Soap-covered microfiber cloth on a car's wheel

While we’re always told to never judge a book by it’s cover, that is unfortunately what we as humans tend to do when it comes to appearance. Our vehicles are by no means exempt from that visual judgement. If you want to get the most out of your investment, keep it safe long term, or make it look it’s best when you are trying to sell it, you will want to make sure you wash your vehicle and get it done right. Washing it incorrectly, poorly or without knowing what to do can result in your doing more harm than good. Read on to learn how to properly wash a car, what you need, and what to avoid. Beyond just cleaning the outside, we’ll also cover how you can help to avoid damage over time.

Gather Your Supplies

Choosing the Right Rag & Towel

For the first wash, you are going to want to have the basics at the ready, including a rag. Find a rag that is clean and without micro objects that will scratch the paint. A microfiber rag is great, and sheepskin works too. You will also need something to store clean water in and to wash off your rag, the right soap (specifically, not dish or hand soap—more on that below), and a towel that can be used to damp off any leftover water (again, choose microfiber).

Choosing the Right Soap & Location

When it comes to the proper soap, you will be best served by making sure that you are using car soaps specifically. These are treated to have the proper pH and ultimately allow you to avoid damage to your car that comes with the off-limit soaps (laundry, hand, dish, etc.). Last but not least, you will need a place to properly wash the car and then to make sure that it dries out without leaving any soap spots. This can be aided by making sure that, after you do an initial wash with the correct soap, you use water to wash off the soap that is left over that can cause spotting.

Proceed with the Wash

Washing with the Right Technique

When you begin, ensure that you have everything ready. Contrary to what “The Karate Kid” would have you believe, when you begin you will want to use side-to-side motions and move upwards from there (or down if you begin at the top), not circular motions. Make sure to change the water regularly to avoid any microscopic elements building up in the water and resulting in scratches. If you want to clean your tires while you are at it, a brush will come in handy. Even dish brushes will work, but strong auto brushes will make things easier. If you want a deep clean, Armor All for tires or another tire cleaning solution can help, but even just soap and water can get rid of a lot of the worst of it.

Adding Some Finishing Touches

Finishes can also help vehicles keep their shine over time. When you finish your first round of washing with car soap, rinse with water to make sure all the dirt, soap and grease is gone. Something to scrape off any stubborn spots that won’t come off can help, but ultimately specific products exist to deal with the worst of it. Once you are done, you can always wax or polish the vehicle as well. Once you’ve finished and made sure that you got all the spots on your vehicle, allow it to air dry.

Finally, you can enjoy a beautiful, spotless vehicle while knowing that you’ve helped to preserve its value for the long term.

CategoryAuto Repair

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