How often do you clean your car? For many motorists it’s part of the weekend routine, and quite therapeutic after a busy week at work. For others, it’s another chore they struggle to find time for.
Yet it’s important to look after your car’s bodywork. Dirt builds up quickly, even if you only travel short distances. In winter, grit and salt sticks to panels, wheels and tires and can cause them to deteriorate.
While a regular professional valet service would be wonderful, it’s not always an option. Garage car washes have their place, but there’s nothing quite as effective as doing it yourself. Grab a bucket and a wash mitt, and follow our tips on how to wash your car properly.
Pick your moment
A warm, sunny day might seem like the best time to wash your car, but it’s better if there’s some cloud around. Hot sun will dry your bodywork too quickly and you could end up with streaks and water marks. Similarly, there’s no point washing your car in the rain. Besides being unpleasant, it will make the job more difficult and less effective.
If time constraints or the weather forecast mean sun is your only option, clean your car in the early morning or late afternoon when rays are weaker and it’s a little cooler. If you can, choose a shady spot to work in.
Blast the dirt
Before you get on with cleaning, the first job is to wash away dirt and grit with a pre-rinse. The easiest way is to use a pressure washer, but more powerful models can damage paintwork and seals. Be cautious and do your research if you’re thinking of buying one. Otherwise, use a hose. Don’t forget to wash the inside of the wheel arches and the wheels themselves. The more grime you can remove at this stage, the easier washing your car will be.
Give it a good wash
To wash your car properly, you’ll need two buckets and a suitable wash mitt. Fill both buckets with clean water, adding your preferred car shampoo to one of them. (We’re big fans of Riwax – check out their products here.)
Using your wash mitt and the shampoo bucket, start at the top of your vehicle and work down to remove remaining dirt. Don’t forget to wash the lights and open doors and the boot to clean edges and sills.
Use a gentle sideways motion rather than circles; this will minimize ‘swirl’ marks and help ensure even cleaning. You might need to do this twice if your car is really dirty or has caked-on grime. Rinse the mitt in the bucket of clean water every so often.
Time to rinse and dry
Once you’re satisfied your car is clean, rinse away the shampoo with your pressure washer or hose. Again, work from the top down and remember the wheels and arches. Next, take a microfiber cloth and dry your car all over – wiping side-to-side or patting is best – making sure not to leave any smears.
Take care of the glass
It’s important to ensure your windscreen and windows are clean, too. A build-up of dust and grime can restrict your vision and make it more difficult to drive in sunlight or at night.
Spray on a specialist auto glass cleaner, then wipe it away carefully with a microfiber cloth, using a circular motion and making sure there are no streaks. Pull wipers away from the windscreen so you can get right down to the bottom.
Work on the wheels
While the initial clean will have done a reasonable job on the wheels, it’s worth using a specialist cleaner from time to time to remove stubborn brake dust and other dirt. Find a product suitable for your car and start by spraying the outer and inner sections of the wheel.
Fill a bucket with fresh water and wet a clean wash mitt or wheel brush. Carefully clean each wheel, not forgetting to work in between the spokes and round the edges, or around the tire valve and wheel nuts.
Once the dirt is loose, rinse wheels with a pressure washer on a light setting, or use a hose before drying with a microfiber cloth; this is also a great opportunity to see if your rims are scratched and in need of attention.
Once you’ve finished, use tire foam to add shine and protect against the elements; simply spray on and leave.
Don’t forget the trim
While most modern cars feature color-coded bumpers, mirrors and door handles, some models still have chrome or black trim. Metal polish can be used on the former to restore their sheen, while most tire shines are suitable for the latter and will also protect from the effects of ultraviolet rays. Apply carefully, avoiding paintwork, and polish with a soft cloth.
We’ll cover waxing, detailing and interior cleaning in future posts, but for now you’re done – time to step back, admire your work, and enjoy a well-earned rest.