11-10-06, 12:19 #1
Autopia Guide to Detailing: Washing & Drying
If there is a single maintenance activity that offers the biggest benefit to your car's appearance, it's keeping your car clean through regular washing. Washing is the process of removing loose dirt and road film from your car's exterior surfaces. That means more than just a good hosing. You have to scrub it with
wash shampoo and a car wash sponge or wash mitt.
Washing can be a double-edged sword, though, as even the mildest soaps can remove the protection from your car's paint, causing premature oxidation. Detergents can dull your car's finish even faster. For many years, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and many other fine-automobile makers recommended using only pure water to wash your car.
The high-quality car wash shampoos made today are very gentle on paint, plastic and rubber. A good car wash shampoo provides lubrication to prevent scratching and conditioners to maintain the shine. Be sure to select a quality product that's not counterproductive to your detailing efforts.
As well as a good shampoo, it takes a variety of tools to correctly wash a car. I like using brushes to clean hard-to-reach areas, such as between body panels. I also like using brushes on lower body panels, where road grease and tar collect. Make sure your wash brushes are paint-safe.
CAR WASH & DRY TOOLSA towel is a towel, right? Unfortunately, this is not correct. If you grew up in a house like mine, Mom retired the old bath towels to the garage for car and dog duty. What Mom didn't realize is that most bath towels use a backing material that contains heavy polyester thread. The edges of the towel are stitched with polyester thread, too. Pound for pound, polyester is stronger than steel. This is great for long-lasting bath towels, but it's not so good for your car's paint. Traditional polyester and polyester blend thread scratches automotive paint finishes. Use paint-safe microfiber or 100% cotton detailing towels.
Your choice of wash tools is important, too. You should find a wash tool that is comfortable for you to use, but take a few things into consideration. First, your wash tool should hold a lot of soapy water. The more it holds, the more soapy water you can get on your car. This is important for lubrication. The lubrication created by soapy water is what prevents dirt from scratching the paint.
I like genuine wool wash mitts because they release dirt a grit easily. While they may not last as long as a sponge, they also don't put swirls in your paint. A great alternative to the wool wash mitt is a microfiber chenille wash mitt.
Use a wash tool that cleans easily. If it does not easily release dirt and grit, it's not safe. I like wash tools with a lot of fibers, like a lamb's wool mitt or a cotton-chenille-covered sponge. Contrary to many beliefs, the natural sea sponge and the boar's hair brush are not good wash tools. Modern wash tools make these relics things of the past. A safe wash brush can be used on the lower body panels, but should not be used above the bottom-of-the-door line.
The recent popularity of microfiber has created a large number of microfiber products, including microfiber wash mitts. In my own testing I have concluded that many of the microfiber wash mitts are not paint safe. If the fibers have hooked or split ends, designed for dry cleaning and dusting, the cloth will not be free-rinsing. This means that the cloth will retain dirt until it is heavily agitated in a washing machine. The retained dirt particles may scratch your paint.
For drying, a combination of tools may be necessary. The sheepskin chamois has been used for centuries as a towel for drying. This naturally soft leather is very absorbent. All-natural chamois are still a good choice, but they are not as effective or as easy to use as modern drying towels and synthetic chamois.
For me, nothing works better than a "waffle weave" microfiber drying towel. These towels are super soft and very absorbent.
If you like to dry in a hurry, there are paint-safe squeegees available that will quickly remove 80% of the water from your car with just a few strokes. Follow up with a good towel, and you're done. If you use a paint-safe squeegee, be careful. It only takes one small dirt particle between the blade and your car to create a scratch.
A paint-safe squeegee makes drying much faster. Use only a paint-safe squeegee on a wet surface. One pass is enough to remove the surface water for fast drying.
PROPER TIRE & WHEEL CLEANINGYour car's wheels can dramatically enhance the appearance and performance of your automobile. Modern wheels can also present a substantial cleaning challenge, as heated dust particles from brake pads bombard the wheel and bake into the finish. If these dust particles are left on the wheel, a phenomenon known as galvanic corrosion sets in, which will eventually destroy your wheel's appearance.
The Kinesis wheels on this Porsche Boxster have polished aluminum rims that require frequent maintenance. I use an acid-free wheel cleaner and a soft wheel brush for ultra-safe cleaning.
