But we also know that there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Everybody’s got a brother in law or Uncle Louie who swears you don’t need special soap to wash your car and his car looks fine. Or the buddy who gets his cheap, generic car wax at the discount place because, hey, wax is wax, right? Well, no Sparky, wax is not just wax, and neither should you use just any old soap on the old family Truckster.
And that brings us to the 12 most common myths and misunderstandings when it comes to keeping your ride clean, shiny, protected, and looking good:
It’s okay to use dishwashing detergent to wash your vehicle!
Nope, it’s not. Dish soap removes everything from the finish of your vehicle including the polymers that are there to protect your paint. Repeated use will dry out the finish and eventually lead to oxidation and permanent damage. There’s a reason that they sell special car wash soap. It’s designed to remove loose dirt without removing the waxes and polymers that protect your paint.
2. There’s no difference between washing and cleaning!
Washing your car with soap and water only removes the loose dirt, cleaning gets down and removes the blemishes, stains, dried bug parts, and other contaminants that are bonding into your paint.
3. A shiny vehicle is a clean vehicle!
Just because a vehicle looks shiny doesn’t make it clean. Run your hand over the surface and if it doesn’t feel smooth as glass, it isn’t really clean. If it feels rough then it needs something like a clay bar treatment to remove all those nasty bumpy things before a good waxing.
4. A clay bar treatment should only be done by a pro!
Actually anybody can “clay bar” their vehicle and there are kits on the market that include everything you need to do the job right. What is a clay bar kit? Well, if you’re old enough to have played with Silly Putty then you should have the idea. In the kit is a small bar of clay and something to lubricate the surface of your vehicle. You simply rub the clay bar over the paint and of those little contaminants that you can’t see get stuck in the clay and are removed from your paint.
5. You can use wax to remove swirl marks!
Swirl marks are really tiny little scratches in the paint and they can only be removed by getting to the bottom of them. How you get rid of them depends on how deep they are. If they are small enough they can be removed with a non-abrasive paint cleaner. Really deep swirl marks may require professional attention.
6. There’s no real difference between polishing and waxing!
Polishing is what creates that beautiful, deep gloss shine that you want. Waxing protects that shine once you’ve got it. Waxing coats the polished surface with polymers, resins, and silicones which, in spite of what you see on those late night infomercials, will not make a dull finish shiny.
7. Machine polishers can damage your vehicle’s finish!
Speed is the key to whether or not a buffer or polisher will damage your paint. The typical household dual action polisher or orbital buffer should not create any problems even for the most inexperienced user. Those high speed rotary buffers however, should only be used by a pro who knows what he or she is doing.
8. Old T-shirts and diapers make the best waxing cloths!
That used to be true but not anymore. A modern, good quality micro-fiber towel is the best thing to use. Those old diapers and t-shirts hold the contaminants on their surface where they remain to scratch your paint. The deep-pile surface of a micro-fiber towel can actually capture and hold those tiny particles away from the surface of your vehicle.
9. Most waxes are guaranteed to last for one full year!
It all depends on a lot of varying conditions. The weather, road salts, if your vehicle is garaged or sits outside all year, and how well you maintain that waxed finish all contribute to how long the wax job will last. Regularly checking the condition of your wax by running your hand over it and feeling for its condition will tell you when it needs to be redone. It should feel smooth, slick, and glassy or its time to reapply the wax.
11. Lighting a hood on fire, without damaging the paint finish, proves the protective qualities of a car wax.
Well, that’s a great trick for the guy in the booth at the car show to use but it really proves nothing. That little bit of alcohol that he uses will only produce a small amount of heat and it burns out in just seconds. It’s a little bit of carnival and it’s fun to see, but don’t be fooled.
12. Once a vehicle is waxed, you’re done and shouldn’t worry!
Just because you’ve got a nice coat of wax on your vehicle’s finish doesn’t mean it still doesn’t need care. Tree sap, bird droppings, dead bugs, and other contaminants can still do a lot of damage if left on that finish. Even normal everyday dust and dirt should be washed off regularly. And in between washings you should use a detailing spray to keep up with spot cleaning and maintaining that quality shine you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
So there you have it, twelve things you should know about keeping your vehicle clean and looking good no matter what sort of conditions you put it through. And if Uncle Louie or your buddy down the street doesn’t agree with us, try out some of these methods on their vehicle and prove it to them!
