How to keep your car exterior clean

How to keep your car exterior clean

Give our British weather half a chance and we learn the hard way how automotive corrosion begins, galvanising notwithstanding. During the dark days, car cleaning isn’t our first priority. We may take the motor to the automated car wash but they never really get the job done, do they? Those narrow grooves and tight shut lines all harbour areas where the car wash doesn’t reach. Far better to do the job personally.

Cleaning a car is a necessary chore if for no other reason than to help retain that all-important resale value. Some people apparently really like doing it and some are even obsessive about it, but everybody, once the job is done, likes to stand back and admire their handiwork. There are few things more pleasing than a nice clean motor.

Nature Does Not Like Cars

As if the weather isn’t bad enough, our feathered friends are another menace. Everybody like birds and birdsong but few people can tolerate great dollops of dung on the paintwork. You might think you’re doing them a favour with the bird-feeders but all you are really doing is providing ammunition. Sometimes it is easy to believe that a full grown, dyspeptic, albatross must have passed overhead, such is the mess. The trouble is, bird droppings are not only unsightly, they are also acidic. It eats into that pristine paintwork.

Suicidal insect strikes are commonplace and then there are trees. Birds live in trees and trees emit sap. In ancient times our ancestors used tree sap as glue; imagine then what it does to car paint. Just wiping it will simply spread it out over a larger area. If it is allowed to dry a proprietary product will be needed. Fortunately there are plenty of suitable products on the market that make these little jobs straightforward.

The Personal Car Wash

First, use a pressure washer to really remove road dirt and grime. Alternatively a household hose with do the job or copious buckets of water. Next step: a thorough wash using the tried and tested three bucket method. The first is filled with clean soapy water using a proprietary car detergent (not washing up liquid which can strip away wax). The second bucket contains just water. This is for rinsing the cleaning mitt (ideally) or sponge to clear out any small, collected grit that could add fine scratches to the paint. Bucket three is for wheels and tyres.

A Good Polish

Wax and polish have two rather different functions. Car wax protects, adding an extra layer to the paint to help prevent fading caused by UV rays. Polish on the other hand helps to eliminate fine surface scratches, swirls, oxidation, dirt, and other minor imperfections in the paint and raise a shine. This is only needed a couple of times annually. Use it before wax, stand back and admire the shine. To back up all this effort, wash the car at least once a month, depending upon use and conditions.

The Real Detail

Purists like to go further; they ‘detail’ the paintwork by performing a thorough cleaning, restoration, and finishing of a motor, to produce a show-quality cleanliness and high gloss. Spray products can be purchased from the local motor factors that add value after washing by quickly removing dust and surface contaminants. They enhance wax protection and shine.

Some go the extra mile by using a clay bar. Claying is less abrasive than polishing or buffing the surface. Claying actually pulls out foreign particles and contaminants that have embedded themselves in the paint. It is done, as the name suggest by use of a prepared ball of soft hand-warmed clay, worked over the surface a small area at a time. It’s a long, arduous job but it really does work wonders. If car owners could see microscopically they would be amazed by what embeds into car paint.

So there you have it; a clean, shiny car presents a good appearance and retains its value. Today’s cleaning products make life a lot easier and, when it’s all over the level of job satisfaction makes it all worthwhile. If in doubt about products and car care details check with your local garage or motor factor. It’s also a good chance to inspect the car and the wheels (alloys especially are prone to damage). If a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing well.

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