I have a friend practically lives out of his car. When you see the inside of it you have no choice but to think that it’s his home. Inside you will find a shirt for every occasion leisurely hung over one seat, while pairs of shoes and other personal items are strewn all over the rest of the seats and floor.
Sadly, we also easily recognize his car by its uncared for exterior appearance. The car looks like it has never been through a car wash and is packed with dust and grime.
Trust me, no one would want to be like this friend of mine. You feel good when you are driving your car around town and you know it’s shining and shimmering with all the right sparks. Even an older car that is well taken care of, cleaned and shined can become a steal the show.
Are you ready to have that sense of pride as you drive your car around? This article will help you learn how to use simple practical steps to properly wash your car, while avoiding common cleaning mistakes, to give your car that “new car fresh off the lot” appearance.
Steps to Follow
Focus on the wheels and tires first. The first areas to focus on when cleaning your car are the wheels and tires. These are the grimiest and dirtiest parts of your car. This process will splash extra dirt and mud onto the body of your car, but it’s easier to this off later tires since you’ll be cleaning the body of the car later on in the process.
You will want to use a separate cleaner when cleaning your wheels. A water-based solution that has no corrosive chemicals are safe for both coated wheels and rubber wheels. The dirt that has accumulated on the tires of your car does not tend to be easily removed. You may need to use a wheel brush to clean the wheels without scratching.
Finish each wheel and tire first before moving on to the next pair. Once you have cleaned the wheels you will need to either wash the materials that you were using on the tires or have new material to use on the body of the car as to not scratch the paint.
Do an initial rinse. Make sure that all windows are closed and the antenna is drawn back. Begin washing the body of your car with a complete rinse, this will make it easier to remove any loose debris on the car. Remember the cleaning phrase “start at the top and work your way down” and start washing from the upper portion leaving the lower portions of the car as the last areas to clean.
Follow the two bucket system. You will want to use a two-bucket system when washing your car. This simply means you’ll be using at least two separate buckets – one to hold the soap solution and the other to hold clean water for rinsing.
Remember to dip your car wash mitt or sponge in the clean water first to make sure it’s rid from all the dirt and grime before putting it in the soapy solution. Then you can proceed with washing the body of your car. Repeat this procedure as frequently as you need to keep your mitt or sponge clean and don’t forget to change your water in your clean water bucket frequently.
Make sure to read the instructions on the bottle of cleaning solution that you use to create the perfect balance of soapy water. Adding in extra soap does not mean your car will get clean easier, follow the directions.
Move the mitt or sponge in a lengthwise motion. Contrary to what most of us are familiar with, you should be washing with your mitt or sponge in horizontal motion instead of with circular movements. The circular motion creates swirl marks on your car’s surface that you don’t want to show up later.
Completely rinse off the car. Avoid using a hard pressure from your water hose while rinsing the car. Use an open flow setting on your water hose or remove the nozzle. It’s better to let the water flow freely or to let it sheet over the car’s surface. This will leave fewer residual droplets, take less time to dry, and have less chance of any water spots forming on your car’s surface.
Dry your car properly. Do not let your car sit to air dry or drive it around the neighborhood to dry it off. Doing this will result in water spots creating marks all over the surface of your car. You should wipe your car to dry it using at least two drying towels – one for absorbing most of the water and the other to remove any residual moisture leftover. It’s important to choose a drying towel that is a high quality material. It is recommended to use a microfiber drying towel or a synthetic chamois towel.
The first parts to focus on drying are the windows and mirrors. Then proceed with wiping the exterior body of the car before wiping the door jambs. Use a separate drying towel solely for drying your car’s wheels and tires.
Apply the final touch. Once your car is completely clean and dry, you may want to apply some car wax to revive the shine and make your car look like brand new again. You can tell when your car can use a fresh coat of wax when you notice that water doesn’t stand up in beads or small pools on your car’s surface. It is also recommended to stay on top of waxing by getting your car waxed every season.
Some Tips to Keep in Mind
Wash your car on a weekly basis. Washing your car should be done on a weekly basis at the very least as there are some contaminants that may cause damage when allowed to remain on your car for too long. The most common contaminants you need to beware of are bio-hazards such as bug remains, bird droppings and brake dust.
Bug remains and bird droppings may look insignificant and appear to be only an eye-sore, but they can do a lot of damage to your car’s clear coat. These contaminants contain complex proteins and organic acids that allow them to stick to the car’s surface, break down the surface, and eat away the car’s clear coat. This leads to corrosion and discoloration of your car.
Brake dust is a highly corrosive and sticky chemical that clings to the lower portion of your car. It is made of metal shavings from the rotors and adhesives from the production of brake pads. Brake dust can cause unsightly long-lasting damage to your car when left for too long.
