We get a lot of people asking about “hail blankets,” or “hail blankets reviews,” usually because they want to find a low-cost way to protect their cars or because a storm is approaching and it’s an emergency.
Do these blankets exist? They do, but they are almost always DIY projects. Do blankets offer protection against hailstones? Any extra layer of protection will of course help, but they’re unlikely to stop larger hailstones.
Your only sure bets are inflatable hail protection systems or parking indoors.
Blankets can protect in a pinch but should NOT BE your primary hail protection strategy, especially if you live in “Hail Alley” or other similarly high risk states. Using blankets, even as an emergency measure, has three main challenges:
- Blankets must be thick enough to prevents dents and dings
- Many blankets, even seemingly soft ones, can be abrasive and scratch a car’s outer clear coat
- Fit is an issue, especially in windy and stormy conditions.
Let’s dive into these a bit more.
A Quick Review of Hailstorms
Hailstorms are primarily an issue in the Midwest and Southeast. States that usually suffer the most hail damage are (in descending order):
- South Dakota
As far as time of year, the period from March to June is when the risk of hail damage is the highest, although hailstorms can occur in any month. For a more thorough understanding of hailstorms, check out our recent article.
Challenges When Using Hail Blankets
The internet is full of DIY videos of industrious car enthusiasts and wanna be entrepreneurs using blankets to protect cars. One of the most entertaining is from a group of Aussies who drop marbles off a roof to simulate the effect of hail stones.
How thick would a blanket (or multiple blankets) have to be to provide adequate protection? That obviously depends on the size of the hailstones. Baseball or golfball sized hailstones will probably damage most cars regardless of what type of DIY protection is used. Smaller hail can be mitigated with thicker, padded blankets.
The problem is that is all in hindsight. When a storm hits, it is hard to predict if hailstones will be small or large. If you are relying on hail blankets, peace of mind will always be hard to come by.
The outer clear coat on most newer cars is very thin, usually 35-50 microns (1/1,000 of a millimeter). This makes a sheet of paper look thick by comparison. Clear coat is easily scratched, especially when abrasive materials continually rub against it, which is exactly what happens in storms.
Even seemingly soft blankets can scratch if they are made from the wrong type of materials. Recently, I placed a very soft, 100% polyester blanket on the corner of my hood while cleaning my garage. It was gently moved a couple of times. When I removed it, 4-5 thin scratches were easily visible in the clear coat. Imagine if this blanket had been violently flapping against the paint during a windy storm.
What are the best materials? Flannel cotton is the best followed by microfiber fleece (the material used in car washing mitts) and poly cotton blends. Blankets made out of pure polyester or polypropylene are likely to result in some scratches.
In an emergency, put the softest, least abrasive blanket on the hood and front fenders. Car roofs are less visible so any scratches up there are less of a concern. Heavier, coarse blankets can be added on top of the softer blankets to provide extra padding.
Car covers are designed to fit tightly with side grommets and strap and buckle systems. Blankets are pretty much the opposite. People try everything from closing the hood/doors on the edge of blankets to using weights and tape.
Fit is always going to be a concern when using blankets. Unless secured tightly they can blow off and leave your car unprotected.
Also, they can flap in the wind and if even slightly abrasive, as discussed above, can damage car paint. This is one of the main reasons we do not recommend blankets as a primary hail protection strategy.
So, if anyone asks you about hail blankets, hail blankets reviews, or any such topic, tell them to use blankets only in emergencies. Also, warn them about the risks we outlined above. If hailstorms are a real concern where you live, the best strategies are: (1) find a place to park indoors, or (2) use an inflatable hail protection system designed to withstand even large hail.
Saving money by using blankets you have on hand, can end up costing more in the long run. With average out of pocket costs to repair hail damage ranging between $2,500 to $3,500, depending on where you live, having a proper hail protection strategy is worth it. Do you and your car a favor!