Washing Cars.

April 16, 2020

With Corona comes the lockdown. With the lockdown comes an opportunity. An opportunity to get your garden sorted and clean your car apparently. A walk through our village looks like preparations are underway for a village of the year judging, or a car concours event on the village green. Spick and span to say the least. Anyone who knows me knows that I love washing cars so am overjoyed to see everyone else putting in the hours too. I’m not sure what it is about the process that I love, its got quite high levels of satisfaction though. It’s always good to do something that you can stand back and admire, and see your face in at the end of it. I’ve expanded my knowledge and progressed from washing to ‘light’ detailing now with some good results using fairly low abrasive polishing compounds and a dual action polishing machine, still as an amateur but enough that I was quite chuffed when recently a couple of people have asked my advice with what processes and products to use. Now, most importantly, there are a lot of options when it comes to making a purchase, whether it be consumables or equipment but when I got a bit carried away emailing a list of dos and donts to a mate of mine I thought I’d post it here as it might help someone else in a similar situation. Its not an exhaustive list, other similar products exist. There’s generally products designed for the consumer which have the lowest element of risk when it comes to cocking up your paintwork and there’s more professional products for pro detailers who know exactly what they are doing. I use and list below consumer products of which I’ve tried and are available particularly at this time during lockdown for my mate to order online and get cracking with. The links are live at the time of writing but will undoubtedly expire in time. Most products listed are made by Meguiars, but have a shop around you can get some great deals from others such as Autofinesse, AutoGlym, the list goes on. If any of them want to sponsor me that would be amazing ta. There’s a couple of stages missing if you want to get really particular but it was intended as a ‘how to get started’ list more than a comprehensive guide. He actually asked what to do as his Black Porsche Cayman had a build up of light swirls which needed correcting and a proper overdue deep clean. I’m not an expert so if there’s anything else you can suggest please speak up in the comments. Disclaimer – I’m obviously not responsible for any damage to your pride and joy which may or may not happen by following my instructions, wash at your own risk….

Here’s my email…

Car cleaning is one of my favourite past times – bit odd I know. But it means I’ve tried a few different, mainly consumer grade products..
As I said, its all about limiting physical contact with the surface when dirty. Some of this is really basic stuff but hey… I’m sure its helpful.
If you have a jet wash you could get a foam lance and snow foam. Although you can use this as your wash/soap stage if you’re car is almost clean anyway, it’s generally used as a preclean. It’s a ph balanced detergent (ph balanced so it doesn’t strip any previous layers of wax off) and all it does is soften the dirt. As you let it ‘dwell’ it clings to the car, soaking in to the dirt and grime thus making it easier to clean.
Get one that fits your jet wash, there’s a few to choose from but they’re all similar, get one with a metal body like this
I’ve been using this snow foam
Which seems pretty decent. You dilute it down to use it too, so it last for loads of washes.
Give the car a quick jet wash down, then apply the foam.
Spray the car, let it dwell for 10 mins, less time if its a hot day as you don’t really want it to dry. You can get a soft brush and agitate the snow foam around badges, along window seals etc while you wait. Try not to get the wheels wet at this stage as while the snow foam is on the car you can apply some wheel cleaner but it needs to go on dry wheels. This stuff is amazing…
Smells a bit. You can brush with a wheel brush if your wheels are proper dirty.
Rinse everything off with your jet wash.
This is where you need 2 buckets and a mitt. Use just normal buckets, or you can get fancy ones too but they get really heavy full. They do come with a grit guard though which is good at separating the grit from the water. If you need a second bucket, consider this deal at Halfords. You get the wheel cleaner and a grit guard too and some fairly decent soap too.
I’d use the microfibre mitt you get with it for your wheels and get a lambswool mitt to do the car.
The main principle is you have a clean soapy bucket and a dirty rinse bucket with grit guard. If you’ve done most of the pre cleaning stages whether you’ve jet washed or hosed or whatever then you’re keeping the dirt to the minimum level anyway. So you dunk into your hot (not sure if it helps or not) wash bucket, wash a panel on the car, then rinse the mitt before you repeat – cold water fine for rinse. Start at the top down as it all runs down and cars tend to get dirtier at the bottom ( all obvious stuff I know but…)
Clean the wheels/tyres and under sills etc last, using a second mitt. The wheels should be much cleaner after using wheel clean earlier.
Rather than using a leather to dry it, use a drying towel. Make sure you wash them first in the washing machine as they leave loads of fluff behind at first but their absorbency is incredible. You can literally towel off the whole car with one cloth. The car has to be clean for obvious reasons, so does the cloth so if you pick up any dirt stick it through a wash cycle. I’ve got a couple I alternate. You have to be quick on a hot day to zip round the car before you get dry water marks. You just lay the towel on, pull it across a panel and its dry!
Next stage you can do is clay bar the paint work. All it is is an extra cleaning process. You lubricate the surface (lubricant supplied in the kit) and move the clay over and it picks up any micro contaminants left after the washing stage. It also means that you’re less likely to scratch the paint at the next stage by dragging something you’ve missed across the surface.
So all the stages to get to this point are cleaning. Different levels of cleaning which may or may not be a bit OTT depending on how much time you have or stuff you want to buy. A careful and thorough 2 bucket wash can get you to the same point, especially if you visit your local garage jet wash and blast most of the loose dirt off – don’t use their brushes though as they’ll scratch the fook out of your paint! You’ll find once you’ve done it properly and waxed it the dirt doesn’t stick as easily so washing becomes much easier.
Polishing next, by hand is fine, a small area at a time – one panel, less if its hot so it doesn’t get baked on there, although really you should avoid doing it in direct sun, or on hot panels. You’ll need some microfibre cloths and an applicator – microfibre applicators for polishing
To brighten up and de swirl your paintwork I’d give this a go..
Apply some pressure putting on and taking off. You’ll see the difference, take a bit longer or repeat on any deeper scratches, marks. Wipe off then repeat the process with this, which is the same but finer
Wax next and I’d stick to the same range as its really easy to use too, and smells lovely..
This kit comes with a foam applicator and high quality cloth which makes a big difference, spread it on and buff it off
Stand back and admire your reflections in the paintwork! Take a photo for social media, drive, get filthy, repeat….
You should only need to properly wax every couple of months. As its your first application I’d maybe do it for a couple of weeks in a row to get two layers on there.
Always use a non contact jet wash, at home or petrol station first. Always use the two bucket method, and between proper waxes use a spray on quick wax which you literally dust on and wipe off. Don’t be tempted to do a quick one bucket wash as you’ll get swirls and ruin your hard work again.
Shop around, these aren’t necessarily the best prices. Also I’ve stuck to daily Meguires stuff here. You can get most things from other companies but the meguires stuff is really quite good, and safe to use on your own car.
Tyres, meguires again do a good tyre gel, glass, you can use IPA ( the alcohol not the beer) to clean then rain-x your screen. Interior cleaners are available too for a wipe down. Not sure about leather treatment I haven’t tried that yet. I usually wax my wheels and headlights too as it just adds a layer of protection and makes then easier to clean, it seems to stop headlights going cloudy so quick too.
Think that covers most of it. There’s loads of tutorials online too….

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