Wash your car like a Pro or choose the right Pro
Having a clean car obviously keeps your car looking newer longer. But there are other, more technical reasons to keep your car clean. Dust, sand, salt in the winter – all of these are miniscule, abrasive particles that attach themselves to your paint and finish. If your car is not washed on a regular basis, these particles can literally scratch the finish of your car. Some substances such as bird droppings or tree sap can even eat through your clear coat, leaving your finish unprotected and vulnerable to additional wear and tear.
If you live in a climate that experiences colder winters, it is important to wash it more often than that, as the elements and substances your car is exposed to at that time are particularly harsh.
Ultimately, keeping the exterior of your car clean not only makes your car look nicer and keeps it looking newer, it also protects it from real damage that can be done over time.
There are really two options for washing your car – doing it at home or taking it to a professional car wash center – whether it is self-serve or automatic. Commercial car washes can scratch the paint and strip the protective coat of wax or top coat off of your car’s finish. They can’t get the entire car clean as you want it tobe either, and can be quite costly.
Washing your car at home
First, it is important to park your car in a shady spot out of the drying heat of the sun. Let the body surface of the car cool down if it has been sitting in the sun’s heat. If you try to wash the car while the surface is still hot, the soap suds will dry faster than you can rinse them off, and that will create a problem for you.
While the body surface of the car is cooling, you can do two things in the mean time. One is to gather together the tools you will need to accomplish your car washing task. You will need a bucket, a soft brush, a good car washing detergent that is specifically made for cars-(do not use dishwashing detergent or other household cleaner as these are too harsh for the car’s surface)-an absorbent sponge designed for car washing, or soft towel, chamois towels, a water hose, and a good tire cleaner. Again, do not use a harmful abrasive cleanser. Use a cleaner that is designed for use on car tires.
Bird presents are one of the most damaging “natural” disasters that attack our paint. I don’t know what we are feeding the birds, but what comes out of the south end of a northbound bird is highly acidic. The longer we leave these psychedelic bird presents on our paint, the more damage they will cause. The acids tend to etch a microscopic pond shaped depression in the paint. Removal as soon as possible will help minimize the damage. Instead of carrying a hose and bucket in your car, carry a bottle of no salt seltzer water. No salt seltzer water is nothing more than water and carbon dioxide which will not harm your paint. When needed, take off the cap, place your thumb over the top, shake well and you have a fire hydrant that will wash the worst of the bird’s thoughtful gift from your paint. Try to rub this area as little as possible. Birds use gravel to digest their food and grit is one of the major components of their presents. If you try and rub off the solids, you may scratch the paint.
The second thing you can do is to follow the manufacturer’s directions and use the tire cleaner. This type of cleaner is usually a spray foam that you apply to the car’s tires and let it soak for a certain amount of time. The tires are then rinsed clean with water. If the first cleaning didn’t completely remove the accumulated road grime, you should try applying the product again. This time, though, gently use the soft brush to clean the tires, rims, wheel covers,etc. Let the product soak again and then rinse the tires thoroughly with clean water.
Now you can begin to wash the car by first spraying off the entire surface of the car using the water hose. Try to spray off as much of the dirt, grime, bugs, bird droppings, etc. that you can by using the pressure of the water. Also, spray the wheel wells in order to remove accumulated mud, dirt, and grime.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the car washing detergent and mix it with water in the bucket. Now you are ready to begin. Start by washing the roof of the car. Move the sponge or towel in wide, swirling motions, making sure to cover every inch of the car’s surface. Be careful washing around the license plates as they can be sharp and skin cuts can occur. Move onto the sides of the car and wash each side well. Make sure to wash door handles, mirrors, lights, etc. Then move onto and wash the front bumper. Thoroughly rinse all of the the newly-washed areas.
Give the car one final rinse with the hose to get rid of any water spots when all four sides have been washed and rinsed.
Take a chamois leather or towel and dry the car thoroughly by setting the towel flat against the surface of the car and dragging it along the surface to pick up any water spots. Start at the roof and work your way down to the tires.
Wash the windows with a rag soaked in plain water and dry them with a dry rag, or use window cleaner and pieces of balled-up newspaper on both the inside and the outside of the windows. You may use this to shine-up the chrome enhancements of the car also, or you may choose to use a commercial chrome cleaner.
