This post begins with a Geek Alert. Yes, despite being someone who is quite accustomed to having a ‘floor-drobe’ I am very geeky about how I wash my car. If something catches my interest then I’ll throw a lot of time into learning about it… and car detailing is one of those. So, come share in my sadness and see how I end up with this:
The end goal is to get the paintwork as flat as possible. The dirt stuck to the car creates high spots and the scratches make low areas. The first step is to remove the dirt but since it’s that dirt that causes scratches, you have to do this as carefully as possible.
To start with I use a pressure washer to wash off any loose dirt. To prevent dirt being blasted into the paintwork and to help it get off the car you should keep the angle low i.e. about 30° to parallel.
This is also a good time to clean the wheels and the arches since they take pick up a lot of grime from the road and brakes.
We call this Snow Foam, it helps to soften any ‘baked-on’ dirt. Think of it like shaving foam, leave it on for 10 minutes and the ‘bristles’ will be nice and soft and easy to take off…
Unlike the attachment which requires a bit more force!
The foam will drip off and then it’s time for a rinse. You’ll be amazed at how much dirt will come off. However there will still be some oily dirt left on that needs something a bit stronger.
By this point you’ll probably realise just how sad I am! Even the dog realises it!
After years of abuse my sprayer is a bit… special.
Give the wheels a good soaking before scrubbing them
Hopefully this next part will be a bit more familiar:
While a sponge is great for holding water it’s not very soft and so any dirt will just stick to the surface and be dragged along the paint giving it some nice scratches. So instead I use a wash mitt.
Since the top is the cleanest I work my way down from there, rinsing the wash mitt after each section e.g. the roof. When you’re done, rinse off the soap.
By now things are starting to look good and if I didn’t have much spare time I’d be very happy.
The thing is that despite all the hard work there are some SoB little spots that refuse to budge. However you can use a lump of clay to remove them. The imperfections stick to the clay and are held away from the surface of the paint by it.
You can get different strengths, like sandpaper, and the process is quite similar but far more gentle. Using a little soapy water you rub the clay of the paint. As you do it you’ll feel the surface become smooth and the clay will end up like this:
That’s from having done half the roof. Naomi was helping and didn’t believe that there could be any more dirt after the washing… until I showed her this! Keep going, re-kneading the clay when it gets dirty. Then give the car a final rinse
You might remember that scratches are also a problem and the next step is getting rid of those. I’ll do this no more that once a year. They’re hard to see but if you look at the paint in the light you might see rings around the light source or the odd dull patch.
If the scratches are really small then you can use a waxy product to fill them but in the end they need to polished out. I use a machine… it’s much quicker but still takes a while! (Remember I’m a car cleaning geek so I don’t really mind!)
As the polish breaks down it will smooth the surface but it will leave a residue so once the polishing’s done I’ll give the car a quick wash down.
Looking pretty darn good but it would be a shame to go inside without doing something to protect the paint. This is wear a sealant or wax comes in. There are loads of different choices but I tend to put a synthetic sealant on all the car and reserve the wax for the bonnet.
The sealant is put on with the machine, left to dry and the excess wiped off with a cloth. The wax is mainly palm and bees wax and which you melt in your hands and wipe on. The left has it on, waiting to dry and the right has just sealant.
It’s subtle but the waxed side on the left has a deeper colour than the right.
And here’s the finished result!
When it comes down to it I’m really lucky to have a car and enjoy some time to look after it. I don’t go through the same process every time I wash it… sometimes I’ll do more, but normally much less! Anyway here’s one final picture which hopefully gives you an idea of why I bother!