One of the most important lessons to learn about ownership, regardless of the vehicle’s age is the proper care of your vehicles exterior finish. One of the most obvious features on your vehicle is its paint job. It is very expensive to replace or repair it. Take the time to learn which products to use and when to use them. This will add years to the life of your vehicles paint. These techniques will take up a good portion of the day and are about average in difficulty.
Always start by properly washing your car using the proper tools. Get a paint-safe microfiber or cotton washing mitt, a 5-gallon bucket and good cleaning products designed specifically for automotive use. There are a lot of great products out there, find the one that works best for you. Find one that is a non-detergent, pH balanced formula so it will not strip of the wax, and that it is mixed with lubrication to prevent scratching and conditioners to maintain the shine protection. They are usually gentle on all painted surfaces as well as vinyl, rubber and plastic components.
Don’t ever skip drying. After washing your vehicle, drying it is necessary to prevent water spots, you know those mineral deposits that etch the outline of a drop of water into your vehicles paint job. Detailing professionals recommend using 100% cotton detailing cloths or sheepskin chamois to dry your vehicle, polyester and microfiber can scratch your paint. If you want to get high-tech, many car-care product lines carry paint-safe drying towels that are super absorbent and claim to be lint and scratch free.
If a good wash wasn’t enough to get off all of the road grime, pollution, tree sap and bug residue, the next step is to use a auto detailing clay bar because it pulls the contamination off the surface without abrasion or scratching. Detailing clay usually comes in a kit with a lubricating spray. You just spray the area to be cleaned, then glide the clay along the surface and it will grab anything protruding from the surface. Detailing clay is not designed to remove swirl marks or scratches in the paint. Insect deposits or heavy tar may need to be removed with a specialty solvent.
“But the paint still looks dull!” At this point you have one problem with three solutions. The problem is old oxidized paint and the solution is either car polish, cleaner or rubbing compounds. All three remove unwanted dull paint but in varying degrees of aggressiveness. Polish removes the least amount of paint while rubbing compounds remove the most and cleaners are somewhere in the middle. Start with an application of polish first before moving on to a cleaner. Before using a rubbing compound, which is a very aggressive cleaner you should talk to a professional.
“Should I wax my car now?” Waxing your vehicle is the most important thing you can do to protect your vehicles paint, and is an absolute must, especially if you just used a cleaner or a polish. Use a good carnauba wax or a paint sealant. Carnauba car wax produces a deep healthy shine that you cannot get with a sealant, but only lasts about eight to twelve weeks. Paint sealants give you longer lasting protection and will not melt, wear away or wash off for about six months. If you have the time and the money, use a sealant and then a carnauba wax.
Always start your project out of direct sunlight. Make sure the paint is cool before applying any cleaner or wax.
Spray your vehicle with ample amounts of water before washing. Use the water to spray off dirt and other contaminates that will scratch you finish if you use a sponge and water first.
Make sure that you wash and rinse in sections so the soap doesn’t dry before being able to rinse it off.
Always read the directions on all of your car care products before attempting to use them. Once again, Happy Motoring!