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Author Topic: Detailed Guide: How to Wash your Car  (Read 24048 times)
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« on: March 17, 2010, 11:35:50 AM »

This is the reprint from a G35 forum I frequent. I've been using his method for washing my car for years and it really helps cut down on the swirls. Before I paste, I want to summarize the two most important tips in this post (in case you get bored and don't read the whole thing)

1) Use multiple wash mitts on different parts of the car (at least one for wheels, rockers, lower trim and another for main body panels) and rinse them in CLEAN water every time you go back for more soap - that means two buckets, just like your grandma does the dishes.
2) ALWAYS move your wash mitt, drying towel, whatever touches your car, in a back and forth motion, from the highest to the lowest point on each panel. Imagine letting a drop of water hit your hood, whatever direction it runs, that's the way you should be wiping - example: up/down on your doors, back/forth on your hood - the idea here is that, no matter how careful you are, you WILL be putting some minor scratches on your car. If you always move your pads in the same direction, and move them in a way that minimizes the direction sunlight is reflected, your "swirls" will actually be only straight marks and will be MUCH harder to see.

Ok, on to the post. Source: http://g35driver.com/forums/showthread.php?t=141057

OK, so maintenance. Now this is even more important that polishing. Why? Proper maintenance means less polishing is required over the life of the car. You want to wash and seal/wax in ways that DO NOT scratch the car, thus eliminating the need for polishing. So, the most important part of car care: how do I wash?

I wash in two ways, either the regular bucket + hose way, or with a rinseless wash. I will go over both.

First, bucket and hose. OK, products I use:

One or two buckets, both with grit guards. You can get them at CT (red, $15.99)
At *least* 2 sheepskin wash mitts. Why 2 or more? you'll see.
A good automotive soap. What's good? Most are; Meguiars deep crystal is cheap, locally available, and good. JUST DON'T USE TOO MUCH OR IT WILL STRIP WAX. Use the quantity directed, don't just pour a bunch in the bucket. Remember, as nice as suds are, too many = too much detergent.
2-3 good microfiber drying towels.
5+ good microfiber clothes.
A good all purpose cleaner and/or bug remover. I like poorboys apc 2:1 with water or bug squash 3:1 with water.
A wheel cleaner and sealant

So, so let's start:

First, the wheels. I only use a wheel cleaner if there is a significant amount of brake dust. What wheel cleaners do I like? The best, imo, locally available are Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Cleaner (caustic), or for less acidic/caustic, their aluminum wheel cleaner. A lot of you have P21S cleaner; use it when needed, it's great stuff.

Put the car in the shade. This is important. If you're using two buckets, fill one with soap and water and the other with just water.

If the wheels are dirty go to step 1, if not, step 3:
1) Hose wheels off (make sure they are not hot). Spray wheel cleaner on wheels and let dwell. Agitate with a brush (a wheel brush, not a tooth brush or a carpet brush) or an old wash mitt, or an old microfiber cloth. Something soft basically.

2) Hose off, if there is still dust repeat. Go to step 4

3) Wash with soap and water (the automotive soap) and an old mitt.

4) If you washed with your bucket water, dump it out and re-pour it. Wheel dust in the water = don't put it on the paint, EVER.

5) Soak one mitt in first bucket with soap. Not all of them.

6) Rinse the car. If it's very dirty/buggy, apply liberal amounts of diluted APC/bug remover to effected areas and let sit.

7) Get the mit and start washing. Use almost no pressure, start at the top and move down. So roof, front and rear window, side windows, upper side panels and fenders, hood, rear deck lid, trunk, lower side panels and fenders, and finally rockers. Why? The lower part of the car is almost always dirtier, you don't want to use the mitt on them then move it to the cleaner areas. Now, don't do this all at once. Do it like this:

Cool Wash roof and front and rear window. Put the mitt in the clean water bucket and thoroughly rinse it out. Put it back in the soapy bucket and wash the side windows and upper side panels (doors, fenders), then back into the water only bucket, rinse... see the pattern? Dirt gets rinsed out. As the mitt gets more and more dirty put it aside and USE A NEW ONE. I use 3 per wash almost always. One for roof, windows, upper side panels, one for hood, read decklid and trunk, and one for lower side panels and rockers.

