We’re blessed to live in a country with so much sunshine and if you’re like me, you’ll feel even more blessed when you see the thunderstorms that change the landscape of our surroundings - it’s simply beautiful!
We also live in a part of the world where the UV exposure is much higher. So we have some issues to consider when investing in any shade.
Why is a quality car shade important?
When we invest in a car we want to make sure we keep it in good condition for as long as possible to keep the resale value up. This means protecting the internal as well as the exterior.
With our strong sun, high UV exposure and heart-stopping thunderstorms, our cars go through quite some stress on the exterior!
We want to protect it from all these elements but more often than not we don’t have the luxury of a garage to park it in.
When we leave it out in the sun, it’s always too hot to just start and go - we have to wait for the hot air to move out. When we leave it in the rain, it gets covered in leaves or dirt which need to be cleaned off. And when the UV rays hit the interior, the upholstery comes apart so soon and we can’t figure out why!
And then we’re inherently lazy so we want to find a solution which doesn’t need us to do any extra work every day. And if the solution deals with more than just one problem it’s like we’re getting two for the price of one.
Say your children want to play outside when they come back home from school but it’s too hot at that time, or it’s raining? Perhaps we can protect the car and the children’s play area in one go?
What should you consider when looking for a suitable car shade?
You could choose to protect the area from the sun, meaning you’re allowing the rain to come through. If you allow rain to come through then you’re also allowing some UV to come through. This is the most common solution Kenyans are going for - because it’s cheap and widely available now.
The fabric that is draped over and then glued to the steel frame is agricultural shadenet - typically used by farmers around the world to keep birds off their crops.
It’s designed to last not much more than 3 years and even less if the colour is anything close to red. It’s also not easy to clean - a bit like when you butter the bread that has many holes in it!
You could choose to protect the area from the rain, and thereby either allow the sun to come through or not at all.
If you want to allow the sun to come through then you’ve got two options - “waterproof agricultural shadenet” or clear PVC (plastic) fabric.
If you want to make agricultural shadenet waterproof, you simply paste a sheet of thin polythene onto the shadenet. Expect the cheapest polythene to disintegrate within 12 months!
Clear PVC fabric will allow all the sun and UV to come through but keep out all the leaves and rain. The downside of clear PVC is that it isn’t structured or held together by a base fabric so it will “creep” - flow like a liquid very slowly! If you put it at an angle or drape it over a frame, it will get thinner at the highest points as it creeps towards the bottom until eventually it splits.
And then of course you could choose to protect the area from sun, rain and the UV rays. This option opens you up to a myriad of fabric choices including semi-transparent or opaque PVC fabric, PU coated canvas or fabrics processed to include acrylics.
The non-transparent PVC is stronger than clear PVC and does not suffer from creep because it has a base fabric to support itself.
The PU coated canvas is similar to the non-transparent PVC with better thermal properties - it will be much cooler underneath in comparison to PVC under the scorching sun.
On the more expensive scale are the fabrics that are vaguely known as acrylic canvas. They’re typically used for outdoor furniture like cushion covers but are equally suitable for car shades.
2. Frame Design
Now that you’ve chosen your fabric, you need to consider the frame design.
Where you’re going to allow the rain to come through (using agricultural shadenet) you can have something flat since there’s no real need to have water run-off.
Where you’re going to stop the rain, your frame has to accommodate the fabric to incorporate slope(s) or curvature to allow the water to run off.
The weight of the fabric will also influence the strength of the steel you need to use so don’t rush to get a frame made and then decide on the fabric later - they go hand in hand.
There are only a handful of fabricators that have the engineering know-how and the technology to make shades using acrylic fabrics and PU coated canvas. The market is flooded with all qualities of PVC fabrics so check what manufacturer warranties are available and what the UV treatment of your chosen fabric is. Again the technology to join PVC fabric isn’t available to all fabricators and PU coated canvas has to be sewn using synthetic threads not available locally.
Your car deserves a good home! Think wisely. And your kids will thank you for the sheltered play area too :-)