As a vehicle owner, you will most likely find yourself at some point in time irritated by the dirt, dust, grime, or other contaminants on your vehicle. Regardless if it's a car, truck, boat, or bike, a buildup of unwanted grime can take your once shining pride and joy and create an unsightly view.
We’ve all looked at a used car dealership. Do you believe every one of those vehicles arrived shining and smelling fresh? They absolutely did not.
Every dealership will have professional detailers comb through every used vehicle to ensure the next owner is able to get that new car feeling from day one, but you don’t need to go to a dealership or professional shop to get that new car feel.
If you’re new to the idea of maintaining your car’s appearance, be sure to follow our best practices as you read through How To Wash Your Car The Right Way, as well as many of our other blogs, because if you’re like us, you want all the info you can get when it comes to your pride and joy.
When thinking about your vehicle, it’s important to match products to the specific use, for example, the products used for paint care may not necessarily be the best selection for the upholstery within your vehicle, and products for automotive may differ from those used in marine applications.
This is due to the material surfaces or coatings which can be found on all surfaces to help promote longevity or protect them from the elements.
In order to best care for your automotive paint, it’s important to understand what you're actually caring for. When a vehicle is painted, a layer known as primer is sprayed and sanded to reduce imperfections, your vehicle is then sprayed with what’s called base, or base coat, which is the color you see.
At this point your vehicle receives multiple layers of clear, which not only creates that deep shine, but also protects the color of your vehicle.
This clear layer is what takes the abuse as you drive down the road, such as dirt, rocks, pebbles, bugs, grime, and the unwanted bird white spots. This clear also acts as a moisture and UV protectant, keeping moisture away from your paint or metal surfaces to reduce rust, and reducing color fade from the sun’s UV rays.
Clean Your Paint Often
When considering cleaning your paint, you will be focusing on the removal of dirt, grime, tree sap, and bird droppings.
Dirt and grime sitting on your paint run the risk of embedding into your clear coat over time, especially causing issues if anything is set on your vehicle, or as the wind presses on the contaminants as you drive down the highway. This is also why you should avoid allowing anyone to ever draw in the dust on a vehicle; while it does seem fun it does ultimately scratch your paint’s surface, which is why you still see that drawing every time the vehicle gets wet.
Tree sap and bird droppings are highly acidic, etching into your paint and becoming more difficult to remove, causing damage over time, meaning you should take immediate action to clean these contaminants off of your vehicle.
With longevity or buildup causing so many issues, it’s important to take the time to wash your paint relatively often.
Protect Your Paint
While the clear coat is known for taking the abuse of driving, coatings applied on top of your paint act both as a protective barrier, but also as a visual “smoother” to reduce the visibility of small imperfections.
Once your clear does receive a scratch, the sun reflects off the different angles within the scratch, causing our eyes to notice them more easily in the light. Coatings fill in these low points, blending it with the layer applied over the clear to create a flat seamless surface.
At some point, you should consider stripping the waxes off of your vehicle and applying deep wax or ceramic coatings. These coatings are often applied with applicator pads or a wax/buffer machine to create a more perfect surface.
Periodically, you should apply spray waxes over these surfaces to add a soft, protectant layer to protect your paint and allow a much simpler cleaning process. With the growth and development of spray ceramics, they have become a longer lasting compound similar to spray waxes, creating a harder surface for a deeper paint protection.
Clean Your Wiper Blades
While we rely on our wiper blades with every rain and snow-filled day, a majority of the time they remain off and forgotten about, but when we need them we truly need them working correctly.
We’ve all found ourselves turning on the wipers to see a less than impressive outcome, or streaks across the window. Cleaning your wiper blades with every car wash not only increases longevity, but also increases how well your wipers will operate.
While washing your vehicle, be sure you slightly lift your wipers and spray a bit of water under them. Once you're finished washing your vehicle, using a clean rag lift the wiper and clean both the window and the rubber surface of the blade.
With the rag, pinch the edge between your fingers to clean both the top and bottom, and wipe from end to end. This will also ensure the next time the rain begins to fall and your turn that switch, the water will get pushed to the side.
Protect Your Windshield
While we would like to believe our windshield is a smooth perfect surface, the simple reality is it has its microscopic imperfections which allow water and fog to build on.
By coating the outside of your windshield with a hydrophobic glass coating, water will avoid sticking and it will allow water to bead off, and your windshield wiper will also better do their job.
By adding an anti fog coating to the interior of your window, you can ensure you won’t be bothered with fog buildup as you drive.
The Value of Microfiber Towels
While the cost of “special” towels may initially sound strange, the advantages of microfiber towels become essential when washing your vehicle.
Microfiber technology has continued to grow for uses inside and outside of homes, as each hanging fiber contributes to the surface area, allowing greater water absorption, while also keeping the base of the rag away allowing somewhere for dirt and grime to go, away from the contacting surface.
The soft edge of automotive microfiber towels allow great use for not only drying your vehicle, but also removing excess wax for applicator coatings, and applying spray on wax and ceramic coatings.
Start At The Top
As you’re washing your vehicle, appropriate automotive soaps lift the dirt and grime from the paint, scrubbing with an automotive wash mitt helps lift difficult grime, and water carries the contaminants off of your vehicle and to the ground.
Since water runs down your vehicle, it's important to start from the top and work your way down to avoid dirt ending up on an area you just cleaned.
Plastic surfaces on the exterior of your vehicle can be found in a variety of colors, but are most commonly found as the black visual trim around lights, used for grill inserts, or found within the interior. Over time these plastics may begin to dry out and lose their deep color.
While many automotive wax coatings assist with this issue, the outcome and protection from a quality plastic restorer, or trim restorer outshines them all. These restorers not only add moisture to the material, but also add UV protectants over the surface to promote the new look over time.
While your seats may vary from cloth, to vinyl, to leather, you should be sure to clean down inside of your seats to remove any grime or gunk that might have fallen inside.
It’s important to use automotive cleaners specific to your material when cleaning your seats, as a leather cleaner and conditioner will do very little for vinyl or cloth, and vice versa.
Small soft brushes called detailed brushes work great for cleaning along detail stitches and piping to get that deep, clean look.
One struggle with either purchasing a used car, or cleaning a vehicle you’ve used for a while, is the buildup of odor over time. Soft materials such as headliners, carpets, and cloth seats are known for holding bad smells.
Automotive carpets are created with a rubber backing, and can be made quite wet when cleaning. Consider using a carpet soap or fabric soap with a soft brush to really scrub deep into the material, then use a shopvac to pull most of the water out.
Seats, headliners, and other cloth components can also be cleaned in a similar manner, with far less water, as headliners are simply glued to a board backing and seat foam can hold water for extended periods of time.
Whenever making anything inside your vehicle wet, be sure to open your windows, or use a fan to blow air through the vehicle until completely dry.
Scent bombs and fabric sprays can also assist with covering smells, or embedding smells within your newly cleaned materials. Always test new sprays and soaps in a non-noticeable area to ensure they are safe for your materials, such as sliding a seat all the way back to test a carpet.
While keeping your car clean and shiny may feel like a large task, it’s the small details, tips, and tricks that take your shine to the next level.
So the next time someone gets in your vehicle and notices the instant difference, you can take great pride in knowing you have the knowledge, and you created the outcome with your own two hands.