You should dry the car as soon as possible. There are several methods to accomplish this. Lots of towels are a great drying medium. They should be 100% cotton. Check any towels carefully as most towels contain polymer fibers that scratch like hundreds of hypodermic needles.Start at the top, lay the towel on the top and then GENTLY blot up the water from the surface. Change to a dry towel and blot any remaining water. Move to the hood or trunk and repeat. Dry the sides last, as the water will usually take care of itself on these surfaces. Another method is to use a chamois. There are two types, natural and synthetic. The natural leather chamois contain acids, primarily tannic, that strip wax. Most synthetic towels don’t seem to do a satisfactory job.
Sprucing Up the Interior
First, thoroughly vacuum the car’s interior to remove all loose, dry dirt. And be very careful when you reach under the seat—you may have forgotten what you placed under there.
Lint-free towels and clean water will be the main tools for the dash area and seats. Cotton swabs are helpful for getting dust out of tight spots. For the carpet, a clean, stiff-bristled brush is indispensable. For cleaning windows, avoid products that contain ammonia, because ammonia can damage window tint film on the inside of the windows. Although the tint may have already been in place when you purchased the vehicle, you may not realize that it is a film that needs to be protected. Clean water and lint-free towels are effective for quick window touch-up.
Don’t use ammonia or any similar harsh chemical to clean seatbelts, either. They could weaken the webbing, affecting the belts’ ability to protect you during a crash.
If you use a protectant or dressing on the dash pad, be sure that it does not leave the surface shiny. A shiny dash can reflect light and be a safety hazard while driving.
Tips for washing your car
* Don’t keep the water running while you wash your car. The average home wash would use between 80 and 140 gallons of fresh water. Buy a hose sprayer with a lever that shuts off the water when you let go.
* Let gravity help you. Start from the top of the car and work your way to the bottom, from the least to the most dirty areas.
* Wax (or one of the newer polymer products) protects the paint from the sun so it doesn’t fade or deteriorate, and from the flying grit being kicked up by the vehicles in front of yours on the highway. Polymer products wear longer than wax. The ones purchased at auto supply stores are just as durable as the ones the car dealers sell you for hundreds of dollars.
* Don’t forget to shut all the doors and windows before washing.
* Glass cleaner can get the windows a little clearer than can just car wash soap and water, but drying them with microfiber towels after washing the car can make them sparkle just as much. Clean both the insides and outsides of the windows.
* Don’t wash (or wax) your car in direct sunlight. This would evaporate the water too quickly and bake on the soap (or wax), leaving a dull residue that would be difficult to remove.
* Use vinyl/rubber/plastic conditioner for dark-colored plastic parts and for tires.
* Microfiber towels work the best on all of a car’s surfaces. When you’re finished using them, toss them in the washing machine. But don’t use fabric softener. It can leach out of the towels and leave a residue on the surface.
* Bird droppings and bugs can damage the car’s paint. Get them off as soon as possible with a damp rag or when washing the car.
* If after washing the car, you can feel particles embedded in the paint when you run your hand over it, you can use a clay bar system to remove the contaminants before waxing. Just follow the directions.
* Be prepared to get wet by wearing the appropriate work-clothes and shoes, shorts and rubber sandals when the weather permits, long pants and rubber boots when it doesn’t.
Professional car wash center
Professional car wash centers are built to provide appropriate drainage that ensures harmful chemicals do not make it into the local storm sewer system. In fact, many of them filter the water they use, and often recycle it. Also, washing your car at home can use up to 100 gallons of water per wash. The chart below indicates how washing your car at a professional wash can help conserve hundreds and even thousands of gallons of water each year.
How to choose a professional wash
When you are looking for a professional wash to use, there are several things to consider. Professional washes include three main categories:
Self-serve – where you pull your car into a bay and use a hose and wand to wash your car yourself, much like you would at home.
Touchless Automatic – where you drive your car into a bay, and a complete wash system automatically moves up and down the length of your car using high-pressure nozzles and an assortment of cleaning and protective agents to wash your car.
Friction Automatic – similar to the touchless automatic in how it operates, this option simply adds rotating cylinders of material that gently rub the dirt and grime from your car.
Make sure you are comfortable and confident in your professional wash. You will then be able to fully enjoy the continued good appearance and health of your car’s finish – at a fraction of the time, effort and cost to the environment that you would had if you washed your car at home.