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Maintaining Your Car’s Paint Job

Maintaining Your Car’s Paint Job


Maintaining Your Car's Paint Job
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Maintaining your car’s paint job is so simple that anyone can do it successfully, with the right amount of effort. Neglect its care or use the wrong products, however, and your shiny vehicle may not look so good any more. To make things worse, some urban legends and tall tales about automotive paint care can actually harm the finish. The swirls and dull spots you may notice are almost always the result of using the wrong products and techniques when washing, drying or waxing your car. Below are some helpful hints for keeping your vehicle’s paint job looking good for years to come.

How to Wash Your Car the Right Way

Your vehicle takes a beating. Everything from tar and gravel to birds and bugs take a toll on its finish. Experts recommend washing your car at least twice per month and more often during bad weather. Letting dirt, debris, salt or other foreign substances sit on the paint can cause rust, staining and even corrosion, and can also dull the shine. Never scrub bird droppings off your car. Remove them as quickly as possible by soaking the spot for a few minutes with water (and a little soap if necessary), then rinsing with a spray bottle.

Washing your car should begin with a thorough rinse to dislodge grime. Wash your vehicle by hand, out of direct sunlight, with a soft natural sea sponge or sheepskin mitt, using a gentle detergent made for cars. Never scrub with a brush or anything that could create microscopic scratches in the finish. Rinse your sponge each time before reloading with soap, and change the wash and rinse water often. If you aren’t able to do the job yourself, be sure to seek out a brushless car wash.

Correctly Drying and Waxing a Vehicle

Always dry your vehicle immediately after washing to prevent water spots. Water spots look bad, but they also leave harmful mineral deposits behind that can erode the finish. Dry quickly using a gel-blade squeegee, a large microfiber towel (or both). Start with mirrors and windows, then move to the roof and downward. Use a second, dry towel and go back over it one more time. Use a different towel for wheels and non-painted bumpers to avoid cross contamination between abrasive brake dust and painted surfaces. Don’t neglect waxing, as this is the main line of defense between your car and potential paint damage. Choose a nonabrasive wax and apply with a clean, soft sponge or cloth, following manufacturer’s directions. Avoid parking under trees, as falling sap, leaves or bird droppings can quickly erode the layer of protection that waxing provides.

Professional Auto Detailing Services

Having your car professionally detailed twice or more per year can add years to your paint’s finish. Professional car-wash products and methods will add an extra long-lasting layer of protection. Body-shop detailing services can include buffing out any areas of oxidation and may even be effective for those annoying swirls caused by improper washing methods. Detailing may include special services for removing tar and bug residue, for cleaning the car’s undercarriage and engine compartment or for fine-cleaning the interior.

Having your car detailed by professional auto-body technicians can add years to the life of your finish and keep the car looking new. Most detailers will be glad to offer you professional advice on how to maintain your car’s paint job most effectively.

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How to Wash Your Car by Hand: It’s Easier Than You Think!

How to Wash Your Car by Hand: It’s Easier Than You Think!

It’s easy to take your car to the car wash. In fact, the car wash is such a venerated lifestyle that it has even been venerated in the vintage disco tune named after such establishments. But going to the car wash takes time and costs cash. Why wait around in line, when with just a small amount of time and effort, you can enjoy a virtually free car wash with the full satisfaction of knowing you did it on your own?

Washing a car yourself is actually incredibly simple. It can also be a relaxing activity, a good way to get to know the ins and outs of your car, while doing something practical and worthwhile. You will feel a stronger feeling of satisfaction after washing your car than you might with a quick trip through the drive through. It doesn’t take too long, and if you want to enjoy the weather outside on a beautiful weekend afternoon, it might be far preferable than going through a machine.

Let’s look at a few helpful tips:

Gather Your Supplies

Car washing is a rather simple undertaking that requires a bare minimum of supplies, but you will want to make sure you are prepared for the job. Make sure you buy a dedicated car wash soap – there are plenty on the marketplace to choose from, but the last thing you want to do is grab your dishwasher detergent or body wash! You will also need a cloth or mitt. Those made of microfiber are best, as they will clean deeply and minimize the risk of scratching.You can use a sponge or towel, but a glove style cloth is the best. You will also need buckets (one will suffice, but two is ideal,) a cloth for drying, and a water supply (that is, your garden hose.)

Park your Car in the Shade

That’s all you need! Now, before you wash the car, it is generally suggested to park in a shady location. Ever wonder why professional car washes are always covered? Sunlight can dry your car before you are ready, so try to stay away from it. A shady location is best. You do not want the soap to dry on the vehicle. Wait until after you have washed, rinsed and wiped dry before you pull out into the sunshine. If you are washing in your own driveway, you may not have this option – you can still get a decent wash, but you might be better off waiting for the clouds to roll in. The bottom line is that, for top quality, do your washing in the shade, then get in the sunlight to dry.

Fill the Buckets

If possible you want two buckets: one for the wash soap, one for rinsing your cloth or sponge. If you only have one bucket, you can use flowing water for the latter. First, fill a bucket of water and add your car wash soap as advised on the bottle. If you have a second bucket, fill that one with clean water. If you don’t have a second bucket, don’t worry. You can use running water straight from the hose. The important thing is to rinse off your wash cloth regularly to prevent scraping the paint with dirt picked up while scrubbing.

Before the Wash

If you have some really nasty spots on your car, you might want to start out by pre-treating the filthiest areas with pure, undiluted soap. Then, while waiting for the soap to do its work, take a few minutes to scrub the wheels – here a brush or sponge might be best, but is not necessary. Then give the car an overall rinse to wash off whatever will come away most easily. You don’t need to work harder than you have to! Get out that garden hose and really soak the car, making sure to wash away as much as you can with just the water.

During The Wash

This is the simplest step, but also the most time consuming. Scrub your car from top to bottom, fender to bumper. Make sure to rinse the cloth or mitt regularly, either in your bucket of clean water or with the hose. Most parts of the car shouldn’t require heavy scrubbing. Use a circular motion and don’t apply too much pressure – you don’t want to leave scratches behind – but do make sure to pay special attention to areas that are visibly soiled.

Wrapping Up

Some suggest giving the whole vehicle one last wipe down with soapy water before finishing. Then pull out the hose again and give it a complete rinse. Use a gentle water flow without any kind of spraying nozzle. Let the soap wash away gently. The idea here is to avoid leaving water spots or scratches. Lastly, to further protect against water spots, dry the car promptly with an appropriate drying towel or chamois.

It is really that easy. Just follow a few simple steps and you can enjoy a professionally cleaned car in just a little bit longer than you would spend waiting in line at the car wash – and for a lot cheaper!

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