9) if its hot, rinse the car often; keep it wet at all times.

9.5) Put the hose over the roof and let the water flow freely over the car. This will "sheet" water off and make for about 80% less water on the car to dry.

10) Now dry. How to dry? Take one towel and spread it on the roof then slowly move it the same way you washed (top to bottom), DO NOT worry about getting the car dry at this point, you want to remove most of the water but leave it damp.

11) get towel two and finish any areas you missed, then re-dry the entire car to clean up the dampness left behind by towel one. You will be amazed how much easier this makes drying.

12) Now, if your waxing or sealing, do it.

13) Dress trim while wax/sealant is hazing, also dress wheel wells, tires, dry wheels, polish chrome, and clean door jambs.

14) If you're using a spray wax/sealant for maintenance (highly recommended) then go from step 11 to this step and spray seal/wax, then do #13.
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2010, 12:20:04 PM »

Great guide! Thanks for posting that...

Being the detailing nut that I am, I feel compelled to mention a few things:

1. Learn how to Clay a Car before you wax. A couple times a year, a claying is necessary to 'truly' get the surface clean. Even with a good thorough wash, you'll notice the surface isn't perfectly glassy-smooth clean. Claying removes the thin layer of particulates that nothing else really gets. After a good clay, the surface of the car will feel smooth as if you've waxed it.

2. WD-40 is the nectar of the gods. It works well when cleaning any metal parts of your car (eg. rims). Don't use it on plastic, and don't use it on the painted surfaces - long term if it sits will degrade softer materials.

3. To keep your plastic bits looking good, there's a variety of good plastic cleaners in stores, or use a good silicon lube - it's safe for plastics.

4. (Im my personal opinion) avoid Armor-all on interior surfaces. Time and sunlight does nasty things to armor-all in my experience.

5. Don't forget to condition leather a couple times a year. Don't use mink oil, dubbin, or silicon based products. Use a good brand-name leather conditioner such as Lexol, my personal favorite.

That's all for now.
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2010, 12:29:00 PM »

Right on Scotty for your comments to a great original post.  I always use a good clear silicone on plastics, particularly black plastic trim.  Brings back original color and keeps sun from further damaging the material.  Armor-All goes milky and just plain yucky (technical term) over time and with multiple use.  I use the same silicone inside the car where needed.  One thing I've learned in the past...the hard way...if you've got painted rims, or even clear-coat...don't use a spray cleaner designed for alloy/metal rims.  Paint and clear-coat starts flaking off after only a couple uses...read the label.  That's my 2 cents.
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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2010, 12:43:16 PM »

The car nuts I know recommend normal every-day baby oil instead of Armor All.  Just have to make sure to get the right scent... wink
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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2010, 03:29:59 PM »

Hey scottyyyc,

Have you tried any of the new orbital clay cleaning devices?  Looks like it'd be a lot faster.

I wouldn't ever use an orbital in the claying process, simply because the process itself is one of removing dirt and particulates. Only in the buffing/waxing stage if I'm satisfied the surface is properly clean would I use an orbital. Pre-clay, the car isn't truly clean. I don't use orbitals and don't recommend friends to use them unless they know what they're doing.
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2010, 07:48:22 PM »



Ahhh, OK, so more just a clay holder. Cool, probably wouldn't use it myself, but not a bad idea.
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2010, 04:00:21 PM »

What do you think about waterless car wash systems?
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2010, 04:46:35 PM »

The car nuts I know recommend normal every-day baby oil instead of Armor All.  Just have to make sure to get the right scent... wink
I was going to ask about that.
Heard (or read) about it a while back but never tried it.
For the price, if it works, hey, why not!