When not to wash your car. When the sun’s out and it’s an undeniable hot and sunny day it is not the best time for you to wash your car. This will only work to your disadvantage as the heat coming from the sun will create water spots on the car’s surface. It’s best to do wash you car on a cool overcast day.
This also applies to washing your car after it has been driven, when the car’s body is still hot or has been parked under the sun for a while.
Know Your Car Washing Tools
Before getting down to the dirty work, it’s good to get familiar first with the right tools you’ll need to wash your car properly. For the most part, the right way to wash your car really comes down to using the right tools. This is where a lot of car owners go wrong and also one of the reasons why going to a car shop for that much needed car wash is not the best idea. Instead of achieving that clean fresh look, you may end up with those swirly marks on your new car that you just don’t want.
Car Wash Shampoo
Back in the day, a lot of car owners resorted to using dish soap and detergents for washing their cars. It’s a good thing the automotive detailing industry put a stop to this common mistake by making us aware of how these soaps and detergents are not the right choices when it comes to car washing. While these kitchen cleaning agents are effective in washing away kitchen grease and food, they are also just as effective in stripping away our car wax, plastic moldings, and rubber seals over time.
So, set aside that kitchen soap because it’s now advised to use a washing shampoo that’s designed for automotive use. I’d recommend using a liquid wash rather than a powdered car wash detergent since you’ll most likely find solidified crystals from powders in your cleaning solution, which may leave scratches on your car.
Some brands of car wash shampoo include a wax mixture, while others have a gloss enhancing feature. What you’re looking for in a reliable car wash shampoo aside from the gloss enhancing ability are features such as its gentleness, foaming ability, lubricity, pH balance, and concentration.
It’s understandable to want to use generic car wash shampoo since it is often cheaper and sold in bulk at many clearance and discount stores. However, you can also expect to “get what you paid for”. Most of these generic brands do not have the features that are found in high quality car wash shampoos such as efficiently cleaning a car’s surface, enhancing the car’s gloss, protecting the paint and keeping both the car wax and paint sealant intact. Even though high quality car wash shampoos might cost more, they add more value to what you pay.
Car Wash Mitts or Car Wash Sponge
Just as you’re better off not using any of your kitchen cleaning agents when washing your car, it’s also best to avoid using your household rags such as old shirts, shop rags, or beach towels. Using these household rags may only cause scratches or swirl marks on your car. It’s also more difficult to release trapped dirt on these household rags.
It’s advisable to use either a car wash mitt or a car wash sponge as long as you choose the right materials. Some car wash mitts are made of long or short nap microfiber and synthetic or genuine sheepskin. Car wash mitts made of sheepskin are soft, rinse easily, and are great absorber of water and car wash solution.
A car wash sponge made of genuine or natural materials are the softest kind and are also good absorbers of water and car wash solution. They are also gentle to the car’s paint and rinse off easily.
Using a car wash mitt can be advantageous as the thicker ones are used to easily pull away dirt from your paint job until it is rinsed again. Car wash mitts are also less likely to fall on the ground while you’re in the process of cleaning the car, but it is always good to have a spare just in case.
Car Wash Buckets
This one’s very easy. You can either get a four or a five gallon non-fancy plastic bucket to use while washing your car. You just need to keep in mind to avoid using your car wash bucket for anything else other than washing your car. You don’t want any drain oil or other chemical residue to be in the bucket and mix in with your cleaning water.
You may need to use at least two or three car wash buckets for an efficient cleaning. This is because you wouldn’t want the dirt particles which you’ve just removed from the car to get mixed in the clean car wash solution and pick them up again as you wash out your mitt. You want to have one car wash bucket for the car wash solution and another one for holding clean water on which you’ll be rinsing your car wash mitt or sponge.
For additional price you can purchase a bucket system with a dolly. This bucket system comes with a lid so you can keep your car wash shampoo, car wash mitt, and car wash brushes inside the bucket while not in use.
Grit Guard Insert
The grit guard insert is the next thing you should have once you have your buckets. This is a round plastic insert grate that is seated near the bottom of the bucket where four lateral fins raise it a few inches from the bucket’s bottom floor. You need to have one of these for both the washing and rinsing part if you want to get the best results when your washing your car.
A grit guard makes sure the dust particles that are picked up from the car remain on the bottom part of the bucket so you wouldn’t pick them up again whenever you rinse your car wash mitt.
It’s better to use a spray hose when washing your car but you need to pay particular attention to the hose nozzle. Avoid leaky hoses and keep an open flow spray pattern. This open flow spray pattern is especially efficient in rinsing the car as this allows the water to sheet off. Thereby, you have more time to get your car fully rinsed and dried, avoiding any water spots.
It’s just as important not to use any household towels when it comes to drying your car as it is when washing it. You have two choices to choose from for your drying towels. They are synthetic PVA towels and waffle weaves microfiber towels.