When in doubt, call our experts at Chux Trux to get help on how to properly protect your car!
By: Chris Ripper
If you’re the type who likes to keep your ride looking great and staying clean no matter what, you’ve probably looked at having it professionally detailed at some point. But the $100 - $250 dollar or more that some of them charge seems like a little bit much. Well, the dirty little secret that professional detailers don’t want you to know is that you can easily do it yourself, at home, for a fraction of what they charge.
There’s no real trick to anything they do. You don’t even need to use the same professional car care products that they use. The real secret is that just plain old hard work and elbow grease that will give you just as good a result as they get. You may have to lay out a little extra cash in the beginning to collect some tools and car cleaning products, but every time you detail your vehicle after that, you’re saving money. So let’s look at some of these secrets of car detailing and see just what’s involved:
1. Use two buckets for the initial wash
Every good detailer will use the two bucket method for that initial car wash. One bucket contains the soapy water and the other just plain water. After you use the soapy sponge on the vehicle, rinse it out in the clean water bucket before you put in back in the soapy water bucket. That way you are not transferring the dirt and grime you just washed off the car into the clean soapy water and right back on the car’s surface again!
2. Use microfiber towels
Use a separate, color-coded microfiber towel for every product you use during the detailing. One for polish, one for wax, one for tire shine, vinyl protectant, etc., and never get them mixed up. Also never wash your towels in with the regular household laundry. Use very little detergent and no fabric softener in your wash. Remove any labels from your towels that could scratch and remember that you get what you pay for. Those cheap discount towels will cost you more in the long run. Buy the best quality towels you can find.
3. Do the trim first
If your vehicle has plastic trim on the bumper ends and/or on the sides, use a product designed for that job first. That way it will protect that plastic trim from any wax you may accidently get on it. The wax can stain the finish of plastic trim and make it look cloudy.
4. Use a buffer to apply, a towel to remove
Use a power buffer to apply polishes and waxes and a microfiber towel to remove them. Using a buffer to remove waxes and polishes is just asking for swirl marks in the finish. You will also avoid burning through the paint and you’ll get a much better, thin, even coat of wax.
5. Use a dual action polisher
We mentioned above tht you will have to shell out a little money now to save time and money down the road. A good quality dual-action polisher will serve you better than an orbital buffer. It will handle 90% of the polishing chores that you will run into and make your job much easier.
6. Use a clay bar system
There simply is no better way to remove all those contaminants and little particles of junk that become imbedded in your paint. A good clay bar kit will contain a spot detailer for lubrication of the bar, an 80 to 100 gram bar of clay, a towel, and instructions. Use the clay bar right after washing to remove stuck on bug parts, tree sap, tiny particles of rubber and other road rash that will cling to the surface of your vehicle’s paint.
7. A plastic grocery bag is a great way to check for a clean surface
Once you’re done with the clay bar, put your hand inside a plastic grocery bag and run it all over the surface of your vehicle. The plastic will amplify any little imperfection so you can go back over those spots again. Keep rechecking until the entire vehicle is smooth and free of contaminants before you move on to the polishing and waxing stage.
8. Dry the glass in two directions
Here’s a great tip for spotting those inevitable streaks when cleaning your glass. Always dry the outside of the windows with a vertical motion, and inside horizontally. That way when you see those left over streaks, and you will, it’s easy to tell if they are on the inside or the outside!
9. Use a brush first
When you start to clean the upholstery, always use a good brush first. It’s better to remove the loose dirt and dust with a brush than with chemicals or products. Even on the carpets, the brush will help loosen the dirt from the fibers so the vacuum can pick them up. The same goes for door panels and seats, though you should use a gentler brush on those.
10. Static electricity is your friend
Put on a pair of latex gloves, (You can buy a box of 100 latex gloves in any home improvement store.) and rub them all over the carpeting. The static electricity this creates will help lift pet and human hair out of the carpet so the vacuum can pick it up more easily.
11. Never mind the headliner
One part of the car that you should avoid detailing, if at all possible, is the headliner. Even a little cleaning can cause the glue holding it in place to begin to fail and then you’ve got much bigger problems. If you absolutely must clean your headliner, do it very gently and use as little moisture as possible.
And there you have it, eleven easy tips to help you achieve a perfectly detailed ride that won’t break the bank. Doing your own detailing is also a great way to bond with your vehicle and help make your investment in it last longer, look better, and be more fun to drive!