How to Clean the Exterior of Your Car - dummies

How to Clean the Exterior of Your Car

By Gill Chilton

Your car’s exterior is probably the most painstaking aspect of cleaning your car. However, a nice shiny exterior is what you get to show off to others.

Hosing beats buckets for wetting down and for rinsing off every time. If you don’t have an outdoor tap for your gardening needs, being a car cleaner is reason enough to get a kit from a hardware store and hook up an outdoor tap onto which you can clip your hose.

You do need buckets to hold your cleaning solution and clean sponge-rinsing water, however. Make sure to wash out the buckets before you start. Last week’s grit can quickly become this week’s scratches.

Some household cleaning products can harm car exteriors. Even the detergent of humble washing-up liquid can remove wax polish from your car. Repeated use of washing-up liquid flattens the natural gloss of car paintwork. You probably know scores of people who’ve happily used washing-up liquid for years because it’s cheap and it works. But if you’re serious about your car’s appearance and long-term value, always choose specialist car cleaning products.

To get a sudsier cleaning solution, put the car-wash shampoo in first then watch the foam rise as you fill the bucket with warm water.

Give the car an initial all-over rinse with the hose, then work from the roof downwards applying shampoo solution with a large thick sponge. Take it one side at a time, so you can hose off the shampoo before it dries.

Adopt this good procedure: Dip the sponge into the sudsy bucket then onto the car; next wring out the sponge and put the sponge into the rinsing-water bucket to rinse off the suds from the car. This way, you remove dirt for good, rather than simply shift it onto different areas of the car.

Watch out that cleaning doesn’t make your car dirtier. Change the rinsing water frequently and if you drop your sponge on the ground, spray it with the hose to remove any gravel and grit before bringing it back into contact with your car. Tar splatters clean up in no time with a squirt of WD-40, but be sure to re-wax afterwards.

Clean bumpers and number (license) plates by rubbing on shampoo foam with a soft paintbrush before again rinsing off. Rub a lint-free cloth moistened with vinegar over your chrome for a sparkling shine.

After you wash everything, including the screens (windows), use the hose to rinse the entire vehicle. The big challenge now is drying the car without streaks on the screens or smears on the paintwork. Treating your car like one big window can help. Squeegee water away in long, steady strokes. Turn on the screen wiper to start you off.

A specialist tool, such as Autoglym’s Hydra Flexi Blade, helps the job go faster and rules out the danger of scratching your paintwork if the plastic side of the wiper ran against the car.

For final precision, open and slam both boot and doors to dislodge any standing water and run a cloth between the car and the bumper.

Drive round the block before you start polishing. This short drive blows away any standing water so that you can be confident that you car is absolutely dry before you begin polishing it.

Buffing with a soft, dry cloth brings shine to every part of your car. But brilliance calls for the intensive effort of wax polishing. Essentially, you need to coat all the paintwork with polish. Take it by sections, and create ever decreasing circles to rub the polish in, before finishing off by layering the polish you can still see into straight, overlapping lines.

Leave it to dry whilst you go and have a drink and a biscuit. When you get back you’ll be surprised to find that, providing you’ve chosen a quality car polish, buffing it off to a shine is a surprisingly easy task.