces of cardboard

The thicker the cardboard, the more rigid it is, but the more rigid it is, the more difficult it is to fix it on the curved surface of the body.

In addition to being difficult to anchor, cardboard, like paper, tends to get soaked with water after a short time, reducing its effectiveness even more.

In short, cardboard is not a good solution and is also cumbersome to keep in the trunk. After the hailstorm is over, then, we risk having smashed pieces of cardboard that we certainly cannot leave on the street.

5. Use car mats.

When it comes to saving the day, a good solution may be to use car mats, at least to protect the windscreen.

If you use rubber mat covers even better: you'll be able to protect almost an extra square foot.

The mats should be placed with the fabric part toward the body and the non-slip rubber part toward the outside.

They are generally heavier than any cardboard and therefore move less even in windy conditions, as well as being reusable and always available, since they are always on the car.

6. Blankets and towels

This is a solution that can work when we are at home and our house does not have a garage.

Blankets and towels also run the risk of being blown away by the wind but, at least the blankets that are larger, have the advantage of adhering well to the car and, once wet they also become decidedly heavy and less prone to being lifted by the wind.

Of course, once the hailstorm is over you have to see what condition they are in, you will certainly need to take them to the dry cleaners and pay for the washing. In short, if there is nothing better that's fine but otherwise....

PS: Blanket flaps should be secured by the rear and front door glass when you do not have rubber bands or strings of any kind. Never anchor the blankets with stones or other heavy objects because the wind could still blow the blankets away and drag stones and bricks onto the bodywork, causing additional damage than hail.

7. Hail sheeting for the car.

Okay, let's now come to less impromptu and more "professional" solutions such as car hail sheets.

If we own a hail sheet, it means that we are forward-thinking people and have calculated the risk of hail and the damage it might cause to the bodywork.

There are many kinds of tarps, and unfortunately, the bulkier and bulkier ones are also the most efficient.

This is for obvious reasons: the thicker the tarp, the more it protects from hail, but thickness also brings with it the inevitable bulk.

Hard to think of carrying a hail-sheeting tarp with you in the trunk all the time-it may be a solution for when we are at home, but even storing the tarp at home is not always easy when we don't have a garage.

And if we had a garage we would probably use it to park the car there and not already to store the tarp there.

In short, thin, foldable tarps, such that they can be carried in the trunk only work as rain or sun protection, but little can do against hail.

8. Inflatable car cover

We now come to what is the most innovative and effective solution to counter hail damage: inflatable car cover.

These covers are quite bulky because they have to cover the whole car almost to the base of the wheels, but they are relatively thin and can be folded into a fairly small space, such, in short, that they can even be carried in the trunk.

Their great advantage is that they can be inflated, by means of a supplied pump that can be connected to the car's cigar lighter.

When they inflate (it takes only a few minutes to inflate) the car is enveloped and squeezed by the inflatable, and the cushion provided by the air is probably the most effective thing on the market for cushioning the fall of even large hail.

9. Use bubble wrap for hail.

Bubble wrap is nothing more than that plastic film with bubbles that is used to protect objects from impacts.

In this sense it can prove effective for small hail damage.

Bubble wrap has the advantage of being light, bulky but not excessively so (depends very much on the size of the bubbles) recyclable, and impermeable to water.

The disadvantage, like and more than the other systems, is precisely that its lightness risks making it fly away even in a light breeze if it is not properly secured with strings.

PS: A note about securing bubble wrap but valid for other systems as well: do not use duct tape. The stronger the tape, the more it is likely to damage the car's paint when you remove it.

10. Good insurance coverage

Insuring the car for damage caused by hail is the best solution, in retrospect.

By "in retrospect," I mean that insurance will not save us the damage but (hopefully) will allow us not to sell out by paying out of pocket for the cost of the body shop.

As the saying goes, however, "prevention is better than cure," and if you have the opportunity, also invest in creating an exterior cover, if not an actual garage, and in buying a good quality hail sheet.