Washing Your Car

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    Washing Your Car

    Post  DC on Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:06 am

    Facts about the finish

    Modern paint methods use several coats of base coat paint, followed by a clearcoat finish. Because of the pigmentation in the clearcoat, polishes and cleaners may cause the buffing rag to turn a light shade of red (or whatever color your car is). Although you needn't be alarmed, be aware that body panels are thin, to save weight, and do not respond well to forceful scrubbing- so be gentle.


    Never use "automatic" or "drive through" car washes...even the ones that claim that they brushless. Automatic washes tend to accumulate debris in their brushes, which will scratch your car's surface. Brushless drive throughs use strong solvents in their water, in combination with very high pressure. This will damage your surface, and sandblast scratches into the clear coat. If you love your civic, avoid these!

    Preparation is the key. Remove your mud guards, nose bras, close your windows tight, (obviously put the bloody top up) and retract your antennae. Gently spray the car from top to bottom to moisten. Then repeat from top to bottom with greater water pressure to spray off debris...but don't over do it, or you will sand blast the finish.

    NEVER, EVER use dishwashing detergent. Despite what people tell you, dishwashing liquids are too harsh for a car's finish. You WILL damage your car's paint surface. Although some will argue that dishwashing fluid is "safe to strip off old wax..." I just have to ask...why would you need to remove the old wax in the first place? Even during a full detail, the polish and cleaners will remove the old wax...don't expose your car to the harsh dishwashing fluid.

    Use a quality detergent designed for washing cars.

    When washing your civic, make sure you don't do it when the sun is at its highest. Direct sunlight will cause drying spots, especially if your water is considered "hard." This is especially important if your civic has a dark colored finish.

    Try and use a natural sponge, rather than a synthetic one. If neither are available, find a COTTON towel, and stich it into a usable size. Make sure you have at least two buckets. One to contain your soap, and the other to rinse and squeeze out your sponge.

    Wash from the roof down. If your wheels are very dirty, pour some of the detergent into a 2 liter soft drink bottle, and fill with water. Use less water if you want it concentrated. Clean an old squirt trigger from 409, or Windex. Connect it to the 2 liter bottle, and spray down your wheels...let them soak before washing them.

    Use gentle pressure while washing your car. Use multiple passes, instead of one hard scrub.

    Problem areas while washing the civic.

    Wheel wells...Make sure you wash under the wheel wells. Wash behind the wheel well cover, where the mud guards are. These areas collect dirt and salt quickly.

    Bumper, rear fender joint...With the 2 liter bottle of detergent, spray the joint between the rear bumper, and the attachment to the car. The thin valley that runs horizontally can trap road debris and cause problems while waxing.

    Door jams...Open the door, take a wet cotton towel, and run down the door frame. Both the door and the car body can trap debris here.

    Front bumper...Usually takes the most damage from stones, chips, bugs, and street debris. Wash and spray gently under the grill to remove debris from the radiator fins.

    Body side moulding...Run a sponge parallel with the trim, and push down where the trim attaches to the car. The angle usually traps some dirt both above and below the trim.

    Rinse your car from top to bottom. After you've washed the car, don't forget to hose out the wheelwells every once in a while. Some cars will build up some gunk in there that could cause you rust problems later.

    Dry immediately after washing. If using towels, use many of them. Dirt can accumulate on towels and scratch the surface. If using a chamois, make sure it is real, and not synthetic.

    The Four Step Process

    To determine the type of detailng you need, determine the condition of your car's paint surface. Run your hand down the civic's body, and feel for bumps. Look for scratches. Look for chips.

    If your civic isn't glassy smoothe, then you need to detail with clay.

    If your civic has scratches, they should be repaired before polishing and waxing.

    If you are compulsive and just washed and waxed your car within the last month, you may be able to get away with simply a wash and dry.
    If you are going out on a very hot date tonight, and really want to impress your woman (or man,) save an entire day and do all four steps.

    1. Detailing clay

    Various manufacturers use this process. GM and Toyota use this process to certify their "pre owned" automobiles before selling them again. Many companies offer clay for detailing...but it isn't a common product in parts stores.

    The product is very simple. A piece of clay, and some lubricant. On a newly washed car, spray the lubricant, and gently run the clay over the surface. It will pick up most surface contamination like paint overspray, tar, bugs, and tree sap. These are the things that keep the surface from being glassy smooth. I recommend detailing with clay at least once a year...much more often if you park outdoors.

    2. Cleaners and polishes

    Cleaners often contain a polish dissolved in some solvent. This removes minor scratches, old water spots, and other contaminants that you can't actually feel with your hand. Don't over use cleaners...they remove a little bit of clearcoat with each application. I recommend detailing with cleaners once a year, or following each clay treatment.

    Polishes, on the other hand, usually contain mild abrasives and many oils. The abrasives range from aluminum oxide based particles to diatomous material. Try and avoid metal oxide baed polishes...they do not break down after polishing, and can cause swirl marks if improperly used.

    Both cleaners and polishes are meant to remove minor surface contamination, and minor scratches...including swirl marks.

    3. Glazes

    Glazes hide swirl marks and feed the paint with oils. Oils and other chemicals are lost from paints and clearcoats after repeated washes and lack of waxing. The glaze also gives better depth to a wax job.

    4. Waxes

    There are so many waxes available today, that I can only tell you..."ask around." My personal favorites are Meguiar's and Mothers. There are basically three types of waxes. Carnuba based, Silicon based, and synthetic Teflon based.

    When doing any of these procedures, follow these simple tips:

    Avoid waxing in direct sunlight when possible.
    If you are using a carnuba based wax, avoid waxing your car when it is cold out. Carnauba is difficult to work with when it is cold.
    Don't wait too long after steps 2 and 3. The contents of many glazes, sealers, and polishes evaporate after time. The wax will seal them in.
    Make certain your car is dry. DWater spilling down from a sill plate will make it difficult to buff out the wax. Water on your buffing towel will make it much harder to buff out the car.
    Change rags frequently when buffing. They become clogged with waxy residue, and lose their ability to remove wax and polishes. Shaking and whipping out the cloth may help.
    Promptly remove wax that inadvertantly touched plastic trim. A soft toothbrush removes residue from around trim pieces.

    Reference: http://www.clubcivic.com/board/showthread.php?t=2440

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