How to Wash Your Car For Professional Results

Cars are a big investment.  This is why it is important to your investment by cleaning and taking the steps to protect its paint.

One thing to avoid is those quick drives through car washes with the large brushes that actually can harm your exterior.  Take the time and learn how to give your car a DIY wash or consult a car detailing expert.

1. Determine the Condition

Examine your car and its paint job.  A newer car may only need to be washed and occasionally waxed.  An older car may need a polish after the wash and wax.

2. Read the Directions

Before starting your DIY car wash check on the label on the product.  The manufacturer may recommend specific instructions for application. A good example of this is using a chrome cleaner on your aluminum wheel.  This chemical can actually damage your wheel rather than clean it. It is also recommended to purchase a good set of microfiber clothes that are used only on your car.  Do not use the same towel on your paint, windows or wheels. And always keep the clothes separate from your other laundry when washing them.

3. Washing Your Car

Washing the outside of your car will get rid of mud, dust, and dirt.  Always use a soap that was specifically designed for cars. Never use a dishwashing detergent or any other household cleaner.  These can potentially ruin your paint and may even take the wax right off. Always start by giving your car a good rinse. This will get rid of a lot of the gunk that can scratch your car when you scrub it.  Remember to use clean cloths, mitts, and drying clothes.

4. Prepare the Surface

After your car has been cleaned you want to look for any visible scratches or oxidation in your paint.  You also want to run your clean hand over the car to detect any overspray or even tree sap that can be harmful to your paint.  If you feel any problems you need to go on to the next step.

Next, use a clay bar.  This cleaning agent can get rid of contaminants that have been bonded onto your pain.  Be aware it will also wax or any polish from your car as well. This gives your car a completely clean slate.  To use the clay bar and run it across the surface of your car.  You will feel it begin to create a smooth finish.

If your car has some etching or scratches that reach below the surface you will want to use a compound.  This can be applied by getting some applicator pads or even with a dual-action polisher. As soon as you apply, wipe it off.  A compound paint cleaner works when it is applied directly into the finish. Sometimes, you may need to apply another coat. If the scratches are still visible, they may need a paint touch up.  

5. Polishing Gives a Glossy Finish

Polishing is technically an optional step.  But, it is worth the effort. You can apply polish directly by hand or you can use a dual-action polisher.  The conditioning oils are especially beneficial to dark cars because they add depth and a high gloss finish.

6. Protecting Wax

Just like sunscreen protects the skin, wax protects a car.  It acts as a barrier from harmful UV rays. It also prevents sun fading.  It can also help protect the car from scratches. Wax will prolong your polish and high gloss finish.  You can choose between a carnauba or polymer wax. Both are very similar. The main difference is polymer wax does not haze and can immediately be wiped off.  A polymer is usually known as an easier wax to apply and some say it performs better.

7. Maintaining and Protecting

After you have completed the above steps, you need to maintain its appearance.  It is recommended to keep a spray detailer and a microfiber polishing cloth in your car at all times.  Both of these tools can come in handy when you need to remove some dust, insects, bird poop, or even overspray.

For those who have cars that are already clean, these steps can feel especially time-consuming.  You may choose to purchase a one-step cleaner and wax that can be applied all at once. Do this after you have rinsed and washed your car.  This protects and polishes your paint in one fail swoop. Apply by hand or use a polisher for best results. This gives your car a much more dimensional clean than just using wax by itself.  You will be pleased with the results.

8. Wash the Windows

Household products such as Windex or other glass cleaners contain ammonia.  Ammonia can harm the tint of your windows, so never use on your car. Rather, purchase a window cleaner that has been specially formulated for a car.  Always take the time to wipe down the cleaner twice to ensure it has been properly removed.

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