Tips on the Proper Way to Wash your Car or Truck

By: Arthur Nicholas

It's a nice sunny day and you decide to wash the car, however the hottest part of the day is probably the worst time to wash your car. Water dries up quick, and soapy water is the key to avoiding scratches and swirl marks. Follow these simple steps to ensure you have a swirl mark free shine every time.

Make sure you car is cool
Do not start washing your car in the middle of the day, or after a long drive. This is especially important for your breaks and rims. Introducing cold water on your hot break rotors may cause them to warp. While very rare, cold water on an extremely hot windshield can cause it to crack.

Use lots of water
Water helps lubricate the surface to avoid scratches and swirl marks. If you car is dry and you start rubbing a sponge or brush on the surface, all of the fine grit and road grime gets pushed into your paint to create tiny surface scratches. Start by wetting the entire car to rinse off any loose dirt or grime. If the car dries off on it's own before you get to wash it, be sure to hit it with the hose one more time.

Use low pressure water
If you decide to use a pressure washer, make sure it is safe for use on cars and trucks. While pressure / power washers are great for getting dirt out of engines, wheel wells, and the under carriage, they are not so great for your car's paint. High pressure water will push any fine particles into the paint surface and cause tiny scratches. It's best to use low pressure from a garden hose.

Use the correct car wash soap
Get a car wash soap that is safe on all paints and clear coats. If you do not know what kind of paint your car has, it's best to get a car wash soap that is safe for all. Most of them are, but it's always good to check. Do NOT use dish washing liquid / soap. This is a very harsh soap that will do a great job of cleaning off the car, but will remove some if not all of the wax / sealant, and will leave a slight residue on the surface.

Use a soft brush or car washing mitt
There are a variety of different sponges, mitts, and brushes for your car, and most are good. You do get what you pay for here. You want something soft that is going to hold lots of soap and water. You must keep the brush / sponge clean, rinse it often and make sure it is full of soapy water. This is the key to avoiding swirl marks.

Start from the top down
Starting from the top will help with rinsing and not have you wasting water by going over the same section twice. It's a good idea to also wash in sections, roof, hood, trunk, sides, etc. This way you can be sure to touch up any missed spots.

Use a different brush / sponge for wheels
You can start or end with washing your wheels, but make sure you use a different brush or wash mitt. The wheels are usually far dirtier than the rest of your car, and you do not want to rub that dirt all over your paint. You should not need any special wheel cleaner, the same soapy car washing soap is good to use. Always check and make sure what ever you use is safe for rims. Chrome and alloy rims react differently to the same detergent/soap.

Dry with a water blade
A good quality water blade is essentially a windshield wiper for your car's paint. It removes a lot of water in one stroke, and will not scratch your paint. It's a good idea to touch up any missed areas with a good quality towel. Terry cloth / micro fiber are the best. Again, start from the top. Always wash your drying towels separate from any other that may have special shines, or polishes on them. This will ensure they last longer and be less likely to scratch your paint.

These tips should help you prolong the paint and keep your car looking newer longer.

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