There are many reasons for detailing a car. Some may subscribe to the thought that “How your car looks on the outside is a reflection of the driver on the inside.” Others are looking to maintain the value of their car. Maybe you just enjoy spending a lazy Saturday afternoon cleaning cars. Professional car cleaning is expensive, so you might prefer to do it at home. No matter why you do it, there are right ways and a definite wrong way to wash your car.
Wash your car at least every other week
Don’t wait until you can’t tell what color your car is to wash it. There are some factors that may play a role in affecting the frequency that a car should be washed. Some experts say that most owners should wash their automobile weekly, while others may give it two weeks. Factors that may increase or decrease how often you give your car the spa treatment include (but are not limited to)
- Road conditions – Driving through construction areas may cause dirt, dust, and road tar to kick up on your paint job.
- Weather conditions – Snowy drives through salt laden highways can cause underbody corrosion. Dry climates may cover your car in a fine layer of dust, and of course wet and rainy weather can splatter mud.
- Parking locations – Though you may keep that shiny new ride in the garage at home, rarely do we see parking garages at the grocery store. Parking near the ocean may cause salty buildup, and during the dreaded pollen season cars will take on that golden-green tinge.
- Localized considerations – While people of the northeast may be concerned with acid rain, the south is battling love bug season, and California is trying to conserve water.
Use the right stuff
Sure, when we were kids we might have just squirted some of mom’s dish soap in a bucket, filled the bucket with hot water and tossed in a dishrag to wash Dad’s dusty old sedan, but we did Pop no favors here. Be sure to use the best products to wash your car.
- Don’t use regular household cleaners to clean your car. Dishwashing detergent is not the best car washing soap. It is made to strip grease off of last night’s dishes, not your car’s finish. Rather than making your car squeaky clean, it will remove all the protective waxes and finishes that protect your investment. Car wash products are formulated to protect the clear coat on your car while lifting dirt and removing oxidation.
- Dishtowels are made for dishes, not cars. Use a natural fiber sponge or mitt.
- Don’t use corrosives such as oven cleaner on your rims. There are many videos out there that teach bad habits, don’t fall into this one. In addition to being terrible for the environment, oven cleaner will strip any paint that it touches, and weaken the rubber on the sidewall of your tires. Use a non-corrosive professional tire and rim cleaner. Ensure that the label specifically annotates that it is clear coat safe.
- Don’t use the same sponge to wash the body that you used to scrub the rims. Grease and grit that entered the sponge from the wheels will not easily rinse out. This grime is then transferred to your car body, scrubbing the paint and clear coat off like scouring powder.
- Don’t use ammonia based glass cleaner, especially if you have tinted windows. The ammonia will fade tint, and is harmful to other car surfaces such as vinyl dashboards, leather seats, and rubber parts.
Drying the car
It’s 94 degrees with a light wind, and you just finished washing the funk off the old whip. By the time you grab an ice cold tea from the fridge, it’ll dry just fine, right? Wrong. Those water spots are made of minerals that will etch spots into your car’s finish.
- Dry the car immediately to reduce/eliminate water spots.
- Don’t just run an old bath towel across your finish. This will cause streaks and swirl marks.
- Use a car finish safe squeegee or a chamois cloth.
Washing your car is important for many reasons. Your reason might just be to look good. After all, nobody wants the first impression to be “the one with the trashed out hooptie.” While many people do indeed drive the wheels off their cars, most of us expect to trade or sell a car after a few years. Maintaining the mechanical operation of the car is paramount, but a good visual first impression will help the sale. Washing your car can be a relaxing time to listen to your radio, and improve your image, don’t let your car go another week without a bath!
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