Your car is probably your most important investment. It takes a year-round beating from general wear and the elements. This wear and tear will show if you don’t regularly care for and maintain it. Whether it’s cleaning, waxing or making repairs and maintenance, exterior car care should become a regular part of your car care routine. Take some time to review the following car care tips to keep your vehicle running at its optimum condition.
Step 1: Wash It
One of the best car care tips you can receive is to keep the exterior of your car clean. Washing your car often can remove harmful debris and reduce the chance of your car rusting. Choose a shady spot in which to work. It’s usually best to wash your car in the morning or evening when the sun isn't as intense, but if you have a spot in the shade to do the job, it doesn’t matter what time of day you start. Let the car exterior cool down if it has been in the sun for an extended period of time.
Fill a bucket with a couple of capfuls of concentrated car cleaning solution and water (check manufacturer's directions for the exact amount of cleaner to use). Wet down the entire surface of the car using a garden hose with a spray nozzle. Dip a sponge or washing mitt into the bucket and start on the roof of the car.
Using the sponge or washing mitt, wash the roof of the car and clean the windows. Stop there and rinse. You want to wash and rinse the car in sections to avoid the soap's drying on the surface before you spray it off. Choose either the hood or trunk of the car, clean it and rinse it. Continue working by washing either the front or back (depending on where you chose to continue) and then rinsing. Then proceed down one side of the car, one panel at a time, washing and rinsing. Repeat these steps on the opposite side. Don't forget to wash the rearview mirrors.
Wheels and tires should be cleaned last. Since they make contact with the road and collect the most oil, dirt and grime, it makes more sense to clean the rest of the car first so you don't transfer dirt from them to the rest of the car. Grit from the tires and lower panels of the car can also stick to your sponge and then scratch your car's paint elsewhere. Wet the wheels with your hose and then spray a wheel and tire cleaner onto them. Let the solution sit for a minute or two and then wash them with the washing mitt and soap. Rinse them off.
Step 2: Dry It
Dry the car using soft, clean towels that you keep specifically for drying your car, or better yet, use microfiber drying towels or chamois. Chamois, commonly known as shammies are leather cloths, designed to soak up water better than a regular towel and help prevent water spots.
Step 3: Apply Protectants
After the vehicle has dried, pour (or spray) a dab of vinyl and rubber protectant onto a clean rag and wipe it on all vinyl, plastic, or rubber parts on the vehicle exterior. These will most likely include door and window moldings, trim, rearview mirrors, and tires.
Wipe with a circular motion for complete and even coverage. Wait for the protectant to be absorbed. Once it is absorbed, the surface will look and feel dry. Then with a new, clean rag, wipe down the parts.
Step 4: Wax It
Waxing your car protects the paint and finish. In essence, it seals the exterior and protects it from the elements, UV rays, salt, splattered insects and bird droppings, while it leaves the car looking shiny and new. Wax usually comes as a paste, liquid or cream. There is endless debate about which brand or type of wax to use, but most car enthusiasts prefer a carnauba-based wax in any form. One application of this wax usually lasts about six to eight weeks.
Before applying, either dip an applicator pad into the wax container (for pastes and creams) or pour a small amount onto the pad (liquid). Many waxes are sold with applicator pads, but they can also be purchased separately.
Apply wax to one section or panel of the vehicle at a time. Start by framing the section which is applying the wax along the edges in a straight line. This gives you better control and helps prevent getting wax in and on unwanted areas, like plastic or rubber trim. Then fill in the rest of the area by wiping the wax on in a circular motion. As it dries, the wax will form a haze. This usually just takes a few minutes. Use a clean, soft microfiber cloth to wipe away the haze. Try to use one small section of the cloth when wiping each area, so you still have a clean cloth to wipe the next section. Repeat this process over the entirety of the car's finish.
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