Tips And Tricks

Car Wash Tips and Tricks

Your car is a big investment and you want it to both look nice and run well for as long as possible. In our sunny Oceanside, CA climate it is hard to keep paint looking new and glossy. Sun, salt, dirt, and infrequent rains all conspire to make your car's exterior look old before its time.

Washing a car seems simple, but you can do some damage if you do not follow a few simple guidelines. There are also many myths as to the best way to wash a car. So, to make your car shine and look its best, here are some basic car-washing tips and myth busters.

When should I wash the car?
Weekly is great, but not always realistic. Just do not wait until the layer of crud on the car is so thick that the neighborhood kids are tempted to write “wash me” on the rear window. When you leave dead bugs, bird droppings and road dirt on your car for too long they leach acids, strip away wax and eat into your car’s paint. If you never wash your car you will be in for an expensive surprise when you need a new paint job to repair the damage. If you live in acid rain territory, you should rinse your car after rainy weather.

What kind of products should I use?
There are a million car wash products out on the market. Manufacturers want you to think that only their product is good to use on cars and that anything else will strip off the wax. What you can tell from all the information out there is that it is best to use a mild soap with lots and lots of suds. Also, use a large, soft sponge or mitt and rinse often so that you do not scratch the car with any accumulated dirt. No matter what product you use, some wax will come off.
The all-in-one car washing and waxing product is a myth. You cannot wash and wax a car at the same time; those two things are at cross-purposes. You need to first clean the surface by washing the car and then apply wax to a clean surface. Any product that claims that it can do both in one application is just not doing a great job at either.

Are there any general guidelines I should follow when washing a car?
Try not to wash your car in direct sunlight or when the body is hot. The heat from the car speeds the drying of soap and water, making washing more difficult and increasing the chances that spots or deposits will form.
To start, rinse the entire car thoroughly with water before you begin washing to remove loose dirt and debris that could cause scratching. Work from the top down and do one section at a time to avoid spotting from dried soap or water.
When rinsing, do not use the fire hose attachment, a nice gentle water flow over the car from top to bottom will help create a sheeting action and minimize spotting and pooling of water. Make a huge amount of suds in your bucket so you can really lather the car with sudsy soap and rinse the sponge often. If you really want to get it right, use a separate bucket to rinse the sponge so that it is clean when you put it in the wash water.
Another tip is to never wash the car in a circular motion because if you have tiny specks of dirt on your car you might end up creating circular marks all around the car. And obviously, if the sponge falls in the dirt wash it out well, you do not want any dirt particles to scratch your car’s paint.
Some car owners use two sponges, one for above the “belt line” of the car and one for below the “belt line”. This assumes that one area is dirtier than the other and that you would not want to spread around all that dirt that does not come off with the rinse. Regardless of whether you use one or two sponges for the rest of the car, make sure you use a separate cloth or sponge for the wheels, which tend to get extremely mucked up with sand, brake dust and other debris that could really mar up a car’s finish.

How should I dry the car when I'm done?
If you let the car air dry or drive it around the block to “dry” it, you can expect watermarks, especially if you live in a place with hard water. Instead, get a bunch of soft terrycloth towels or a chamois to dry off all the water and avoid unnecessary rust that could lead to work such as brake repair. Make sure you blot the water instead of dragging the towel over the paint, as this will prevent scratching caused by any leftover debris.

What about the underside of the car?
Getting rid of all the road debris that accumulates on the under structure of the car is really important in keeping your car rust free. When these debris build up, they harbor moisture for hours or even days after a rainy spell and contribute to the development of rust. If you live near the ocean or in an area where salt or other chemicals are used on the road, it is especially important to rinse off the underside of the car to avoid rust and wear on the metal. After you give your car the first soaking rinse, get underneath and rinse off the underside too.

What if I don’t have time to do the ultimate hand car wash?
Do not worry. In this busy world who has the time to wash their cars every weekend? Try an automated car wash in between hand-washing the car.

Are high-pressure car washes really bad?
If all you ever did was use a high pressure car wash, it would be worse for your car than always hand-washing correctly. But, if you do not have the time to baby your car every weekend then it is fine to use a high-pressure car wash.
Many car experts use wand type car washes all the time. For example, on non-freezing days in the winter, they are great to keep the salt and crud off your car when you cannot wash it by hand. And some car experts admit to using a full service car wash. It is way better than leaving acid rain, poop, dirt and worse on your car if the weather will not let you do it right.
Our advice: Search for newer washes or those that are maintained well. Look over the business yourself and see if it looks like it would be at least somewhat kind to your paint. You should also carry a chamois or soft cloth to dry if you go through a self-service car wash that does not quite get the job done.
Good luck and happy driving from your friends at North County Import Specialists.