A lot of people like to take their vehicles to one of the many high-street car washes that have sprung up around the country in recent years, but some of us either don't trust other people with our pride and joy or have better things to spend our hard-earned money on. If you fall in the latter category, but still want your car to look sharp – check out these pro tips...
Don't use Fairy Liquid
There can't be that much difference between soapy liquids can there? That's what many of us think as we reach under the sink for the washing up liquid before we wash our vehicles. However the professionals use specific car shampoo for a reason, claiming that washing up liquid is actually too effective at degreasing things (partially due to a high salt content) – and thus tends to strip the existing wax coating from vehicles and suck oil from the paint finish. Using it once won't ruin your car, but doing it every Sunday morning could be a risk.
Don't just take one soapy bucket out to wash your car either. Fill another with clean, warm water as well and put it to one side. Then after each rub, douse the sponge in the clean water to rid it of grit and debris before re-soaping it to clean the next bit. This prevents grit being rubbed around on the paintwork, with potentially damaging consequences.
Use a clay bar
Sometimes there are bits of stuck-in grit or soaked in bird droppings that you just can't seem to remove 100 per cent. Rather than just give up and leave it, the pros use a clay bar kit on tough spots. Needing no expert knowledge or skills, the process basically involves washing the car and then applying a thin piece of synthetic clay to "pluck" contaminants from the paintwork prior to waxing. These used to be an insider secret in the detailing industry – but consumer demand means there are now a number of kits on the market.
Cars come from the factory with a clear-coat lacquer on top of the paintwork – which helps keep them looking smart for a long time. However exposure to the elements causes this to degrade over time, so if you care about preserving the quality of your car's bodywork it's a good idea to wax on a regular basis. Paste wax and liquid wax are both available – you might wish to try both and see which you prefer. Either way, it's recommended to re-wax every few months.
The big difference between most home car cleaners and professional detailing is the polish stage, which shouldn't be confused with waxing. Performed after an initial wash, the pros will use a machine polisher and a polishing compound to bring the surface of the paintwork up to a nice shine. It's possible to polish by hand, but hard work. Some keen car-lovers choose to invest in a machine for home use – since it's a satisfying job and soon pays for itself when offset against the cost of professional valets. Note – do it after washing, then wash again before waxing.
Most of us know well enough to start the outside of our cars with the roof and work downwards – but the same is true for the inside. Dust the ceiling and window frames, then the interior panels before vacuuming and shampooing the carpets and mats.
And try to let it all air dry as much as possible afterwards.
Use window cleaner on the windows
An obvious one, but still overlooked by many. Of course it doesn't really matter if you use car detergent on the glass as well as the paintwork, but if you want the vehicle to look its absolute best for sale or a special occasion then dedicated window cleaner will get the best results.
Do you have any car cleaning tips? Leave a comment below...