BTW, thanks for ALL the great info in this thread!
Good for a bookmark (for the wife and kids to learn, of course...LOL).
Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2010, 07:08:56 PM »

problem with armour all and baby oil is the residue I just cant stand it every time i touch something covered in it my fingers are slippery
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2010, 01:32:11 AM »

problem with armour all and baby oil is the residue I just cant stand it every time i touch something covered in it my fingers are slippery

I guess armour all has gone the way of the dodo bird and you're right, if baby oil is put onto spots that are frequently handled it would get messy!
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« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2010, 07:52:43 AM »

This is the reprint from a G35 forum I frequent. I've been using his method for washing my car for years and it really helps cut down on the swirls. Before I paste, I want to summarize the two most important tips in this post (in case you get bored and don't read the whole thing)

1) Use multiple wash mitts on different parts of the car (at least one for wheels, rockers, lower trim and another for main body panels) and rinse them in CLEAN water every time you go back for more soap - that means two buckets, just like your grandma does the dishes.
2) ALWAYS move your wash mitt, drying towel, whatever touches your car, in a back and forth motion, from the highest to the lowest point on each panel. Imagine letting a drop of water hit your hood, whatever direction it runs, that's the way you should be wiping - example: up/down on your doors, back/forth on your hood - the idea here is that, no matter how careful you are, you WILL be putting some minor scratches on your car. If you always move your pads in the same direction, and move them in a way that minimizes the direction sunlight is reflected, your "swirls" will actually be only straight marks and will be MUCH harder to see.

Ok, on to the post. Source: http://g35driver.com/forums/showthread.php?t=141057

OK, so maintenance. Now this is even more important that polishing. Why? Proper maintenance means less polishing is required over the life of the car. You want to wash and seal/wax in ways that DO NOT scratch the car, thus eliminating the need for polishing. So, the most important part of car care: how do I wash?

I wash in two ways, either the regular bucket + hose way, or with a rinseless wash. I will go over both.

First, bucket and hose. OK, products I use:

One or two buckets, both with grit guards. You can get them at CT (red, $15.99)
At *least* 2 sheepskin wash mitts. Why 2 or more? you'll see.
A good automotive soap. What's good? Most are; Meguiars deep crystal is cheap, locally available, and good. JUST DON'T USE TOO MUCH OR IT WILL STRIP WAX. Use the quantity directed, don't just pour a bunch in the bucket. Remember, as nice as suds are, too many = too much detergent.
2-3 good microfiber drying towels.
5+ good microfiber clothes.
A good all purpose cleaner and/or bug remover. I like poorboys apc 2:1 with water or bug squash 3:1 with water.
A wheel cleaner and sealant

So, so let's start:

First, the wheels. I only use a wheel cleaner if there is a significant amount of brake dust. What wheel cleaners do I like? The best, imo, locally available are Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Cleaner (caustic), or for less acidic/caustic, their aluminum wheel cleaner. A lot of you have P21S cleaner; use it when needed, it's great stuff.

Put the car in the shade. This is important. If you're using two buckets, fill one with soap and water and the other with just water.

If the wheels are dirty go to step 1, if not, step 3:
1) Hose wheels off (make sure they are not hot). Spray wheel cleaner on wheels and let dwell. Agitate with a brush (a wheel brush, not a tooth brush or a carpet brush) or an old wash mitt, or an old microfiber cloth. Something soft basically.

2) Hose off, if there is still dust repeat. Go to step 4

3) Wash with soap and water (the automotive soap) and an old mitt.

4) If you washed with your bucket water, dump it out and re-pour it. Wheel dust in the water = don't put it on the paint, EVER.

5) Soak one mitt in first bucket with soap. Not all of them.

6) Rinse the car. If it's very dirty/buggy, apply liberal amounts of diluted APC/bug remover to effected areas and let sit.

