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The finish materials (e.g., lacquer) that makes up a guitar expands and contracts with temperature and humidity changes and these changes occur at different rates.
For example, wood expands as it warms and does so faster then the finish over the wood. When expansion occurs the finish will stretch slightly, but when it cannot stretch anymore the finish will crack or develop finish cracks over the wood.
Finish cracks or checking usally occurs in winter and happens when bringing an instrument inside from the cold. Thus its best to let an instrument acclimate to a new temperature in its case before you open the case. Conversely, coming from a hot environment to an A/C environment can also impact an instrument finish.
Avoid exposing an instrument to sudden temperature or humidty changes will minimize finish checking; however, as an instrument ages wood will shrink over time. Lacquer can then settle into the wood grain and undergo changes.
Lacquer is also reactive to chemical contact such as silicone guitar polishes. Also guitar straps, stands, or wall hangers made from vinyl, plastic, synthetic, or surgical rubber tubing will react with lacquer and can mar the finish.
Finally, smoke, sweat, grease and grime will contribute to finish aging, discoloration, and wear down the finish. Keeping your instrument clean will add years of life to a lacquer finish.
At the end of the day, finish checking, shrinkage, discoloration, and wear are all a natural part of the aging of a lacquer finish.