Writing ‘clean me’ on dirty cars could land you £2,500 fine

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Did you know that if you write “Clean me” or “Wash me”’ on someone else’s dirty car this winter, you could be prosecuted for criminal damage?

Winter is a time when it gets tougher and tougher to keep your vehicle free from muck – whether it be sludge from melted snow and ice or muck from constant rain. However, you should resist the urge to write on any dirty vehicles. That’s because in the eyes of car obsessives you could end up scratching the paint and causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage. 

If you do, the owner could pursue a charge of criminal damage. The warning comes from Graham Conway, managing director at Select Car Leasing, who says that while the perpetrator might find it funny, the vehicle’s owner could feel very differently.

He said: “Some motorists will go to great lengths to protect their paintwork. There’s a whole ‘car detailing’ scene in the UK where enthusiasts swap advice on how to clean, polish and protect the paint on their pride of joy.

“And if you were to write ‘Clean me’ on a vehicle owned by someone who really looks after their car, you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. The issue is that swirling your finger through the mud on a car can actually scratch the paintwork.

“You can catch dirt and grit underneath your fingertip, which then acts as an abrasive as you write, potentially removing the top layer of ‘clear coat’ lacquer that sits on top of the paint.

“If you applied enough pressure while daubing a message, you might even leave the ‘ghost’ of a word on the paint, which is visible even after the owner washes the car.

“All in all, your friendly ‘banter’ could go awfully wrong if the vehicle’s owner decides to report the incident to police.”

If the police do step in to intervene, they could haul you before magistrates to recover the cost of repairs. If the “criminal act of vandalism” is valued at less than £5,000, then a fine of up to £2,500 can be granted.

The respray of a single car panel can cost around £500. The same also applies if you leave an offensive message written in the dirt on someone’s car – criticising their parking, for example.

Such messages could, in theory, be seen as defamatory if the message is accusatory in tone, causing an individual, or a business, reputational damage. Select Car Leasing’s Mr Conway added: “If someone has parked like an idiot don’t call them out on it in public, however tempting that might be.

“You don’t know if there are any extenuating circumstances for the person’s behaviour and there’s no reason to get involved in what could be an aggressive altercation, particularly if someone is going to then accuse you of damaging their paintwork.”

When it comes to cleaning your car, winter is the time to stay on top of your wash and rinsing regime.

The salt spread on the roads to combat snow and ice can leave a corrosive coat of iron oxide that forms on iron or steel, particularly when the metal is wet.

And unless you’re cleaning your car at least once per week – including on the underside of the vehicle – it could lead to long term damage.

Mr Conway added: “The vast majority of motorists understand that they need to clean their cars more often through winter in order to combat the effects of road salt.

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