Whether you’re into classic cars, show cars, or simply want to give your day-to-day vehicle a good wash down, knowing the proper way to wash your vehicle is paramount when it comes to removing road dust and salts, debris, bugs, bird excrement and general filth.
A vehicle covered in dirt is not only unsightly in appearance, but also encourages the growth of rust and corrosion. While it is true that you can take your car to have it professionally washed and detailed, there is just something so satisfying in doing it yourself, the old fashioned way, and by following our step by step guide, making any allowances for your particular vehicle, you are guaranteed to have a beautiful, shining and stunning car in no time.
5 Steps for Washing a Car Properly
Step 1. Collecting Your Supplies
Collect your supplies before you begin, after all, no one wants to run back into their house, dripping wet because they forgot the microfiber towels. Once gathered, make sure all items will be in easy reach of you and your hose. In general, car wash supplies include your garden hose, sponge, brushes, soap, wax, carwash mitt, 3 buckets, and nice, large microfiber towels.
As for the soap, it is strongly recommended that you only use soap made for cars. Please try to steer clear from using dishwashing or laundry soap, as these might strip your car of wax, or simply leave your surface vulnerable to scratching.
As for your own personal preparation, it’s best to dress the part. For instance, if its the summer, then sandals, a comfortable T shirt and a pair of loose shorts should do the trick. If during the colder months of early spring or autumn, then wear waterproof boots and perhaps some overalls.
Step 2. Preparing Your Vehicle
First things first, and that means ensuring that you car is parked in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. As you’ll be moving around your car quite a bit, park it on a level area, while remembering to apply your parking brake to prevent it from rolling as you scrub. Next, go around your car to make certain all doors are shut and the windows closed up tight, and pull the wipers up and away to give you easy access to the windshield.
Step 3. Pre-Wash
In the pre-wash stage, we want to gently remove any hard, stuck on dirt and filth from your vehicle. This prevents you from accidentally scratching your car during the full wash phase. It also ensures that removing as much dirt and dust as possible, your soapy wash water will not need to be changed when you do the final wash down.
Depending on where you live and drive, you may have picked up a good amount of bug and bird excrement. To make sure you remove this without removing paint or scratching your surface, apply a bug removal product to the affected areas. Let it soak according to directions, then proceed to remove with a damp microfiber towel.
You don’t want to get your bucket of clean, soapy water dirty unnecessarily, so after the ‘debugging’, hose the surface dirt from your car and wheels. Some people will choose to use plain water, but if your vehicle is rather dirty, you may consider using car wash sprayer which sprays a nice flow of soapy water over your vehicle. Continue spraying, paying close attention to your wheels, always keeping the force of water on the gentler side.
After hosing as much dirt as possible, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to the wheels, dislodging any dirt with your wheel brush, and hosing it off. At this point, if you have a heavy accumulation of brake dust, attend to it now by applying a special solution made to handle brake dust.
Step 4. Washing the Body
Your vehicles finish must be maintained at all costs, so please only use mitts or sponges made specifically for washing your vehicle, otherwise you risk scratching your paint finish. The mitt or sponge should be free of foreign material and dirt before you begin to prevent scratches. Two things to remember: Always rinse your mitt or sponge free from dirt, and hose down each area of the car after you wash it, as you do not want the soap to dry.
Many car wash professionals suggest you start to wash from the top down. If you see a gritty patch of dirt, do not scrub it, let it soak a bit before you gently remove it, as scrubbing dirty areas could lead to severe scratching. In order to avoid those nasty water spots, remember to hose your car down, keeping it completely wet during the wash process.
Almost done! It’s time to wash the tires, wheels and lower body. Using a separate bucket, proceed to clean the tires with a strong, tire brush which you can purchase from any auto supply store. Go over your wheels again, to ensure they have no lingering crud or filth in the holes.
Finally, it’s time to remove any left over road salt, dirt and filth from the your vehicles underbody. So go take your hose and spray off as much of the underbody as you can. Remember road salt as well as chemicals kicked up onto your underbody when driving can cause your car to rust and corrode prematurely.
Step 5. Drying Your Vehicle
When it comes to drying down your vehicle, there’s nothing better than a bunch of nice, large, absorbent microfiber towels. To give your car the absolute best drying experience, it’s best to use only microfiber towels made specifically for vehicles. These are inexpensive and will not scar or mar your vehicles finish.
The Final Words (Summary)
Washing your car in the proper manner means you are always thinking of your cars finish first. Make certain that the car has a good pre-wash to loosen bug and bird waste, as well as hose off any loose dirt from the body, tires, wheels and removal of brake dust.
Wash in the proper order, from the top down, always keeping your vehicle wet to avoid unsightly water spotting, rinsing each section as you go, using only clean mitts and sponges specifically made for this job. Lastly, don’t forget your vehicles underbody, as it is necessary to hose off as much kicked up road dirt, dust and road salt as possible.