We completely understand that there are times where people either want or need to clean their car themselves so are here to help with a step by step guide on how best to not only keep your car clean but more importantly, give it a scratch free clean.
things you'll need
- 3 Buckets (not essential but it helps)
- Wash Mitt
- Wheel Woolie
- Soft Bristle Brush
- Tyre Dressing Applicator
- Foam Applicator Pad
- Large, High GSM Drying Towel
- 1 x Microfibre Cloth (Non Plush)
- 1 x Microfiber Cloth (Plush)
- Nitrile Gloves
- Car Shampoo
- Snow Foam or Pre Wash
- Tar & Bug Remover
- Iron Fallout Remover
- General Wheel Cleaner
- Glass Cleaner
- Quick Detailer Spray
Without a doubt the most important and commonly skipped step of a scratch free car wash. Most swirl marks or light scratches you see on paintwork actually come from skipping this step. The problem with this is that any dirt or contaminants sitting on the surface can get attached to your wash mitt and then pushed into the clear coat, creating swirl marks.
Whether it’s snow foam, traffic film remover or an all purpose cleaner, give the entire vehicle a good dose, including wheels and preferably in the shade so it can sit for a few minutes and soften any dirt. It’s important to try and not let any of these products dry out so you may need to work quicker on warmer days.
Once it’s had a good soak, take your pressure washer or hose and give it a really thorough clean. I tend to start at the bottom and work up so the product can dwell for longer, with a final top to bottom removing all product. The car should look pretty much clean with 99% of dirt removed and is now ready for us to tackle the wheels. If you find there is still visible dirt, just repeat this step.
With the pre wash stage done the wheel should be dirt free with only a build up of iron fallout and brake dust remaining. Take your Iron Fallout Remover and spray one wheel with a healthy coat. It’s important to tackle one at a time to reduce any risk of the product drying on the wheels. Leave the fallout remover to activate for about a minute and then gently agitate and work in the product with a soft bristle brush. Once agitated leave to dwell for a further minute before rinsing away.
Now soak the entire wheel and tyre in a general wheel cleaner to remove any remaining contaminants, you can agitate the product again with your soft bristle wheel brush if needed. Lastly, grab the third, empty bucket and fill with water and shampoo. Take your wheel woolie, get it soapy and give the wheel barrel a good clean. Give it a good final rinse to remove any product and repeat on all wheels. You’re nearly on the home straight.
It’s at this point the whole world walks by and asks why you’re washing a clean car. It’s good practice to give the whole car a quick rinse at this stage. On any given day a fair amount of dust can be in the air and a few minutes is all it takes to settle on your car.
With both buckets at the ready, fill one with just water (rinse bucket) and the other with your chosen car shampoo (wash bucket). The purpose of having two buckets is to minimise the risk of dirt being rubbed into the paint. You put your used wash mitt in the rinse bucket (removing any dirt that may have been picked up) and then dip it in your soapy wash bucket. Clean mitt, happy paint.
Start at the top and work your way down. There is a good chance that most of the dirt on your car has built up on the lower areas, starting at the top ensures that the mitt stays clean for as long as possible. Also only clean a small area (for example half a bonnet) before thoroughly rinsing and dipping back into the soap bucket.
This step isn’t always needed. Something to be done monthly unless you cover a lot of miles each week, then possibly weekly. You may have noticed when doing the contact wash that some stubborn black tar spots didn’t want to wash away, or bug splats all over the bumper, lights and grills. If so, carry on with this step. If not, jump ahead to dressing your trims and tyres.
Give the vehicle a towel dry in any areas where any contaminants are, spray on your chosen tar and bug remover and then leave it to sit for a couple of minutes. You should start to see the tar spots literally melting and starting to drip, this is when you know it is ready. Grab the non plush microfiber cloth and you should be able to lightly wipe them away. If not, don’t push harder. Simply spray on more product, give it time and try again. You wouldn’t think it but even the softest of cloths can mar paint if pushed too hard.
Give the car one final rinse and then grab your drying towel. Let the towel do the work, simply lay it on a panel (working top to bottom) and slowly drag it across. If it’s a chunky enough GSM, it should be magically dry as you drag it. If you’re working in the sun, dry the sunny panels first to avoid water spots.
If you don’t have a car air dryer, grab yourself a drink and wait a few minutes for any water trapped in between panels to dribble and dry out. If you do, go over places like door handles, badges, mirrors. Anywhere water will hide and slowly drip while you’re trying to apply your wax or sealant. Once satisfied, dry off any dribbles with your drying towel and move onto protecting your hard work.
dress trims & tyres
This one is pretty self explanatory but we’d recommend going for a liquid silicone based dressing. Apply the product to your applicator and start with any plastic or rubber trims on the body. Once done take the clean plush microfiber towel to level off and remove any excess product on trims. Take your quick detailer spray and wipe off any excess trim dressing that has gone onto surrounding paint or glass.
The same steps are then repeated with all four tyres, cleaning up any excess from your alloy with quick detailer and the plush cloth.
Congratulations, you have made it. Take your glass cloth and cleaner, give those windows a damn good clean and then take a step back and admire all of your hard work. Even better, rest assured knowing you have cleaned you car safely.
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