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How To Wash Your Car The Right Way

Take these helpful tips and give your vehicle a thorough spring clean…

By Casey Williams

My husband enjoys his winter woodworking projects in our garage, which have unfortunately left quite a layer of scruff on my old Corvette. Soon, it will be time to get it ready for the eyes of summer: charge the battery, inflate the tires, store the roof and buff its dirty body. But all that should be done carefully, to avoid further disgrace. Here are some helpful hints for cleansing your dirty ride:

Get ready…
Just as you wouldn’t use dish detergent in the shower, don’t splash it on your car. And keep hand soap and glass cleaner off your paint, too. All of these can damage the wax and clear coat. Instead, buy a dedicated car wash solution from your favourite auto store. Employ bug and tar remover for the tougher grime.

Buy two sponges: one for the body/glass and another for wheels/tires. You do not want to grind sand, road dirt and brake dust into your paint. If you drop either sponge on the ground, get another. Practice safe sponging, people.

Make sure your car is chill before washing. Park in the shade, let the engine cool. A hot smooth body may elicit desire, but will evaporate water more quickly and leave a soapy film that’s difficult to wash off.

Now, get down and dirty
Begin your session by spraying the entire car with water to remove loose dirt; that way, you’ll avoid grinding it into the paint when you rub on the suds. Do not rub in circles, which can cause swirls in the paint.

Most of us don’t wash our entire body at once – we work arms, legs, body and face in due time. Likewise, when washing your car, concentrate on one section at a time and rinse with water as each section is finished. This will keep soap from drying and becoming difficult to remove.

Just as you might wash your blade when shaving down for that first bike ride of the season, you want to rinse your sponge often to flush all of the debris – as in dirt, salt, bird sap…and for me, thanks to my husband, sawdust. Empty the bucket and replenish halfway through to keep from recycling all that gunk.

After every inch has been scrubbed and wiped, hose the car off one more time to remove the last remnants of filth and lather.

It may be environmentally friendly to let your car air-dry, but that’s probably not the best way to avoid water spots on your spotless paint and windows. Dry with a chamois, dragging it gently across the body and glass, and squeezing out water often. A terry towel is a good alternative, but if you are especially picky, use a portable air dryer made for auto detailing to evict every droplet.

Of course, you can avoid all of this hassle by driving into your favourite professional car wash, paying a fee, and letting them do the dirty work. But that would deprive you of bonding with your car and feeling its every curve and crevice. When you see your work glistening in the driveway, you’ll know it was all worth it.

CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to, the area’s PBS/NPR station.

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