Most modern wheels, in particular high-performance aluminum wheels, are painted with the same type of paint and clearcoat used on the body of the vehicle. While durable, the wheel's clearcoat finish is subject to damage from acid compounds, including acid rain, hydrocarbons and acidic cleaners. Likewise, polished and anodized aluminum wheels, not typically protected by a clearcoat, will react (dull or corrode) to both alkaline and acidic conditions.
This BMW wheel is excessively dirty. The brake dust was allowed to sit and bake on the wheel for several weeks. Regular washing will not clean this wheel completely. It will require a strong wash solution and 30 to 45 minutes of restoration work. You can avoid the heavy cleaning and restoration work by treating your fine wheels with a wheel wax product or your favorite cleaner wax.
Unfortunately, typical car wash soaps and household cleaners are not strong enough to break the bond between brake dust, road tar, road grime and the wheel. To properly clean wheels, the car care industry has developed two groups of wheel cleaners: acid and acid-free. Acid-based wheel cleaners are widely used by detailers and car washes, who need to clean wheels in a hurry. Acid-based cleaners are typically 2% solutions of oxalic, phosphoric and hydrochloric acid. An acid cleaner has no place on any aluminum or fine after-market wheel.Acid-free wheel cleaners are mild solutions of alkaline solvent, usually ethylene glycol, with a wetting agent. These solutions creep under dirt and brake dust to loosen and lift. Non-acidic cleaners usually require some surface agitation, but are safer to use and will not etch the wheel's finish.
Like the wheels, your tires have several formidable enemies, including water, formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, ultraviolet (UV) light and ozone. Water washes away the natural oils and waxes in rubber that keep it elastic. Formaldehyde and petroleum distillates act as solvents, eating rubber on contact. When ozone is combined with UV light, a reaction occurs that attacks the tire and its polymers.
To protect against ozone and UV damage, a stabilizer molecule called a competitive absorber is blended with the tire polymer. Competitive absorbers work by capturing and absorbing UV radiation and converting it to heat, which is dissipated harmlessly. All tire manufacturers use the same competitive absorber, called carbon black. This is why most tires are black. These absorbers are sacrificial; they expend themselves in performing their function of converting UV light to heat. However, as carbon black loses its ability to perform, it turns gray. This is one reason tires tend to discolor with age.
To protect tires from further ozone damage, tire manufacturers add a wax compound to their formulas. Tires flex when they are in motion, causing the wax molecules to migrate to the surface. This forms a protective barrier between the air (ozone and oxygen) and the tire polymer. In the tire trade this is called blooming. When tires are parked for extended periods, blooming does not occur, and ozone quickly attacks the tire polymer. With UV light and ozone working in concert, the degradation is accelerated, resulting in drying, discoloration and cracking.
The tires on this truck have gone without dressing or any other form of protection. Notice how dry the tire is; there is no natural sheen remaining. It's going to take some work to get them clean and ready for protection.
After scrubbing twice with with a tire and wheel cleaner and a good brush, the tire and wheel are ready for dressing and metal polish.
To combat the negative effects of water, solvents and UV light on tires, the car care industry makes tire dressings. Tire dressings fall into two groups: oil-based and water-based silicones.
Oil-based silicone dressings are non-penetrating coatings that seal rubber and vinyl. They are very good at providing a protective surface barrier. Oil-based silicone dressings create a glossy film that never really dries. I'm not a fan of these products, as most contain petroleum distillates as a cleaning agent. Petroleum distillates are harmful to rubber and vinyl, and will cause cracking.
Water-based dressings do not contain oils or petroleum distillates that can harm and dull the surface of rubber and vinyl over time. Most water-based dressings offer a non-greasy, more natural looking satin finish; however, they are not as durable as the oil-based products.
How-to Clean Tires & WheelsTo properly clean your tires and wheels, you will need a 3- to 5-gallon bucket, a soft tire and wheel scrub brush, a sponge or washcloth, a water hose and nozzle, car shampoo and a spray wheel cleaner.
This BMW wheel has collected about 300 miles of brake dust in the week since its last washing. As the brake dust has not had a chance to set, it will not be difficult to clean with soap, water and a good brush.
Warning: Do not clean your wheels if they are still hot from driving. Let them cool, or thoroughly hose them down. Be aware that if your brakes are hot, spraying them with cold water may cause severe damage.
I have a variety of brushes and sponges I use to clean tires, wheels and wheel wells. I really like a flared wheel brush for getting into all of the little nooks and crannies.
