Car Cleaning - Exterior

Top DIY Car Cleaning Essentials – The Exterior

Car Cleaning - Exterior

The most exposed part of your car to the elements, the exterior of your car needs looking after not only for your usage and safety, but also if or when you want to sell. You’re spending good money on the car, so you may as well take care of it and retain as much value and pride as you can.

“Never take your valuable asset to a drive-through car wash”

The roller brushes often transfer the dirt and grit from the cars that have gone before you onto yours causing scratching, and they never get into the nooks and crannies that would get done if you were to do it yourself. They can also damage aerials, windscreen wipers, any loose rubber trim around the windows, or other accessories not tied down. I find there is often a queue waiting. They also never dry the vehicle properly. Either do it yourself or spend some cash taking it to a car detailer.

1. Park Out of Direct Sunlight

This isn’t always possible, but the suns harsh rays not only fade paintwork over time, but scorched paintwork when cleaning can rub off the duco. It also dries soapy areas quickly causing streaking and water beads which can harm the paint’s finish. If you have to wash in the sun, do one panel at a time so you have control over the moisture and drying method. If you can, park on a grassy area so the access water runs onto the grass, stopping soaps and detergents from entering drains that run into your local waterways.

2. Rinse the Car First

It’s like having a shower. You don’t apply soap to your body without wetting it first, so do the same to your car. It helps to soften and loosen harder baked-on grime like bird poop.

Car Cleaning - Exterior

3. Have Two Buckets Ready

You will need 2 buckets – one for the warm soapy car wash detergent diluted in water, and the other for clean, cold tap water. After applying the suds to a panel using a microfiber car mitt, rinse the mitt thoroughly after each use into the cold water before it’s used on the next panel. Refresh the cold, clean water as needed.

“Never use dishwashing detergent”

Just like using automatic dishwasher detergents on your own skin instead of what it was designed for, using dishwashing detergent for washing your car is too harsh and can actually shorten the life of your car’s duco extracting essential compound oils out of your cars finish. You can spend a lot of time researching the many car wash solutions on the market, but I tend to buy a car wash & wax combo for using on a regular weekly or fortnightly basis.

4. Start at the Top

The roof is just as important as any other part of the car, so work it over, then dry it off with a microfiber or chamois before moving onto the windscreen, rear windscreen, and all other windows. Move down to the bonnet next, the trunk, side panels, and the wheels last.

Car Cleaning - Exterior

5. You’re not finished yet!

Wow! The car looks awesome. And sure it does until you open the trunk and dirty water drips down the rear window or onto the trunk interior. Make sure you go round your car door by door to do a quick wash and dry of the door frames and surrounds, including the trunk, bonnet, and petrol flap. This ensures you have collected any dirty suds that have collected in any unseen ridges and grooves. By lifting the bonnet, you will always find stray leaves and twigs, and an accumulation of dust and dirt. Clean it all out.

6. Occasional Polishing

Every 3 months or so, it pays to give your car a thorough going over with a polishing compound to enhance and further protect the exterior paintwork of the car. You’ll be surprised at how good your car will look after a well-deserved clean and polish.

Tip 1. Bird Poop! Keep a small bottle of water handy in the car, and carry round some wet-wipes in case freshly dropped bird poop appears on your car when you go out to drive it. Get it off as soon as possible as the acidic discharge and digestion aided gravel can cause your cars lustrous paintwork to fade and corrode. Don’t scrub or use scrapers as you’ll only mark the paintwork. Saturate a wet-wipe and let it sit on the infected area where the water will soak in before using a couple more to remove the unsightly mess (or hose off if there is access).

Tip 2. What’s the Difference Between Wax and Polish? Car wax gives you more gloss when washing and protects the duco finish from the harsh elements. Polishing provides an awesome buffed shine while removing small surface scratches and imperfections.

Tip 3. Microfiber Car Mitt vs. Thick Sponge. Okay, so the thick sponge is cheap, in fact you can buy them in multiple packs for a few bucks. However, they only last for 2 or 3 uses, hold more grit and grime in the larger pores (which is hard to see in the thick sponge even after rinsing) which can actually cause scratching and more if you wash the car all over without rinsing before you finish. Microfiber car mitts lose the grit and grime when you rinse out in cold water and it’s easier to see where it is as you go. Just throw the mitt into the washing machine afterwards to get it completely clean.

Tip 4. WD-40 for Lubrication and More. WD-40 is a great product to keep in your trunk. It’s handy for lubricating door, bonnet, trunk, and petrol flap hinges, as well as protecting windshield wipers, cleaning spark plugs, and as a general degreaser. It doesn’t harm the cars paint work, and in fact helps in rust prevention. Just make sure you clean off any residue if you get a bit heavy handed.

Head over to ‘Top DIY Car Cleaning Essentials – The Interior‘ to complete your car overhaul.

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