The Effort is Worth It!
Taking good care of your auto is worth it. Regular washing and detailing not just makes it nicer to spend time in, it can raise the car’s resale value by thousands of dollars down the road. However, doing it right isn’t always so straightforward. Even when you’re just washing it, you can do more harm than good if you use the wrong stuff or don’t know what to look out for.
Kip’s has many years of professional experience detailing automobiles. We pride ourselves in being the most thorough detailer in northeast Kansas, and we stake our reputation on our commitment to thrilling you as a customer. We strongly encourage customers to have their vehicles detailed regularly – professionally.
However, we also understand that our customers also sometimes enjoy being able to care for their own automobiles. As such, we have taken the time to review the best practices involved for detailing your vehicle at home.
Please note that while we’re recommending particular brands and products within this guide, we are certainly not saying that this is the only or best product for the job. These recommendations are only our opinion of a item. There are many different products currently available on the marketplace, and the use of one over another is strictly a personal option. These goods are not the same products that we use in our detailing shop. The professional products we use at Kip’s are very specifically chosen to coordinate with the methods and services which we provide.
Whether you’re washing, waxing, or sprucing up the interior, this step-by-step guide is for the average do-it-yourselfer who wants their car to look its best, and does not mind investing in the appropriate tools, chemicals and time to get the work done correctly. We will be splitting us this DIY Guide into eight digestible parts – giving each section its own article.
This week, we will focus on Part I: Exterior Washing.
Exterior : Washing
Regular washing is the best thing you can do for your vehicle’s exterior. All you need is a car-wash soap, a wash mitt, hose, and towel. You may also require a bug-and-tar remover for extra-stubborn stuff.
The single most important thing you can do to keep your car’s finish looking great is to wash it regularly. That’s because dirt, bird droppings, dead bugs, road gunk, tree sap, and other contaminants can harm the paint if left on for too long. This leads to annoying blemishes in the finish at best, and expensive repairs at worst. Just don’t let a layer of crud build up before you take action. And wash off obvious problems (e.g., bird poop, mud) as soon as you notice them; don’t await your regular wash time.
If you simply want a quick wash, you can go to a local drive-through. But pro detailers warn that those can introduce fine scratches, called swirl marks, in the car’s paint finish, particularly if it’s an old-fashioned brush-type wash or one that’s not well maintained. If you really want to keep that like-new look, it pays to learn the appropriate methods for doing a hand wash yourself. Just keep in mind that loose dirt, sand, and other fine debris are the worst enemies facing your car’s paint. If you wipe across the surface with a dirty sponge, cloth, foam pad, paper towel, or whatever, you can easily cause the identical kind of fine scratches as a drive-through wash, or worse. And those can require a fair amount of elbow grease (or dollars) to remove.
That will keep old dirt from getting back on your car.
The perfect approach to avoid contaminants when hand-washing your vehicle is to use two buckets of water: one with the car-wash soap mixed in and the other to rinse out your mitt or sponge. Dip the mitt or sponge in the first bucket and use the suds generously to the paint to clean off the dirt and gunk. Then thoroughly rinse the mitt in the second bucket and dip it back in the first bucket for more suds. This will help keep dirt from getting into the soapy water and then getting put back on the vehicle. In addition, start from the top and work down. The lower regions of the automobile are typically the dirtiest and are more likely to contaminate your mitt. (Some detailers even recommend using separate mitts for the upper and lower regions of the motor vehicle.)
Avoid washing and waxing your car once the paint surface is hot. A warm surface causes soap, wax, and other products to dry much faster than on a cool surface, which can make the process harder and more time-consuming (and may need that you redo that, ugh). The hot sun can also make the paint more susceptible to scratching. Ideally, choose a cloudy day, park the car in the shade for awhile, or do your work in the early morning or late afternoon. And, when waxing, work in tiny sections, so the wax doesn’t dry out too much before you can buff it off.
Dish detergents and households cleaners can strip off the paint’s protective wax like, well, bacon grease off a skillet.
When it’s time to wash your car, don’t just grab the nearest sudsy liquid. Dish detergents and household cleaners can be too harsh on your vehicle’s finish, possibly stripping off the paint’s protective wax like, well, bacon grease off a skillet.
Kip’s ecommends utilizing a committed car-wash soap, a milder formula that’s primarily meant to wash the surface dirt and grime off of a vehicle without hurting the protective coating.
Here Is What you’ll need:
- Car-wash soap
- Wash mitt
- Buckets (preferably two)
- Hose, preferably with nozzle
- Drying towel
- Bug and tar remover (if necessary)
- Glass cleaner
A highly rated soap that’s designed to clean your car’s paint without hurting the protective wax coating.
