YOUR CAR’S FIRST WASH
Timing and drying are two of the most overlooked aspects of car cleaning
So you’ve finally got the car of your dreams on the driveway but — shock and horror — it’s dirty!
Here are professional car care company DuraSeal’s top tips on when, how and how often to clean it.
According to Jake Smit from Dura-Seal: “Everyone knows how to clean a car but no one reads the handbook.” But that, my friends, is where the real knowledge lies.
The “when” is relatively simple: when the car is dirty — but it’s not as straightforward as that. A blazing hot summer day may seem a great time for you but, alas, it’s not good for your paintwork. On a warm summer’s day, the panels on a black car can easily reach 75 degrees, so cleaning at high noon may cause your paintwork to crack. Simply moving to the shade doesn’t help either, if it’s too hot to touch it’s too hot to wash.
Smit says, “The best thing is to wash the car early in the morning when all the dirt is still wet from the morning dew. The panels are still cool and you can clean with much less effort. But a lot of people are not ready to wash their car until they’ve had a couple of cups of coffee and by then the sun is heading up.”
According to Smit, one of the biggest things to remember when washing, is to dry the car, something we will bring up again.
“Drying is probably the most important part of the wash. Of course you have to remove the dirt first but if you don’t dry the car you’ll really turn the car into a mess quite quickly.”
Water or no water, that is the question.
There are some terrific waterless products on the market designed to “encapsulate” the dirt, lift it off the surface and then a microfibre towel takes it away out of harm’s way. Bonus — as you apply this product panel by panel and dry it straight away you avoid any potential water spotting issues.
But if you prefer to clean your car with water, Smit recommends that you hose down your car first, so that all the dirt starts to soften, then with the nozzle removed and water running at a lower pressure use a microfibre noodle mitt to remove and rinse away the dirt. In both cases, rinse the whole car again and towel or chamois dry.
As with most things, automatic car washes have improved over time but stay clear of those with bristles tougher than Desperate Dan’s. Same goes for those washing booths, the jets are good but you never know what’s stuck in the broom from the off-roader that was there before you. Hand washing is definitely best in terms of car care and getting to the hard-to-reach places.
In (hopefully) the same fashion as you shower, start at the top and work your way down. Ultimately the bottom of the car is the dirtiest, so as you start at the top and all the water drips down, the softer the dirt on the lower parts of the car will get so it makes it easier to wash away. And you also avoid all the dirt being recycled to the top.
If it’s a big car you may have to dry it in stages. So once you’ve cleaned the top half of the car (the roof windows and bonnet), dry those and then do the rest of the car. Often that means that it will get a little bit wet again so you have to dry again — drying the car is important.
Leave wheels and lower sills to the very last, they take the longest as they are usually the dirtiest and the more water you can get onto it from the rest of the wash process the easier it is to clean them.
As a general rule, the longer you let something be dirty, the longer you let it bake on and cake on, the harder it is to remove.
For normal road use, (grime and location dependent), most of us city slickers are likely to find that once every fortnight is more than sufficient to keep the car looking good and to keep the job easy.
However, if you do get a bird plop or sunscreen from one of your little darlings (or yourself, for that matter) on the paintwork, take care of it straight away. The longer you leave it, the bigger the potential repair bill. More on what you can do about this in a later article.