The outside of your car is sort of like the outside of you. If you want things to last and keep functioning right on the inside, its important to maintain the outside. You don’t just take care of your organs and vital inside body-parts, right? No, you make sure your skin is healthy, take the vitamins and minerals necessary to keep yourself healthy-looking on the outside and most importantly, we like to look good to others, right? Well, its the same for your car.
Tips for Washing Your Car’s Body
By Deanna Sclar
Cleaning your car efficiently saves you time and effort and ensures that the vehicle’s body comes out looking great. If you clean haphazardly, the task takes much longer, and you run the risk of scratching the finish, streaking the surface, and leaving the body vulnerable to rust.
Most modern vehicles are painted in a two-step process that produces a clear-coat finish, which can far outlast the acrylic lacquer or enamel used on older vehicles. Although a clear-coat finish protects and enhances the paint, it’s sensitive to abrasion and chemicals. If it wears away, the paint beneath it will deteriorate rapidly.
To wash your car efficiently, follow these guidelines:
•Never wipe or dust the body with a dry cloth: The tiny particles of dust and grit on the surface can scratch the paint.
•Never wash a vehicle in the hot sun: The cool water causes the hot body to contract, which can crack the paint and ruin the finish.
•Be sure the windows and sunroof are closed before washing: Spray lightly around the edges of the windows, sunroof, and rear deck lid for a short time and then check to see if the weatherstripping leaks.
•Before you wash the car, hose it down to get rid of the surface dust: Then clean and polish such exterior surfaces as vinyl hardtops, convertible tops, glass windows and sunroofs, chrome bumpers and trim, side mirrors, wheel covers, whitewalls, and tires.
•Use cold or lukewarm water and a hose rather than a bucket of water to wet and rinse the car: A bucket holds a finite amount of water. As you rinse out your rag or sponge, the dirt is transferred to the water and back to the rag.
•Use a sponge, soft rag (old terrycloth towels, T-shirts, or cotton diapers are wonderful), or a cotton wash mit: Cotton swabs and an old toothbrush will help you get into small areas.
•To avoid cobwebby scratches, follow the contours of the surface rather than going in circles: Rinse the rag often to get rid of grease and dust particles. Be thorough but gentle; vigorous scrubbing can scratch and remove the paint.
•Use gentle cleansers: Use a commercial car-washing product, not laundry or dish soap or detergent, which can remove the wax and other protective finishes from the surface.
Use biodegradable cleaning products to minimize environmental pollution. Try to do the job on a grassy or graveled area where the water can be absorbed and filtered by the dirt below, or do your washing near a drain. Do not let the water run down the street and into a storm drain.
Every job goes more smoothly and efficiently if the work you do is organized properly. The following tips help you wash your vehicle in an order that will get you the best results:
•Always wash the body of a vehicle from the top down: That way soap scum and sludge don’t muck up freshly washed areas.
•Remember to get to all the corners where dirt can collect and rust can form: Don’t forget the underbody.
•Wash one section of the vehicle at a time: Hose it down, soap it up, and rinse it off. When you finish the entire vehicle, hose it all down again.
•Towel-dry the car with terry towels, cotton diapers, or a synthetic chamois to get rid of water spotting that can mar the surface: Chamois are good for this purpose and can be washed, rinsed, and used for years. But they’re more expensive.
•At regular intervals, apply a coat of wax or sealer: A high-quality polymer sealant provides the best protection because it binds with the paint.
How to Wax Your Vehicle
By Deanna Sclar
Waxing a vehicle preserves that clean and shiny finish and seals its “pores” against dirt, water vapor, and rust. If water doesn’t bead on the surface of the vehicle when it rains or when you hose it down, it needs waxing. Even if you use a car-washing product that has wax in it, you must still give most vehicles a thorough waxing at least twice a year.
To avoid scratching the surface and trapping minute particles of dust, always be sure to wash the vehicle before you wax it, no matter how clean it looks. After applying wax or polymer sealant, use a terry cloth towel to break up the hazy surface by rubbing in one direction. Then switch to a soft, lint-free cloth (a cloth diaper works best) and rub in the other direction to bring out the shine.
If you drive a dark-colored vehicle or one with a clear-coat or sensitive lacquer finish, make sure that the cleaners and waxes you use have no abrasives in them. If you’re unsure as to whether the finish on your vehicle requires special handling, check your owner’s manual or call your dealership for instructions.
Unless your vehicle came with specific instructions from the manufacturer, you can choose from a variety of waxes. Here’s a closer look at your options:
•Liquid waxes: Generally speaking, liquid waxes are very easy to use but don’t last as long as soft or hard waxes. Liquid wax is excellent to replace the wax you lose if you wash your car with a wax-free detergent or soap, or for a touch-up between professional waxings.
•Soft waxes: Soft waxes are light and fluffy and are very easy to apply and remove. Some are mixed with a light cleaner, but be sure to wash the car thoroughly first anyway to remove particles that can scratch it. Apply soft wax with the applicator pads provided or with a soft terry cloth rag. Simply wipe on the wax, following the contours of the surface; allow it to dry to a haze; and wipe the haze away.
Because the waxes that contain cleaners usually contain abrasives, don’t use them for every car wash or more often than once a month. In between, use a liquid car cleanser that contains a little wax.
•Hard or paste waxes: These types of waxes provide the most protection and should be used for your semi-annual major wax job. Always do a small area at a time to avoid letting the wax harden to a point where it’s hard to remove. Apply the wax according to the directions on the can with an applicator or soft, lint-free rag.
•Polymer preservatives: Products that contain polymer substances claim to protect a vehicle more effectively than wax and for longer periods of time. They bond with the surface and prevent it from fading and oxidizing. At the auto supply store, you can buy poly-sealants that are easy to apply and are supposed to protect your vehicle for six months to a year.
•Polyglycotes: Professionals and auto manufacturers offer silicon-based polyglycotes that are supposed to last from two to five years, but the jury’s still out on whether they can live up to their promises; most have to be freshened and buffed periodically to maintain the shine, which isn’t much different than waxing. If you still want to use one of these products, wash the vehicle thoroughly and give it a good cleaning and polishing first. When the surface is really clean, shiny, and dry, apply the protective coating, following the directions on the label.
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