How To Wash Your Car Like A Pro
Car Care Tips
Washing your car on a regular basis helps to keep the bodywork in good condition and it can play a role in protecting its resale value. Of course, one way to do this is simply to take your vehicle to the local car wash, but if you want to save money or you enjoy some DIY, you might decide to wash it yourself.
Some people find cleaning their cars to be therapeutic, and the benefits don’t end there. Another advantage concerns possible car insurance claims. Whenever you wash your vehicle yourself, you’ll naturally find that you inspect it closely - and this will mean you’re aware of any scratches or marks on it. If you’re then involved in an accident or your car is damaged when you’re not in it and you need to make an insurance claim, you’ll know which marks and other signs of damage are old and which are new.
So, if you want to know how to wash and polish your car like a pro, keep reading. In this post, we talk you through the basics, offering practical tips as well as advice on how long it generally takes to wash a car and how often you should do this.
How to wash your car at home
To achieve the best results when cleaning your car, it helps to bear the following pointers in mind.
Make sure you have all the gear
Before getting stuck in, make sure you have all the kit to hand. This includes a hose, sponge, at least two buckets, car shampoo, stiff brush, wash mitts, microfibre towel and - if you’re planning to use it - some car wax. Fill one bucket with warm water and car shampoo and the other with plain water. The first bucket will be for washing and the second for rinsing. If your car is particularly dirty, you might need two washing buckets, or you might decide to use separate washing buckets for the wheels and body of your car.
What to wash a car with
Don’t use household soaps or washing up liquids to clean your car as they can strip the protective wax from bodywork. Instead, look out for specialist vehicle soaps or shampoos that have non-detergent, pH-balanced formulas.
Wash everywhere, including the wheels
Before you get to work on your car, make sure that the windows are all fully closed and the windscreen wipers are pulled off the screen into an upright position. You can then hose your car down to soften any dirt. Avoid using strong jets of water at this point because it could shift dirt around, potentially leading to scratching. Once you’ve hosed the bodywork, do the same with the wheels.
It’s then recommended to clean the wheels first. You can do this by scrubbing the wheel openings with a stiff brush. Keep scrubbing and rinsing until the water coming out looks clean. At this point, you can start tackling your car’s bodywork with a mitt or sponge. To do this, soak the mitt or sponge in the soapy bucket and rub your car down, working from top to bottom. Avoid using a brush as this could damage the paintwork. Once you’ve washed a section of your vehicle, rinse off the soapy water and move to the next section. Try to keep your whole car wet throughout the process to stop dried water marks from forming.
Once you’ve cleaned the wheels and bodywork, spray the underside of your car with the hose.
Finish by drying and waxing
It’s now time to dry your car, ideally using microfibre towels. Start at the top and carefully work your way down, making sure each area is completely dry as you go along. If you’re applying wax for added shine and protection, do so only once the bodywork is fully dry. Take care to follow the specific instructions provided with the wax product you use. Usually though, this process involves rubbing wax into your car’s bodywork in small sections, buffing with a clean cloth as you go.
How long does it take to wash a car?
How long it takes to wash your car will depend on its size, how dirty it is and the standard of cleanliness you’re aiming for. A spot clean, for example to remove bird droppings, might only take half an hour or so, while a basic wash of your whole vehicle could take around an hour or two. If you want to clean the interior as well and do a really thorough job, or you plan to wax or polish the bodywork, allow yourself around half a day.
How often should you wash your car?
There’s no set rule when it comes to how often you should wash your car. It really depends on how dirty it tends to get and how spotless you want it to look day-to-day. However, there are some basics to bear in mind when it comes to protecting the bodywork. For example, bird droppings and honeydew (the sticky film that often covers cars left under trees in spring) are corrosive and can cause damage if left on car paint. So, if you notice either of these things on your car, or anything else that could be harmful, you should aim to wash it as soon as possible.
Should I polish my car?
If you want to take car care to the next level, you might decide to polish the bodywork after you’ve finished washing it. Polishing can help to remove scratches and other imperfections in the paintwork, giving it that showroom shine. However, it’s important to be aware that polishes are abrasive and if used incorrectly or too often, they can damage paint or thin it out.
You should therefore only use polish on your car as needed. Also, make sure you choose the right product. There are different grades of polish, from coarse to fine. Depending on how scratched the paintwork is, you might need to start with a coarse product and move up to a fine one to create the finish you’re looking for.
Before using polish on your car, make sure the vehicle is as clean as possible. If you don’t do this, any residual dirt on the paintwork might cause further scratching. For best results, you could use a clay bar to remove stubborn dirt and debris before you apply polish.
You can either polish your car manually or using a machine. Doing it by hand takes longer but it gives you more control. Always make sure you read the instructions of any polish and equipment you use, and if you’re not sure how to go about this task, it’s probably best left to the experts to avoid the risk of damaging your paintwork.