If you have intricate wheels, a round brush, such as this 1-inch round natural detail brush is a must. The bristles are very soft and there's no metal that will scratch the wheels.
Here are some step-by-step tips to make cleaning easier:
- Clean one wheel at a time.
- Clean your tires and wheels first before washing the rest of the car. This prevents the splattering of cleaners, dirt and brake dust on already cleaned panels. Your car is also less likely to get water spots from drying while you wash your wheels.
- Mix a bucket of soapy water with your favorite car shampoo, using double the recommended strength.
- Thoroughly rinse the tire and wheel with water using a hose and spray nozzle. If it is exposed, rinse the brake caliper to flush away loose brake dust. Finally, rinse up into the wheel well to wash away road grunge, road kill, mud and other debris.
- If your tires and wheels have a heavy coating of brake dust or road grime, spray them down with your wheel cleaner. Allow the cleaner to soak for 30 seconds (minimum) to 3 minutes (maximum).
- Use tire and wheel scrub brushes and your soapy water to agitate the tire and wheel surface. Use plenty of soapy water. The soap acts as a lubricant to gently lift dirt and grit away from your wheels. Follow up with your sponge or washcloth to wash the remaining dirt from the tire and wheel. If your wheels have large open areas, use the sponge to get behind these areas. Make sure the tires are scrubbed. Many people put layer upon layer of dressings on their tires, but never clean them. The result is a brown or yellow discoloration.
- Use your wheel brush and soapy water to scrub the accessible areas of the wheel wells, too. This small detail keeps your car looking fresh and new. If your wheel has a lot of small nooks and crannies, use a parts cleaning brush.
- Thoroughly rinse the tire, wheel and wheel well. Use plenty of water. You need to ensure that all traces of the wheel cleaner (and your neighbor's cat) are gone.
After washing your car, remember to dry your tires and wheels using a detailing towel.
STEP 1: Make sure the wheel is cool. Hose off loose brake dust before applying wheel cleaner.
STEP 2: Spray the tire and wheel thoroughly with cleaner. Allow the cleaner to work for about a minute before scrubbing.
STEP 3: Scrub the tire and wheel face thoroughly with your favorite tire brush and wheel brush.
STEP 4: Hose off and dry. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to neutralize the cleaner.
I do not recommend using tire cleaners containing bleach. Bleach is used in many tire cleaners to brighten whitewall tires, but they can turn tires a dull gray. Bleach will stain your alloy wheels permanently. Read the product contents on the label before you buy.
PROPER CAR WASHINGMany enthusiasts and quality detailers use a two-bucket wash system. The first bucket holds your soapy water, and the second bucket holds rinse water. The rinse water bucket is used to rinse your wash sponge or mitt prior to dunking it in the bucket of soapy water. This method has two practical benefits. First and foremost, it keeps dirt and grit out of your soapy water where it could cause damage to your car. Second, it makes the suds in your soapy water last longer, because your car wash shampoo does not have to react to dirt you're putting back into the water.
A safe alternative to using two buckets is this professional bucket system
made by Grit Guard. The patented
insert sits in the bottom of the bucket, effectively keeping your wash mitt away from the harmful dirt.
Here are some tips to make car washing easier:
- Make sure your car is cool. If possible, work in the shade. A hot surface causes the wash and rinse water to evaporate too quickly, increasing the likelihood of water spotting. One trick is to park on a slight incline. This allows rinse water to run off moldings, trim and recessed areas better. Start by thoroughly wetting the car's finish with a medium spray of water to remove loose grit and surface dirt.
- Wash the tires and wheels first. If you wash the car body first, the water will dry and spot your car before you can properly finish washing the tires and wheels. Do not use the same wash water on your car's paint as you used on your tires and wheels. Throw the dirty water out and refill your buckets.
- Spot treat bug, tar, sap and bird stains. For stubborn problems on your paint and other surfaces, use an insect remover or pre-wash cleaner. If the contamination has a lot of grip, use a paint-safe bug sponge.
If the car has bugs on the grill and bumper area, I pre-treat the bug spots with an insect remover or pre-wash spray
and scrub with a
- Use a car wash shampoo specifically formulated for automotive use. Look for a shampoo containing surface conditioners and gloss enhancers. The surface conditioners act as a lubricant, allowing sand and abrasive grit to slide off in the rinse water without scratching the surface. Quality car shampoos cost a little more, but are worth every penny. If you have a dark car and constantly fight swirl marks, upgrade your wash shampoo, wash mitt and towels.