If you’ve seen the rubbery towels used by divers and swimmers at the Olympics then you’ve seen what the PVA synthetic chamois towels look like. They are smaller than the microfiber drying towels and have a rubbery texture. They are also great absorbers of water, can be wringed out very easily, and can also last for a good period of time.
On the other hand, waffle weaves microfiber drying towels are generally softer and gentler than the PVA drying towels. For these reasons, they can be a safer and a more effective choice for drying towels. These microfiber drying towels can absorb great amounts of water and can be extremely gentle on the delicate surfaces of the car.
You can also wash these drying towels together with other drying towels of its type to make sure they are completely clean and dirt-free and ready to use again for your next car washing. But just like other products, make sure to choose the high quality microfiber drying towels to ensure optimum performance.
You will most likely want at least two drying towels to dry your car. You’ll use the first drying towel to absorb the most amounts of water while the second drying towel will be used to pick up any remaining residual moisture.
Foam Guns and Foam Cannons
Using a foam gun and foam cannon for your car washing is optional but these are great when you want to remove dirt and grit that are extremely stuck on your car’s paint. Removing this dirt and grit should be done properly as you don’t want to scratch the car paint while doing so.
What the foam guns and foam cannons do is wrap your car in a lather of car wash solution and encapsulate the dirt and grime to avoid scratching the car’s surface while the unwanted particles are being taken off. You attach the foam gun to your hose with a special trigger nozzle while you attach the foam cannon to a pressure washer. You then mix in your car soap solution and spray it on the car and then rinse off after several minutes.
Using the foam guns and foam cannons is especially recommended if you noticed that your car’s paint has a good layer of road dust on it.
|Meguiar’s G55032 Complete Car Care Kit||$$||4.6 / 5|
|Turtle Wax T-3KT Black Box Kit||$||4.2 / 5|
|Griot’s Garage 11131 Starter Car Care Kit||$$||4.5 / 5|
|Nanoskin (AS-021) AutoScrub 6″ Fine Grade Pad Pro Starter Kit||81||4.3 / 5|
|3M 39120 Car Cleaning Kit – 16 oz.||$||4.5 / 5|
|Armor All 78452 National Car Care Kit||$||4.7 / 5|
|Stoner Car Care Complete Car Care and Detailing Kit||$$||4.9 / 5|
|Mothers Hardcore Enthusiast Car Care Kit||$$||4.8 / 5|
|Adam’s Essentials Complete Car Detailing Kit||$$$||5 / 5|
|Duragloss 1049 Car Care Kit||$||5 / 5|
This premium quality car care product offers a complete way to pamper and protect your car. It contains numerous quality products in one affordable package.
- Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo and Conditioner
- Gold Class Liquid Wax
- Quik Detailer
- Quik Interior Detailer
- Clay bars to remove bonded contaminants
- PlastX to remove headlight clouding
- ScratchX 2.0 for all those minor scratches
- Microfiber Wash Mitt
- Supreme Shine Microfiber Towel
- Foam Applicator
- Easy to use
- Has a wide range of products
- The supplied wax is a little on the small side
Overall Meguiar’s G55032 Complete Car Care Kit has everything you need to keep your car looking pristine in one package. The wax might be small, but the individual cost if it is almost the same as the rest of the kit contents, which really shows the value here.
Black colored cars show up minor imperfections like scratches much more than a light colored one. Turtle Wax T-3KT Black Box Kit is designed to help remove and restore your car to it’s former glory.
- Revitalizes color for a lustrious shine
- Excels at removing small chips and dots
- Affordable price
- Messy to use
- Time consuming, manual labor
For black car owners, the Turtle Wax T-3KT Black Box Kit is must have! It really does excel at providing a rich color and getting rid of minor imperfections.
This car care kit not only provides everything you need to care for your car, but it promises to environmentally friendly too! Its biodegradable cars for the planet and your paint!
- Superior quality
- Easy to apply and remove wax
- Gentle, yet effective wheel cleaner
- It doesn’t include useful items like microfiber cloths
The quality components of this kit really make it (and your car) shine! While it may not have everything you need, for someone who is looking to find a better product, Griot’s is an excellent option.
Nanoskin’s product does away with traditional clay bars for detailing and instead uses their proprietary system to provide a quality detail experience.
- Faster than using clay bars
- Smooth as glass shine
- Pads can’t always reach everywhere
This product isn’t for everyone, but for those that want a high quality detailing product, then there isn’t much better out there.
This kit from 3M markets itself as the car cleaning kit for people with little time to spare. It contains all the basics you need to provide care for your car.
- Simple, easy to use, and straightforward
- Quick yet reliable finish
- Pricey for just four items
- Might not be as effective as other kits
If you want to protect your car but don’t have time to mess about with clay and other fiddly bits that go into car detailing then this product is for you. If you spend hours on your car, then try Griot’s Garage Starter Car Care Kit instead.