There are many things that can have a negative effect on the condition of your vehicle’s paint job and interior.
Weather changes, road grime, salt and other factors can all cause your vehicle to look older and lose that shine that so many people love to see on their vehicles.
There are a lot of different methods out there for cleaning your vehicle but it must be done correctly so the vehicle doesn’t get damaged.
We have put together an extensive list of great tips and strategies any vehicle owner can use to clean their vehicle the right way.
These methods will help preserve the paint job and the interior of any vehicle and keep it looking good as new.
1. The importance of detailing your vehicle
One of the first ways that you can combat the elements and protect your vehicle is through regular detailing. This includes washing, conditioning and treating the vehicle’s exterior and interior.
Without regular attention the paint job and interior can crack, peel, get discolored and look terrible. This is due to UB damage, contaminants and road debris that the car encounters on a regular basis just in day to day driving.
What will determine how often you should detail your vehicle is how often you drive it and the elements it is being driven in. Exposure to sun on a regular basis can also have a negative effect on your vehicle’s interior and exterior.
Washing your vehicle once a week is sufficient to keep pollen and dirt from marking up the clear coat of the vehicle and a once a month wash and wax will keep the exterior of your vehicle shiny and looking great. Every one to two years your vehicle may need to have the coating or sealant replaced but this is a job for the professionals and not something you should attempt on your own.
2. What Does Your Vehicle Need?
Weekly inspections of the interior and exterior of your vehicle can keep you abreast of what it needs in the way of care. You want to do this inspection in direct sunlight or a bright shop light to make sure that you see everything clearly.
This bright light or sunlight will reveal scratches, imperfections, swirls and other problems so you can take a look at them and see what you need to do. If it has a lot of scratches or swirls, you will need to spend more time getting it back to its former shine. Very few scratches will not need as much time to fix. Don’t forget to look at the headlights for hazing, chips from flying rocks, and scratches. You should also check the splash guards and lower trim to see if salt, road grime buildup or cracks are present.
3. How to Wash Your Vehicle Properly
If you don’t eliminate the paint marring or swirling that is present on your vehicle, you can mess up the vehicle’s finish. There are some basic steps that one should take when washing their vehicle. We’ve outlined these steps below.
- Gather the supplies you will need for the washing. These include 3 buckets, two wash mitts in different colors, a soft, round brush with 2” bristles and a long handle with no metal parts, and car shampoo that is safe for all surfaces.
- Put the correct amount of car shampoo and water in one bucket and plain water in the other two. All three buckets will need one grit guard each. In bucket three you will have the wash mitts or microfiber towels, a grit guard and the soapy water. Bucket number two will have water and a grit guard and bucket one is the same as bucket two.
- Starting at the centerline of the vehicle, take one of the wash mitts and start washing. You will need to rinse the mitt in buckets one and two and then soak it in three as you are washing the vehicle. You will be slowly working your way down from the centerline. Use the second mitt for the lower portion of the vehicle and all the vehicle’s bumpers.
- Use the soft brush on the bumper gaps, the compartment that holds the fuel filter and anywhere else the wash mitt isn’t able to reach. Once the vehicle is completely soaped up, rinse it thoroughly and make sure that you have removed all of the dirt and soap from the surface of the vehicle.
- Dry the vehicle with an electric blower to prevent any swirling or marring from occurring. You can get these electric blowers from hardware stores. Don’t use your blower for anything other than drying your vehicle to prevent dirty air from being blown out of the blower.
- After the drying is done, spray a light mist of spray wax on the vehicle and then wipe clean with soft, clean microfiber towels.
4. Getting the Vehicle Ready for Polishing and/or Waxing
If you have a polisher and want to polish your vehicle, it is important that you tape off key areas such as glass and key areas and wrap any exhaust tips the vehicle has in plastic. All steps listed above should be completed before the polishing begins.
It is very important to make sure that there is no grit or contaminants that could compromise the finish of the vehicle during the polishing process. A good way to extend the life of your paint job is to get a sealant added to the vehicle.
They will need a couple of days to cure but will usually last two years or so and will help resist scratches and other harmful materials from damaging your vehicle.
5. Do You Need to Polish? How Often is the Right Amount?
Polishing is something that should be done occasionally but not weekly due to the damage it can cause to the clear coat. You can use a mild rubbing compound during the polishing and waxing steps. Don’t use too much pressure so you don’t causing “burning” or swirling of the clear coat or sealant.