- Use a quality wash tool. I prefer a sheepskin wash mitt or microfiber wash mitt for washing. These tools have a large number of fine filaments that draw dirt and grime away from the surface being cleaned into their internal structure. Synthetic (flat-sided) sponges and washcloths can trap dirt, grit and grime on the surface, which can scratch your car's paint. Cotton chenille wash mitts and pads are also excellent, as they hold lots of soapy water and are gentle to your paint.
Make sure the wash mitt or sponge you choose holds plenty of soapy water. The soapy water helps prevent scratching. Use lots of soapy water and rinse your wash mitt frequently.
When you're not using your wash mitt or sponge, toss it in the bucket, not on the ground. I've seen my neighbors do this and then wonder why they have so many unexplained scratches in their paint.
- Wash from the top down and rinse the car often. Frequent rinsing is especially important if the car is excessively dirty. If you are washing on a warm day, keep the whole car wet to prevent spotting. I use a final rinse of free-flowing water (nozzle off the hose), allowing the water to sheet off the car. This makes drying faster.
Here I'm breaking my number one rule by washing my car in the sun. If you have to work in the sun, work fast and keep the car wet by rinsing often. This is morning sunlight, and the temperature is below 72 degrees. If it was much warmer, I would not be washing the Boxster in the sun. You be the judge.
Car Drying TipsBefore drying, your car should be freshly rinsed and free of visible dirt, grease and oil. Here's the proper way to dry your car.
- Remove the hose nozzle from your hose, and turn the water on with medium pressure. Rinse your car, allowing the water to flow freely over the surface (do not spray the water). The free-flowing action will cause the water to sheet off, carrying 80% or more of the surface water with it. Allow the car to drip dry for a minute while you get your drying tools.
- If you have a paint-safe squeegee, use it on the windows first. Follow the squeegee with a synthetic chamois or a microfiber drying towel.
- Use a clean drying towel or synthetic chamois to dry the remainder of the car. Start at the top of the car and work down. If you're using a large drying towel or chamois, throw it out over the flat surface areas and slowly pull it toward you across the surface of the car. Shake and turn your drying towel frequently. To prevent streaking, fold your chamois or towel into a square for wiping.
- Once the exterior is mostly dry, open the doors and wipe down the jambs, sills and seal areas. Be sure to dry under the doors, or your sills will get wet again as soon as you close the doors.
- Use a terry detailing towel to dry your tires and wheels. Do not use your good chamois or drying towel on the tires and wheels, as it will become soiled.
- Open the trunk and hood, and wipe down the jambs and seals. On the engine, use the damp towel you used to dry the tires and wheels to remove dust and light oil from the top of the engine and engine compartment surfaces. While the hood is open and you have a towel, check your oil. After you finish wiping down your engine, put the dirty towel in the wash. Don't use it on your car again until you wash it.
After Washing & Drying Your CarRegardless of how gentle your car shampoo is, or when you last waxed your car, driving and washing deplete the wax protection you've applied to your car. For this reason, I like to use a quick detailing spray on my car after washing. A good detailing spray renews the "just waxed" shine and extends the life of your wax.
Your tires and exterior rubber trim need a little shot of protection, too. A quick wipe with your favorite protectant not only improves the look of the car, but also has a lasting effect on long-term wear.
After you apply your tire and trim dressing, don't forget to buff it down to remove any excess dressing. You don't want it to sling off your tire on to your freshly washed car.
CAR WASHING & DRYING SUMMARYRegular washing is very important to maintaining your car's appearance. Most people forget some of the simple, quick steps that can keep a new car looking new. Take just a few extra minutes when you wash to wipe down the engine, door jambs and trunk. Keeping these areas clean prevents a bigger cleanup job later. To make your job easier and more enjoyable, invest in a few good detailing tools. Quality wash and dry tools make a huge difference.
Last edited by Autopia Expert; 03-30-08 at 07:26.Too Many ads? Becoming a member of Autopia has its privileges. Sign up here .
06-22-11, 11:49 #2
Re: Washing & Drying
07-27-12, 07:53 #3
Re: Autopia Guide to Detailing: Washing & Drying
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