Spring is the perfect time to give our cars a full wash. They have a tendency to accumulate a lot of dirt and mess over the winter months. We want them looking good and ready to go for all the road trips that summer promises.
Winter road salt and sand, spring and summer pollen, dust, acid rain, bugs, and bird droppings stick to our vehicles. Modern automotive paint is a lot more durable now than it used to be. However, even today if these elements are allowed to build up on our vehicles it can permanently damage the finish. So apart from just looking good, cleaning our vehicles regularly will ensure the finish lasts longer.
Since heat will speed up the drying of soap and water, wait for a cooler day when the car has been sitting for a bit to wash it. This will help avoid water and soap marks.
Begin by giving your vehicle a good rinse to remove all the large debris. Start on the roof and move down.
Only after the vehicle has been completely rinsed off should we begin to wash — with lots of sudsy water. A sponge or wash mitt is best and gives you a better feel for any grit that may scratch the finish.
Use only good quality car wash soap. Car wash soaps are designed to be gentle on the car’s finish. The additives in these soaps help lift dirt and debris without stripping waxes and other protective finishes. They also lubricate to help prevent scratching. Dish soap or other household cleaners are designed to cut grease and oil. They are harsh and don’t rinse off like proper car wash soaps do.
Work on one area at a time, washing and rinsing completely before moving on. This will give you enough time to rinse before the soapy water starts to dry. Again start at the top, and move down and around the vehicle.
Avoid using circular motions which can cause swirl marks. Lengthwise along body panels and across the hood works best. Always keeping the sponge or wash mitt clean. Even a small amount of dirt on the sponge from dropping it on the pavement can cause scratches.
It’s a good idea to keep a separate sponge for the tires and rims. Brake dust and other debris may scratch or damage the paint if we use the same sponge. Plus, we may be using stronger cleansers here. Brake dust cleaner may be needed to completely remove that buildup that accrues and looks horrible. Tire and rim cleaners work better than soap, but shouldn’t be mixed with our other sudsy water. Always read labels and follow the instructions. Small scrub brushes or old tooth brushes work well for cleaning your rims.
Bug and tar remover and other specialty cleaners may be needed on some spots. Use a separate rag for cleaning with these products.
Once everything has been cleaned, completely rinse the vehicle, starting on the roof, and moving downward and around the vehicle. With rinsing, the goal is to create a sheeting action to completely wash away all dirty water and soap.
Letting the vehicle air dry or driving down the road may leave water or mineral marks. To avoid this, it’s best to use a chamois or soft towel to dry your vehicle. Blotting the water and not dragging the towel or chamois over the paint will avoid scratching.
Once the vehicle is clean, dry, and cool we can now look at using a good quality wax, polish or other sealant to improve the look of our finish. Products like Nu-Finish are very popular and have seem to have very good online reviews. There are many of these products on the market. They are usually applied with a clean, new micro cloth in small circular motions, before being allowed to dry and then buffed off using a fresh micro cloth. It’s important to choose these products carefully. Read and follow the instructions. If you are not sure it’s safe for your car, consult a professional.
It’s not advisable to use power buffers unless you are experienced with their use. It’s very easy to burn through the clear coat on your finish. This would leave a permanent mark that can only be fixed with a paint repair. This caution applies to using cut polishes as well. It’s very easy to damage your finish. It’s probably best to leave this to professionals.
It’s also important to polish our chrome bumpers with a good chrome polish. This will keep them looking good and help keep them from forming rust.
The last step, and I think one of the nicest touches, is to apply a good tire dressing. This will make your tires look jet black and factory new. It really does make a huge difference.
Finally, once the vehicle has been completely rinsed, washed, dried, waxed and dressed, take a few steps back and admire your work.
Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.