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Tips On Detailing a Car Without Spending a Fortune

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     Maybe you just got a new car, or maybe you’re just getting your first car. Maybe you just want to try and show up your neighbour. Regardless of the reason, car washing season is here and there could be a lot you can be doing to make sure you get the proper shine out of your car.

     Many car owners, or friends of car owners if you have a few favours to call on, look at washing a car as something very basic – get your hose, grab a bucket, pour some dish soap in, find a sponge, and go at it. Maybe add a little wax at the end, but that’s the limit. Anything more is a job for a detailing shop, right? The reality is that if you just put a little extra time in, and remember a few basic tips, you can get a beautiful shine out of your car that lasts a lifetime.

     The first thing to consider is preparation, because preparation is half the work. Wait for a warm day with low humidity where you can spend a little over an hour washing your car. Parking in the shade and making sure your car is cool to the touch means that the water and shampoo going on your car won’t dry up and leave water marks before you can wipe it dry.

     One of the most important ways to prepare is to make sure you have the proper products and tools. Wash mitts and microfiber cloths have fibers that trap dirt and keep it from scratching the surface of your car, unlike sponges that would just push it around. Having two buckets, one for soap and one with a grit guard for rinsing, makes sure that when you wash your mitt or cloth, all the dirt that comes off will stay off. Using car soap instead of dish soap means that the protective wax coating you put on later won’t be washed off every time you wash your car, requiring you to reapply it. Using bug and tar remover will cut through any oils, sap, dead bugs, road tar, etc. that may be too tough for car soap.

     Spending some time researching products for your car will go a long way. Learning about the difference between carnauba waxes (high shine, short lifespan), synthetic waxes (longer life, less shine), and sealants (longest life, low shine) will give you full control over how your car will look. Maybe you want to look in to drying cloths, specifically designed to make drying your car easier than with a normal microfiber towel. Electrostatic cloths will trap the dust you clean inside your car, rather than pushing it back into the air. The better prepared you are, the better the end result will be.

     Now that you are prepared to wash your car, it is important to pre-rinse your car to wash away all the loose dirt. Using a foam gun with your hose provides plenty of suds to help remove this loose dirt, pulling it down with the bubbles. The next step is to start hand washing your car, starting from the roof and working down with vertical lines. Washing in circles can lead to swirl marks that are easy to see, whereas any mark left in a vertical line can only been seen from a certain angle. Some car washing enthusiasts use two wash mitts or towels, one for the cleaner top two thirds of the car and one for the dirtier bottom third. It helps to wash your wheels with a different bucket and cloth since they pick up more dirt than any other part of your car.

     Before putting on your wax or sealant of choice, remember to completely dry off the surface of your car. Any moisture could interfere with the setting of the wax or sealant, preventing it from giving your car the glossy shine you’re looking for. After drying your car and applying the wax or sealant, be patient and allow the product to dry completely. To test it, wipe a small area with your finger. If it is completely clear underneath, it is ready to be buffed off.

     When cleaning the interior of your car, there are a few tricks to keep in mind. Vacuuming the carpets and seats in your car throw dust back into the air, so doing this before dusting keeps you from having to go back and dust later on. When using sprays like trim cleaner, leather protectant, or glass cleaner, always spray onto your cloth or towel rather than onto the surface you’re cleaning. This keeps overspray from getting on to unwanted areas.

     When cleaning your car, looking out for the edges and corners that dirt can get in to will make a major difference. After cleaning your windshield, wipe down your wiper blades to make sure the dirt on them won’t immediately start to streak up your window. Cleaning areas like the insides of door jams and fuel doors, the side rails underneath your hood and trunk, on top of your steering column, and the sides of the center console make the difference between your car looking nice and being told that your car looks nice.

     Though you don’t have to spend all kinds of money on products to wash your car, the more you invest in products the better the final result will be. Smaller detailing brushes make cleaning the edges and corners, as well as rims and around emblems, much easier and more effective. Orbital buffers save time when you’re applying wax or sealant and provide an even better finish than hand waxing will. If you have extra time, clay bar kits allow you to go from a shiny finish to a mirror finish by removing microscopic dirt from your paint. If you have extra money, ceramic coatings work similar to sealants and waxes but can last years rather than months before losing their effectiveness.

     Finally, the most important thing about cleaning your car is to maintain its cleanliness. While you don’t need to wax or seal every time, washing your car keeps dirt from building up and becoming more likely to put scratches in your paint. By maintaining the cleanliness of your car, and by using these tips, it will shine and turn heads for its entire life. If you don’t intend on keeping it for its entire life, the shine will increase the resale value of the car. If you don’t care about the resale value, then it’s just something fun to do on a summer afternoon.

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