Are you washing your car correctly?
CAR washing. A relaxing and rewarding weekend pursuit or a mind-numbing chore you end up putting off for months?
Whatever camp you sit in, we all know a car looks classier and retains its value better if it is gleaming rather than covered in mud, dust, squashed bugs and bird poo.
We were keen to find out the best ways to get your car's body clean and protected, and how to keep it that way, but without the task taking hours or the cost of products breaking the bank.
We don't all own cosseted classic cars that get polished meticulously, we just want the daily driver to look good.
Chatting to a range of experts in the car washing game, there were a number of car washing rules that kept cropping up to give best results and prevent damage to your pride and joy. These are the aspects that most seem to agree on:
- Don't wash your car in the heat of the day or in direct sunshine, try washing first thing in the morning or just before sun down. Ensure the car's body is cool to the touch.
- Don't use dishwasher detergent to wash your car: go and buy yourself some proper car wash liquid.
- Don't use a cheap flat sponge. Most of us do, but these retain a lot of the dirt and even small stones so can scratch your car's paintwork. Invest in a microfibre mitt, washpad or sponge. Use what you like, just make sure it's microfibre!
- Wash from top to bottom of the car, cleaning the least dirty areas first.
- Use a separate microfibre cloth or sponge to clean your wheels which are often covered in brake dust and will quickly stain your cleaner.
- Have a hose or pressure washer for soaking and rinsing your car. If you need more spray from your hose simply jam your finger in the end, and if using a pressure hose it's quite safe to do so as long as you don't get closer than about 30cm to the car.
- Dry your car off after washing to prevent water spots. Again, use a microfibre cloth or chamois rather than your old bath towel to avoid scratches.
- If you've not washed your car for a while, consider using a clay bar or pad to remove the build-up of contaminants or stubborn stains like tree sap and dead bugs on your car's surface. This will help your car wax go on a lot easier.
- Don't go crazy with the car wax. Use a little at a time and apply in a circular motion with a special applicator pad.
- Once dried to a haze (never leave wax on too long), remove with, you guessed it, a microfibre cloth.
- Washing you car regularly (weekly even) will mean contaminants have less chance of causing lasting damage, and daily driven cars should be waxed every couple of months, and more regularly during summer.
- Been singled out for attention by a bird or bat? Get rid of that poo or tree sap as soon as you see it to prevent lasting damage. You'll have to do it eventually remember, so get it off early.
Car washing tips? Ask the experts...
Who? Val Harris, MSR Brisbane, car detailer for press fleet vehicles.
Key advice? Don't use anything too harsh, only specialist car products. Always wash your car wet by hosing it down first, use a tight sponge with not a lot of holes so it can't hold dirt, and for your windscreen just use a chamois and microfibre cloth - I avoid chemicals where I can.
Expert tips? Get bugs and bird and bat poo off straight away by hosing and rinsing. Bat poo is more like a vomit and so acidic that if it gets in your clearcoat it never comes out. Unless it's a Mercedes. There's something in modern Mercedes' paint top coat apparently that nothing seems to stick on them. The cheaper the car the cheaper the paint I've discovered.
Hand wash or automatic wash? Hand wash.
Don't ever use automatic brush ones. Jet washes too can sometimes leave swirl damage in the paint because it is so high pressure.
Who? Joe Nucifora, Clean Getaway Car Detailing, Sunshine Coast.
Key advice? No washing up detergent or cheap car wash, don't use a plain foam sponge and don't double dip: use a two bucket system. And never use a scouring pad to remove things like bird poo, I've seen it more than you'd believe.
Expert tips? Wash small areas at a time - a panel at a time if you can - rinsing off regularly so soapy water doesn't dry on your car.
If your headlights are a bit faded rub a bit of toothpaste on them, and if you have tar spots you can use a small amount of methylated spirit to remove them.
If you need to remove tree sap or bird poo, use a plastic razor (not a metal one). You can buy them from hardware stores and these don't scratch your car when used correctly.
Hand wash or automatic wash? Hand wash. With auto washes you're sending your car to the grave. Those without brushes use aggressive soaps and chemicals, and those with brushes cause micro scratches and swirls. If you fancy treating yourself and your car, professional car detailers can give expert attention where it's needed!
Who? Dan Bowden, Bowden's Own Premium Car Care.
Key advice? Most scratches on your car occur from washing, and sponges are not the most suitable for modern clearcoat paint.
You must use microfibre mitts, washpads or sponges.
Use a really lubricating thick sudding wash, not a cheap product or dishwasher detergent; these contain salt to thicken the product and isn't good in the long term.
Expert tips? Use two buckets when washing. When you pull your mitt or sponge off the car, put it in a fresh bucket of water first to clean it. Also, remove rings, belt buckles and chains that may scratch your car while cleaning.
Hand wash or automatic wash? Hand wash. Mechanical car washes are the single worst thing ever. The old school ones with the rollers are brutal to car paint.
Hand washing with a pressure hose is best, and be careful if using public car washes as they use recycled water which has lots of salt in it, plus the brushes can have lots of dirt in them which will scratch your car.