As we said before, detailing your car isn’t as easy as it looks. But once you get good at it you will be cutting the total time it takes you to do this. Thus, I figured a good overview of Do-It-Yourself Washing Your Car at Home Tips page might help our readers.
Washing Your Car at Home Tips: Step 1
If you are doing a full detail, then you’ve already completed Step 1: Cleaning Your Engine. If you haven’t done that yet then you want to go back to that step before starting with this one. If you are just skipping that step then keep reading. The main reason we clean the engine first is that the splatter of degreaser and grime from your engine will get all over your vehicle windshield and everywhere else. So obviously you want to wash the car afterward.
If you haven’t done so already, print out the list of Auto Detailing Supplies Checklist and then come back here to the Washing Your Car at Home Tips page.
Washing Your Car at Home Tips: Step 2
You want to start with good car shampoo. I use Meguiar’s Carwash Shampoo & Conditioner. It’s by far the best on the market and it won’t strip the wax off your vehicle like dishwashing detergent, which is what most people use to wash their vehicles.
Meguiars Mirror Glaze Shampoo and Conditioner uses its suds to safely remove dirt and grime without marring the finish.
This next part may seem redundant, but any good washing your car at home tips page is going to need to make sure you understand the importance of rinsing any sponges or brushes between use during the SAME wash.
Damage to the paint finish of your car can occur during a wash
Unbeknownst to many, damage to the paint finish of your car can occur during a wash when abrasive dirt is loosened and accidentally dragged across the surface.
The thick suds and lubricating oils in Meguiars Carwash greatly decrease the chances of this, but you still need to make sure you are rinsing the tools that you are using to actually wash and scrub the vehicle.
Gentle-to-paint cleansers in some cleaners cut through and dissolve dirt leaving no microscopic abrasives in the wash water, but if it’s something like rocks or pebbles, then you are going to cause some serious damage. Follow the direction on your soap container and mix-up your soapy water with warm or hot water.
Before you can wax it, you have to wash it! So the next step in your Washing Your Car at Home Tips page is to understand why you are using specialized cleaners instead of just some dish soap as many people use on their vehicles.
Remember, use a soft, CLEAN wash mitt and a pH balanced car wash such as Meguiar’s that I pointed out above. Never use dishwashing detergent or a wash brush on your car!
Dishwashing detergent damages the finish and strips waxes and oils from the car exterior.
The wash brush scratches the paint leaving thousands of hairline scratches.
Did you ever wonder why your car starts looking dull and scratched after only about a year of running it through a standard cloth or brush car wash? It’s because it’s covered with thousands of hairline scratches that dull the finish of the clearcoat.
Why is car hand washing better than carwashes?
Hand washing is MUCH preferred over an automated carwash. So if you found this washing your car at home tips page because you are interested in becoming better at do-it-yourself home washing, you are on the right path.
If you happen to have a truly touchless type of carwash in your area – become a regular there. Touchless car washes use high-pressure water and special clean agents to clean the vehicle without damaging the surface or stripping wax. They aren’t as good as a hand wash (no automatic wash generally is), but they are less likely to scratch the paint or violently rip off radio antennas!
Washing Your Car at Home Tips: Step 3
Wet the car down first to knock any of the big mud off. Also, remove any bug grime at this time using tar & bug remover with a sponge. You can also presoak the door jambs and hatch/trunk areas now using an all-purpose cleaner such as Simple Green (you can get this at HomeDepot).
Scrub if you have to with a bug sponge, but not too hard, rinse areas before you wash the vehicle. Body side moldings can be scrubbed with a soft brush and all-purpose cleaner like the Simple Green.
The rims should be done first, before the body. The rims of your car collect brake dust and after a while, it just cakes on making it harder and harder to remove.
You’ll need a small brush and some wheel rim cleaner. Which kind is best, it’s hard to say. There are so many professional detailing brands that many times we don’t use anything that is similar to consumer brands you can buy off the shelf.
One wheel cleaner that I do know has both a consumer and professional version is Eagle One, owned by Valvoline. You can find most of their products at the larger auto parts stores.
Eagle One spends a lot of time with their testing and formulating and we were always very impressed with their products. Some detailers will use acid-based wheel cleaners and just dilute them. Take it from me, this has the potential for major problems.
If you ever have anybody else working for you, stop using acids. You may be constantly watching for these kinds of things, but the first time somebody sprays acid on clear-coated rims, you won’t have to be reminded again to not use acid.
Remember the brake dust that’s deposited is extremely hot and bonds very strongly with the irregular surface of the rims. Don’t wet down the rims/tires first, you want to make sure the chemical is strong and not diluted with water.
Like I said above Eagle One has several good products for rim cleaning, just read the labels closely when you make your selection. Don’t overlook the underside of the vehicle, and the gas cap lid as well! Simple Green also works well for cleaning rubber surfaces.
Washing Your Car at Home Tips: Step 4
When washing, start from the top and work your way down. Rinse the vehicle a couple of times as you work your way down.
Don’t forget to wash those door jambs too! If you are using a pressure washer, spray the door jambs and the hinge areas with degreaser or Simple Green. Let it sit for a few minutes, but don’t let it dry. Clean the grease off the hinges and jambs with your pressure washer.
If you get the inside a little wet, don’t worry about it. Just don’t inundate the interior with water. Remember, you still have to clean the interior and any water messes can be wiped-up or vacuumed with the shop vac.
Another important item – always wash and detail your car in the shade and never wax your car when it is hot to touch. The compounds and glazes don’t work as well in the hot sun!
Washing Your Car at Home Tips: Step 5
When drying the vehicle, you can use your California Water Blade to get the bulk of the water off, but finish drying it with a soft synthetic chamois like Meguiar’s Water Magnet. You don’t have to do a perfect drying job if you’re planning to do the interior as well, it’ll be dry by the time you’re done. you just want to avoid any water beads from damaging the paint surface – especially if you have hard water.
Washing Your Car at Home Tips: Step 6
When you’re done washing and the car is mostly dry, apply your rubber dressings to the tires and bumpers. Again, Eagle One makes a good tire dressing and Tire Wet is also a good product. However, because of the new VOC regulations issued by the EPA in 2005 all of these tire dressings had to be reformulated to remove the ingredients that made them look so great.
So even the dressings that work good now are no longer great like we had in the past.
Any water-based tire dressings stay on for about five minutes and generally look horrible. I’ll keep trying the new ones coming out and see if their formulations are working better and update this page when I find one.
The reason you are applying dressing now is to avoid airborne droplets all over the vehicle after you wax.
Also, it’s a good idea to cover the tires with dressing before you wax or glaze the car in case you splatter. It’s easy to just wipe off the tire if the dressing is already applied. Without it, the glaze or wax tends to stick to the tire. You can also spray the plastic parts with silicone now too, like the grill by the wipers for example.
A Note About ArmorAll
A note about ArmorAll. I don’t use it nor do I recommend it to anybody cleaning cars. It’s up to you, but I recommend you stay away from ArmorAll as a protectant. It’s not very good and has been known to actually do damage from time to time.
Other products are much more technologically advanced and don’t use such harsh chemicals. Any product with formaldehyde or harsh preservatives is something to stay away from. Just because ArmorAll is one of the biggest selling products doesn’t make it better. Also, never use silicone dressings or products like ArmorAll on leather or soft vinyl as you will dry it out and damage the leather.
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