5 Key Tips to Keep Your Car Looking Brand New

 Once you get your new car home, the elements (and random dings) can start to take a toll on that beautiful finish. Luckily, outside of wrapping your ride in bubble wrap and always parking it indoors, the main thing you can do to save your car’s paint job also involves saving money: Skip the car wash. Maintaining that coveted new car look depends mostly on one important thing: wash your ride yourself.


 

  

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

1. Make the Time

The best thing you can do to keep your finish pristine is to wash your car often — about once or twice a month, depending on conditions (more often in the winter months when corrosive road salt and snow can lodge on the car’s surface).  Stay away from household detergents and dishwashing liquid, which are too harsh on a car’s surface, and stick to any reasonably priced car wash soap. You can pay a lot more for an upmarket cleaner, but in the end those extra dollars all, well, come out in the wash.



 2. Keep it Cool
Make sure your car is cooled down and parked in the shade before you begin. Heat can actually soften the paint, which can lead to easier scratches. If you can, park on a slope so gravity can help draw the water off. Spray the car down first with a trigger nozzle (which saves water while giving an even spray) — this will get rid of a large percentage of the dirt, which can actually damage and scratch the surface during washing. Spray the undercarriage thoroughly to knock off any mud of other foreign materials, which can store moisture for days and contribute to rust.

 
TIP: Get rid of dried bugs on the headlights and grill with a mixture of baking soda and water — just make sure the baking soda is completely dissolved so it doesn’t act as an abrasive.

 


3. Lather Up Well
Spray cool water into soap in a bucket until there’s a good amount of bubbles (the more bubbles, the more surface tension is reduced, meaning the closer the soap gets to the car’s surface to clean more dirt), then use a lamb’s wool mitt or soft natural sponge to gently scrub — avoid rags and brushes, which have harder parts that can scratch the finish. Start at the top of the car, beginning by scrubbing the roof in straight lines from the innermost part to the outer edges. Rinse the mitt or sponge frequently during the wash to depose of any built-up dirt (which, again, can be abrasive), especially when you reach the dirtier the lower parts of the car. Spray off the roof after you finish it and then move on to the windows, trunk and hood, then the upper and lower sides of the car, spraying off each section after you finish it.



PHOTO: CORBIS

 4. Rub It Down
Dry the car yourself with a microfiber cloth or a synthetic chamois (cotton towels can leave lint and streaks) by running the cloth lightly over the car’s surface, wringing your wipe out as you go — don’t try to rub out the water drops with a heavy hand, just gently soak up the bulk of the water. After wiping the car down once, use a second dry cloth to clean up any residual moisture. Whatever you do, don’t let the car dry in the sun — it will dry too fast and likely leave splotches, and all your hard work will be wasted.

 


5. Know When To Wax ‘Em
You certainly don’t need to wax your new car right away, nor every time you wash it — once every three to six months is a good guideline. When you do wax, make sure the car is completely dry to avoid swirling. Follow the car wax’s directions (pay attention to whether you should wait for it to haze over before you buff) and use soft cotton rags or microfiber cloths to apply, working in small two-foot-square sections that you finish before moving on to the next.



 

  • coolmancool

    There are some good tips explaining why you do things. These are good informational pieces…keep them coming.

  • luv2drive

    This is a great website. I like the content and the production. Good tips on washing; just how I wash my 06 Charger.
    Keep up the good work.

  • RLD

    coolmancool and luv2drive, glad to know you find this stuff useful. We’ll keep it in mind when coming up with more stories…