How to wash your car

CarsGuide ·

4 May 2010

How to wash your car
Even if working within the guidelines, it is advisable to be water conscious. Use a trigger nozzle on the end of the hose.

It is not only a great feeling to bring a gleam to the chrome and the paintwork, but washing is also a handy way to check that everything on your car, ute, SUV, truck or bike is as it should be with no loose bolts, badges or bumpers.  It can also be a sensual feeling to run your wet sponge over the contours of the bodywork.

But before you grab your hose and get all excited, you should check your local council for water restrictions. Some stipulate the use of special hose nozzles or buckets and specific hours or days when washing is allowable.

Even if working within the guidelines, it is advisable to be water conscious.  Use a trigger nozzle on the end of the hose. It not only conserves water but also gives a nice, even spray. And if you wash your car on your lawn, it saves you having to water it.

High-pressure hoses are waterwise but be careful not to spray directly on rubber, or vinyl such as tonneau covers or motorcycle seats, as some powerful units can sometimes rip these materials.  Frequent washing will ensure the paintwork is kept in good condition and prevent oxidisation.

However, you can overdo it, especially on old vehicles and those with exposed engines and other mechanical parts.  Too much water and detergent can make plastics and rubber parts dry out, and dilute the lubricants on some important working parts such as suspension and various cables.

It is therefore important to use a revitalising oil-based solution or relevant lubricant on these parts after washing.  And don't forget to wash underneath your vehicle, especially SUVs or anything that has been on dirt roads or even wet roads.  Road debris, mud and sand accumulate under fenders, on suspension components and on the chassis.

If allowed to build up, they hold the moisture for extra hours and even days beyond a rainy spell and can lead to the development of rust.  Everyone has their preferred method of cleaning their precious vehicle and there is a host of tips available.

We have assembled some tips that you may not have heard of before.  They come from Autoglym Australia which makes car cleaning products, so obviously they encourage use of dedicated cleaning and polishing materials.

However, we're not so sure about the first tip of not using household cleaners. Certainly dishwashing liquid couldn't cause any problems to paintwork or leave smears. After all, we wash our crockery and cutlery with it. 

So, armed with some commercial cynicism, but always prepared to listen to expert advice, here are Autoglym's tips:

1. Ditch the household cleaners  they are designed for very different purposes and can smear, strip polish/wax and damage a car's exterior. Only use dedicated automotive products which are designed for the specific task at hand.
2. Cool shade is better. If you wash your vehicle in the open hot sun the cleaning products will dry quickly making them harder to remove and will likely cause streaking.
3. Rinse first and make it warm before you wash. Rinse the entire vehicle to remove grit, mud and dust. This makes cleaning easier and helps to prevent scratching. The water you use with your detergent should be warm to make washing easier.
4. Use a wheel cleaner. Wheel cleaners are designed to strip away brake dust far more efficiently than normal detergents alone. They will save you a lot of time and are not very expensive. Make sure the wheel is cool. Rinse quickly and don't let the product dry.
5. When washing the car, work one panel at a time and wash from bottom to top and then back down again. By working in this manner you will make sure you don't miss sections that you have to go back and re-clean. If you work from top to bottom the soapy water will drain down the panel making it harder for you to see where you have cleaned.
6. Clean your chamois regularly with detergent to remove any dirt and grime. If you are using a dirty chamois you will be left with unsightly streaks because you are essentially putting dirt back on your car. Most people don't think of doing this but it makes an enormous difference. After every third or fourth wash fill your bucket with warm water, add some detergent, give the chamois a good clean, rinse and allow to dry. This exercise should take you about two minutes but will make cleaning quicker and easier.
7. A well-polished and waxed vehicle is significantly easier to clean because the process of polishing and waxing leaves a clean smooth surface with a protective barrier that repels dirt, water and harmful contaminates. It also makes your car look great. A good wax will give you four to six months' protection before needing to reapply.

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Published In

Car Advice

Information about maintaining your car to maximise performance and resale value.

Written by

Mark Hinchliffe

Published 4 May 2010