Having an awesome car is one thing but knowing how to keep it in tip-top shape is another. Of course, as an owner, you want to take pride in your vehicle, but making sure you know how to clean your car (and doing it regularly) has practical reasons too. The benefits may include keeping your vision clear while driving by removing marks from your windscreen and mirrors.
Washing your car may appear like a daunting task at first, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide will run through how to wash a car at home and some of the top questions around best practices when wiping it down.
Before we give you the guide, we figured it might be better to run through some FAQs so that you’ll have an idea of the dos and don’ts when it comes to cleaning your beloved vehicle.
Is water enough?
Washing your car with water may remove a lot of the dirt, but it cannot fully remove some of the tougher blemishes or bacteria that can build up over time.
Is hand washing your car better?
Any kind of washing is likely to be good for your car’s cleanliness. Handwashing is almost always better than using a machine simply because you have direct control over your hands; you can reach crevices that are otherwise beyond the reach of tools or machines not used in hand washing.
Aside from that, simple gestures such as wiping the car down by hand instead of the air or blow- drying provided by automatic car washes reduce the water markings, and using a cloth, you’ll get in all the cracks and crevices that a machine can miss.
Is a pressure washer advisable?
You’re also free to use pressure washers, but only if you have checked if your car can take it.
Some words of caution when using pressure washers: 1) be careful not to cause damage to your paintwork, 2) plastics may not be able to bear the pressure and might cause the plastic works to break, and 3) due to the pressure, water might seep through the door’s seals into the interior of the car. This might cause damage to your car’s electronic units.
Useful Tips in Car Washing
1. Clean with car wash soap.
One of the best cleanings your car can get is careful washing by hand, but only if it’s done correctly. Ideally, a car should be washed weekly. In doing so, prepare a soft cloth, a car wash bucket that uses fresh, recycled water, and soft foam brushes to remove dirt and contaminants.
Do your car a favour and forgo the dish soap when washing your vehicle. Dish soaps can harm the paint and strip off wax coatings intended to protect. Instead, using a designated car wash soap, one that is formulated for the types of contaminants that get on a car, will not hurt the paint and do wonders for your car’s exterior finish too.
2. Start from the top and work down.
Another common mistake people make is to start cleaning at random or starting with the worst areas first. A professional knows that it is essential to start at the top and work toward the bottom. Use gravity to your advantage. That way, contaminants are not being reintroduced to surfaces that have already been cleaned.
You can start by rinsing the vehicle’s roof, glass, hood, and trunk lid, and so on. All of that mud and debris at the bottom of the car? Rinse it off on the way down. Keep that idea in mind all through the process.
3. Treat the tar.
Sometimes, contaminants on your car cannot be removed with soap. The truth is that different car wash chemicals are needed to clean different contaminants. For example, car wash soap will remove some that are water-soluble while others require a petroleum-based cleaner and wax-and-grease remover. Road tar is an example of this. Soap will not clean it off; you need a tar remover for that.
Do not fret when you see something that water cannot easily remove. Just continue washing your car then once you’ve identified the substance that’s difficult to remove, the right cleaning product can help you clear it out once and for all.
4. Lubricate the latches and hinges.
One maintenance tip that we received from experts is to keep the hood latch clean and lubricate
it every so often with a protectant. The same goes for the other latches. You can take care of your door hinges by spraying or dripping on a bit of lubricant and then swinging the door open and closed to work it in.
The pivot points on your hood hinges are not always in plain sight. But if you can get to them, a light spray of white lithium grease once in a while will keep them from seizing up later on.
5. Touch up the paint chips.
Every car enthusiast can relate to this. No matter how careful you are, you’re bound to see some whitish-looking speck on your shiny black hood now and then. Unfortunately, paint chips can happen to a vehicle of any colour, and they could come from causes known and unknown—rocks in the road that pelt your paint as you drive. Fortunately, auto manufacturers use extremely durable primers and usually remain in place. Still, if you want to protect your panels from corrosion (and unsightliness), you will want to “touch up” those chips.
Two points to remember, though when you’re doing touch-ups: 1) it is not a substitute to a repainting job; thus, touch-ups are often rough on the edges and may stick up a bit, and 2) you’ll need the help of a professional for the touch up to appear smoother and pristine.
6. Apply wax or sealant.
When applying wax, start with a clean car. If the car has a layer of dust on it when you apply the wax, you will work that dust (ground up rocks) into the clear coat and create tiny scratches that dull the paint and wear away the finish.
Work in the shade or the garage. You should never wax a car in the sunlight.
Another mistake you should be wary about is to avoid getting wax on any matte black plastic parts: moldings, mirrors, trim, etc. Wax will stain matte black components and require special cleaners to remove. Sometimes the damage is permanent. So, keep wax away from flat/matte black parts!
7. Care for the carpets and upholstery.
Just like the outside of the car, experts suggest having a top-down approach when cleaning your car’s interiors. However, there are also experts telling us that it’s better to start from the bottom, that is, your carpet, etc. Either way, you will want to take care of the carpet and upholstery at some point. Here are some thoughts.
It’s always a good idea to have a vacuum at hand. Loosen the dirt with a dry scrub brush while you do so. Using an air blow gun to loosen up the dirt can also help if you have access to an air compressor. Just make sure to wear a pair of safety glasses when you do. Pay special attention to under the seats and in the cracks.
You can use a carpet and upholstery shampoo to treat stains on the carpet. You can use a scrub brush to work in the shampoo and a clean, dry rag or towel to blot the moisture. However, it is better to use a microfiber towel to wipe stains from upholstery because a scrub brush may be too aggressive for fabric. Also, the headliner is exceptionally delicate and requires great care when cleaning.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. We hope you learned a thing or two from this ultimate guide to car washing this 2022. But, if you’re still hesitant to do this task on your own, fret not.
The Car Lovers team will be more than happy to lend a hand. In addition, our team of certified detailers and professional valets will be more than happy to lend their expertise to keep your vehicles in pristine working condition.