There’s no shortage of car-wash soaps on store shelves and, to tell the truth, not a lot of difference between the top products. So, look for a great value: one that does a fantastic job of cleaning but doesn’t cost much money. In the driveway, the Gold Class from Meguiar’s does a good job of lubricating the surface to help lift off dirt and crud. In addition, it generates plenty of suds, although that is not really a measure of cleaning power. The Gold Class wash is recommended because it’s a quality product at an economical price. Additionally, it is consistently cited as one of the top car-wash soaps among enthusiasts, and it becomes high user ratings on Amazon and other retailer websites, including Walmart, Advance Auto Parts, and Autogeek. Some car-wash soaps incorporate a wax, but we don’t really understand the point as it won’t be on the paint long enough to do much good (like the spray-on waxes you overpay for at a drive-through wash). We think that it’s far better to apply a good wax separately to be sure the paint becomes real protection.
Down to the Nitty Gritty — Tar and Grime
Cars often pick up bits of road tar and asphalt, dried bugs, tree sap, or other debris that’s hard to remove with a regular car-wash soap. That’s where a good bug-and-tar remover comes in, such as Stoner Tarminator. This is a potent degreaser that’s recommended by several DIY websites. Simply spray it on, let it sit for about a minute, and wipe it with a microfiber towel, and then hose it off. Viola!
The Stoner company advises that you don’t use it on clear-coat plastic trim, like that used on bumpers, as this strong formula could cause it to haze over time. Tarminator can be hard to find in auto-parts stores, though, so a good backup is Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Remover, which had been used a good deal through the years and found effective. Additionally, it is claimed to be safe for use on plastic. Either product could require some extended soaking and/or a little bit of elbow grease for hard-to-remove debris.
The Mitt of Choice
A microfiber wash mitt with a thick nap that absorbs a great deal of sudsy water and helps keep dirt particles away from the paint.
Many pros prefer a lambswool or microfiber wash mitt because the thick nap can hold a lot of tepid to warm water and also allows dirt and other loose particles to get caught in the fibers and
whisked away from the paint. A Fantastic choice is the Chemical Guys Chenille Microfiber Premium Scratch-Free Wash Mitt. Microfiber mitts are usually not as costly than lambswool, and lots of users prefer how they feel. The best-selling Chemical Guys mitt is made up of soft, fluffy heap “noodles” that absorb lots of water and provide plenty of nooks and crannies for dirt particles to get trapped in. It is also easier to get into tight spaces.
Of several wash mitts on the market, we recommend the Chemical Guys Chenille Microfiber Premium Scratch-Free Wash Mitt. Its noodles picked up lots of wash water and made it easy to get into tight locations.
Like all microfiber products, the Chemical Guys’ mitt is machine washable. If you can’t get the Chemical Guys mitt, Start Looking for the Relentless Drive Ultimate Car Wash Mitt. It’s also a great wash mitt and there is minimal difference between the two, except that the latter is slightly smaller. Both were more flexible and easier to work with than a conventional microfiber mitt currently in the marketplace. If you would rather a lambswool mitt, we suggest Mothers Genuine Lambswool Wash Mitt, although it costs about twice as much as the microfiber mitts above.
Though traditional sponges have long become the thing that lots of car owners reach for, Kip’s maintains that a sponge can allow dirt to get caught between its surface and the paint, risking scratching. Whatever you choose, don’t use a mitt that’s dropped onto the ground. It is going to likely pick up dirt or debris that could scratch the paint. (Having a second one handy is a good idea.)
Far from fancy, this simple nozzle is affordable, solidly built, and easy to use, and it has a great spray pattern.
The Gilmour Medium Duty Rear Control Cleaning Nozzle is well-made, inexpensive, and easy to use, and it has a great spray pattern. The user can easily moderate the spray, depending on what you are doing, by squeezing the trigger harder or softer. Pull the trigger back a lot and you get a strong steady stream for blasting off the dirt and gunk. Pull it a little and you get a broad fine mist. Cast from solid zinc, the Gilmour nozzle feels solidly built, yet it has a remarkably low price.
Microfiber to the Rescue
This waffle-weave microfiber towel absorbs lots of water and won’t scratch the paint.
When drying your car that you would like to use a clean, lint-free cloth that won’t accidentally scratch the paint. Though a chamois or terry cloth towel have long become the go-to items, many detailing experts and car-care enthusiasts now prefer waffle-weave microfiber towels, with small indents that allow dirt particles to work in the nap rather than being pressed against the car’s finish. Meguiar’s Water Magnet Drying Towel is affordable and it absorbs a lot of water; it’s claimed to hold twice as much water for a terry towel.
We like a microfiber towel with a waffle-weave pattern (shown near a regular one), which has small pockets for dirt particles to get caught in. The Water Magnet measures 22 by 30 inches, which is simple to use. Kip’s recommends that you use two towels: One to do a first pass over the car, wringing out the water as needed, and a second to care for any residual droplets.