7) Get the mit and start washing. Use almost no pressure, start at the top and move down. So roof, front and rear window, side windows, upper side panels and fenders, hood, rear deck lid, trunk, lower side panels and fenders, and finally rockers. Why? The lower part of the car is almost always dirtier, you don't want to use the mitt on them then move it to the cleaner areas. Now, don't do this all at once. Do it like this:

Cool Wash roof and front and rear window. Put the mitt in the clean water bucket and thoroughly rinse it out. Put it back in the soapy bucket and wash the side windows and upper side panels (doors, fenders), then back into the water only bucket, rinse... see the pattern? Dirt gets rinsed out. As the mitt gets more and more dirty put it aside and USE A NEW ONE. I use 3 per wash almost always. One for roof, windows, upper side panels, one for hood, read decklid and trunk, and one for lower side panels and rockers.

9) if its hot, rinse the car often; keep it wet at all times.

9.5) Put the hose over the roof and let the water flow freely over the car. This will "sheet" water off and make for about 80% less water on the car to dry.

10) Now dry. How to dry? Take one towel and spread it on the roof then slowly move it the same way you washed (top to bottom), DO NOT worry about getting the car dry at this point, you want to remove most of the water but leave it damp.

11) get towel two and finish any areas you missed, then re-dry the entire car to clean up the dampness left behind by towel one. You will be amazed how much easier this makes drying.

12) Now, if your waxing or sealing, do it.

13) Dress trim while wax/sealant is hazing, also dress wheel wells, tires, dry wheels, polish chrome, and clean door jambs.

14) If you're using a spray wax/sealant for maintenance (highly recommended) then go from step 11 to this step and spray seal/wax, then do #13.

I tried this car wash procedure this am and I like it.
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« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2010, 08:57:31 AM »

I tried this car wash procedure this am and I like it.

I use a variation of this method, too.  Except I do my wheels last.  So far, I've been extremely happy with the results.
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2010, 09:01:00 AM »

I use a variation of this method, too.  Except I do my wheels last.  So far, I've been extremely happy with the results.

I actually do the same thing, so that I don't have to refill my wash bucket Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2010, 12:33:02 PM »

Years ago when I bought a pick up and had a top put on it, the salesman said to rub baby oil on all the rubber seals between the top and the cab. It helps prevent rubbing the paint off as the 2 sections move independantly of each other.
And while you're at it, don't forget to silicone all the door seals to keep them plyable. My 10 year old Aztek's seals looked and felt new the day I trader her for the Terrain.
I also use AccuView (similar to Rain-X) on all the windows.
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« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2010, 05:00:36 PM »

Guys, you're completely crazy!  Grin

It's a car: it's metal, plastic and rubber. Get a life!  Shocked
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« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2010, 09:19:14 PM »

I do something similar but I like to start from the bottom up, that way the soap will not run and will hide where I have to apply.. (obviously I need more towels).
Wheels at the end.
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« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2010, 05:53:35 PM »

I do something similar but I like to start from the bottom up, that way the soap will not run and will hide where I have to apply.. (obviously I need more towels).
Wheels at the end.

Hey oracle, have you seen the movie "Matrix"?

One question: Do you predict any future problem with your wash method if the roof is dirty and the filth runs down your clean bottom? Just curious!
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« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2010, 10:25:57 PM »

Ha!! Grin  Of course I predict the future.. I'm the oracle...


Hey oracle, have you seen the movie "Matrix"?

One question: Do you predict any future problem with your wash method if the roof is dirty and the filth runs down your clean bottom? Just curious!
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« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2010, 09:51:09 AM »

Yeah washing the bottom of your car first is actually bad practice. Typically, the bottom of your car gets FAR more dirty than the top. You want to do everything in your power to keep dirt out of your water and wash mitt as much as possible. So washing from the top down minimizes the amount of dirt in both for as long as possible. The dirt on your wash mitt is the #1 cause of swirls and scratches in your paint caused during the wash cycle.
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« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2010, 07:19:43 PM »

That's mistake #1, never use one mitt/rag for the whole car.. (just like using the same bucket of dirty water for the whole car)
If the bottom is dirty then it means the roof is dirty too, just smaller grain dust.. All loose dirt will come off with a good rinse from the hose..

I go to the self serve car wash and with the power washer I get all loose dirt. Then I wash it..
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