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A Bucket, Soapy Water & Elbow Grease-Cleaning The Exterior


The more you take your vehicle out, the dirtier the car is likely to get.  From traveling through construction zones, to traveling on back roads you can encounter fresh tar, gravels, dirt roads, and grime from traffic.  If you are likely to go through a car wash you will find that some types of these dirt will not just wash off.  

When you wash your car by hand in your driveway or in the back yard there are a few tips to keep in mind for a sparkling car: 

When starting to wash your car, you should always start with a presoak on the tires to get off the grime and dirt from your brakes.  If it has been a while since your last car wash, you will notice this type of dirt is more difficult to get off.  An easy trick in cleaning your wheels is to grab an old toothbrush and a bottle of vinegar.  Using a spray bottle to spray the vinegar on the wheel and the toothbrush to rub it in, you can usually hose off the dirt.  If you find that it is not coming off easily, spray on the vinegar and let it soak while you are cleaning other parts of your vehicle and then re-spray and rub with the brush when it has had a better chance to loosen the dirt. 

Always use to buckets of water, one bucket of hot soapy water for getting the first layer of dirt off, and then use the second bucket of hot soapy water and separate sponge or rag to wipe off the next layer of dirt.  If you use the same rag or sponge on the bottom of the car that you use on the top portions of your car, you can easily scratch the paint with dirt and tiny rocks that may get caught in your rag.  So, use one rag and bucket of water for the bottom, and one bucket and rag for the top and cleaning it twice will ensure that you get all of the grime off your car. 

When you are finished washing your car, you shouldn’t use a dry rag or cloth to try and spot clean the car, this will lead to additional scratches.  If you must ‘dry’ off your car, choose a moist towel to soak up extra beads of water allowing the car to sun dry as you are wiping for a streak free and scratch free clean. 

Right after you have washed the car is the best time to wax the exterior of your car.  If you wash your car, drive to work and back, and then wax your car you will find that you are sealing the dirt into the paint of the car with the wax.  Your car will not be clean enough for a wax at that point.  When you wash the car is the best time to wax the car. 

When you are washing the car, you can pre-spray the bumpers with vinegar to loosen the bugs and bird ‘stuff’ without harming the chrome on your car or truck.  

One last idea for a sparkling car, invest a few dollars in glass wax.  Glass wax will keep your window shiny and dirt free longer than just a wash with soap water will.  Glass wax is also a little different than regular car body wax, as it will help make scratches and pits in the glass less noticeable. 


Also see:

  Your Car's Exterior  

Choosing a “Plastic Surgeon” for your Car

Goodyear Introduces Run-Flat Tires

How to Repair a Damaged Finish on Wheels

High Mileage Car Maintenance



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