You will complete this step after the vehicle has been washed but before the car has dried thoroughly. When polishing the vehicle, use slow, long movements with even pressure. Do the vehicle in sections and once one section is done, move on to the next. Make sure that the polish pad is damp and that the vehicle is as well. After all polishing is done, rinse it completely and add a coat of wax.
Keep the polishing disc clean by rinsing it so dirt, debris and compound left on the disc doesn’t cause scratches and other problems. You should be careful of the edges of the polisher as well due to the fact that they spin faster than the inside which can result in damage to the clear coat on the vehicle.
You should avoid polishing the vehicle too often so the clear coat of the vehicle isn’t weakened. Polishing too often can result in having to have the clear coat replaced more often.
6. The Difference Between Waxing, Coating and Sealing
Sealants contain no wax and are made from man-made compounds. They have polymers that substitute for the wax. Coatings are more permanent in nature and are much harder than sealants or wax.
This makes them much more protective than either of the other two substances. Coatings will last 1-2 years; sealants and waxes will need to be replaced on a monthly basis. The best in terms of protection is coating, but which one the vehicle owner uses is largely up to personal preference.
7. The Best Way to Maintain Your Vehicle’s Finish Between Waxing, Sealing or Coating
The best way to preserve your wax, sealant or coating job is to take some simple precautions such as performing regular weekly cleaning and inspections, not parking under trees that can drip sap onto the finish, using quality products and being careful what is around your car. Parking lots can be nightmares when it comes to being bumped and dinged by other drivers’ doors, shopping carts and even people walking by carelessly.
Taking care of any problems as soon as they are detected is another important way to preserve the life of your wax, sealant or coating. Sap, bird droppings and other contaminants become much more difficult to remove once they harden so the faster you can get these removed the better it will be for the finish of your vehicle.
Another way of preserving your vehicle’s finish is to use a good quality car cover when the vehicle isn’t being used. Make sure that it is easy to take on and off or it will be more headache than it is worth to use it.
8. Get the Most Mileage Out of Regular Detailing
Preventative maintenance is the best way to get the most out of your wax job, sealant or coating. It’s also important to use the right products on the car that will not damage the finish.
If you take your time during the inspection and don’t rush the detailing, you will get the most out of the protective sealants, coatings or waxes that you choose to use on your vehicle.
9. How Your Vehicle Will Benefit from Caring For the Finish
The biggest barrier to damage from the elements is the finish of the vehicle. If the finish breaks down this will allow the paint to fade and permanent damage such as rust can get in and make a mess of things. Most cars are sold or used as trade-ins every 2-3 years so taking care of the interior and exterior of your vehicle can earn you more money at the sale or more credit towards a trade in.
10. Professional or DIY?
If there is some damage that shows up on your car that you feel is just too much to take on yourself, don’t hesitate to hand the keeps over to a professional to take care of.
They will be knowledgeable in the proper methods to handle certain problems and you won’t have to worry about damaging the finish further.
Make sure that you check out the potential detailer before you hire them or give any them any money. Reviews and references are two good ways to get an idea of the customers’ experiences.
A Vehicle’s Condition is a Reflection of the Owner
How you take care of your vehicle can reflect on you as a person. If other people see your vehicle is well taken care of inside and out, it shows that you are a person that pays attention to detail and values your belongings.
On the flip side of this, seeing a car that is dirty, with dull paint and an interior that is neglected and dirty can reflect very negatively on you, especially if your boss sees your vehicle for some reason.
There are many good reasons to take care of your vehicle with regular detailing inside and out. If you ever plan on trading your vehicle in, the condition of the paint job and the condition of the interior can bring you a higher value for your trade in.
The same is true if you sell it. People will pay more for a vehicle that has a great paint job and a clean, well taken care of interior that is free of rips, cracks, faded spots and dullness. A neglected car will actually bring far less credit for trade ins and people won’t want to pay your asking price, regardless of whether the engine runs well and the mileage is good or not.
Detailing your car is not complicated if you follow the tips we have provided. We have summed it up for you below for easy recall.
- Inspect the vehicle on a weekly basis in bright light to catch any cracks, scratches or swirls that are present.
- Wash the car with the 3 bucket method and clean microfiber towels and a good quality car shampoo and dry with an electric blower once a week
- Take care of any problems that are found during the inspection. If you are unsure of what to do to fix the problem, ask a professional for the best way to fix any issues that you have found.
- Give the vehicle a good waxing or sealant once a month.
- Take care of the interior with the appropriate products that will preserve and protect the dash and other interior.
- Maintain your wash and wax job by avoiding parking under any trees that drip sap and watch out for problems in parking lots by avoiding parking too close to other vehicles. Don’t forget to use a car cover when the car is not being driven.