Some folk love to wash their cars, and others dread it. The following tips will absolutely make the experience as streamlined as possible, and your results will be better than you could have imagined.
1. Choose your products wisely. Car cleaning products, albeit being some marketing and hype, are specifically designed to perform best on your auto. Car wash soap won’t strip the waxes off your paint like dishwashing detergent will. So, do a little research and find products that match your car, new or old, and your styling of cleaning, thorough or fast.
2. Choose your tools even more wisely. Have a dedicated set of car washing tools in a bucket of their own, and don’t use them on lawn furniture and kids toys. You wouldn’t dig a hole with your kitchen spoon… we hope. It has become wide practice to use a pressure washer for the initial debris removal on your car, just like the ones at the DIY car washes. JUST BE CAREFUL. Home pressure washers can have a lot more ‘pressure’ and if you get too close, you could lift paint, decals, or even trim parts right off your vehicle. Best to use the 40-degree wide nozzle, no matter how tempted you are to us the jet nozzle to get tar off your bumper.
3. Clean the interior first. There is so much dirt and dust inside your car, that if you clean the interior afterwards, you’ll inevitably get stuff all over your newly washed car. Additionally, pull your car mats out and wash them before the car. That will give them a chance to dry as you tackle the rest of the car.
4. Wash your car in the shade. Direct sun can dry products on your car while you’re working. And water droplets filled with detergent can act as mini-magnifying glasses, etching your paint while you work.
5. Keep your cleaners separated. Use multiple buckets; one for the roof and upper body, one for the lower body and trim parts, and a third for the wheels. Ideally each bucket will have a different combination of cleaners, starting with the most gentle for the body bucket. For the lower panels and trim, hand apply bug-remover with a bug-remover sponge and dip/rinse it in the second bucket only. For the wheels and tires, apply brake-dust remover and tire-cleaner with their appropriate brushes, and work the products in the last bucket. You’ll get more work done faster, with better results, and less frustration.
6. Pre-Soak. Always, always wet your car down before applying cleaning products.
7. THIS TIP IS CONTRARY TO EVERY OTHER TIP WE’VE FOUND ONLINE: We recommend you wash your car from the bottom up, not the top down, as most suggest. While gravity helps soap run down your car, we feel getting the dirtiest parts cleaned first allows more soap and rinse water to flow over those areas later, adding to your results. That being said, wash your wheels and tires first. Then apply bug and tar remover to your front grille, bumper, and lower panels. Once all of that is done, go ahead and wash from the top down.
8. Don’t wash in circles! Wash in straight strokes. Since washing your car is a very mild form of sanding the paint, if you stay with the lines and curves, you’ll introduce less micro-scratches that will catch the sun’s rays and display “spider lines”. (It’s okay to apply wax in a circular motion.)
9. Rinse thoroughly. Rinse everything, including the gas-cap cavity, door jambs, wheel-wells, and hood and trunk channels.
10. Save your drying cloth! Suck up excess remaining water in crevices with a clean shop towel. We prefer the blue (disposable) paper shop towels. As you might already know after wiping your cleaned windshield wipers, wiping down the insides of the doors, hood, and trunk, will always reveal hidden dirt. Better to collect it on a disposable paper towel, than your nice drying cloth.
11. Dry your car in two-stages. First with a leaf-blower or compressor, and then with a microfiber towel. Just like the automated carwashes, forced air removes water extremely well. Using a leaf blower can reduce the amount of wringing out your drying cloth considerably. And when you’re ready to do that final wipe down, use a lint-free microfiber towel instead of a chamois. Traditionally a chamois was used to absorb the water left on your car, but they don’t pull off residual grime. Microfiber cloths are extremely absorbent, as well as able to trap particles remaining on your paint. And, they don’t leave any of their own lint behind.
12. Rubbing compound is your friend. Though you might not consider “rubbing out” minor scratches as part of the car wash process, it’s a great practice before applying wax. And, assuming you do a great job washing your car, you’ll want to finish the job right.
Next week, we’ll talk about the best wax or polymer for your car’s finish and how to apply it like a champ.
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