This guide was produced by Brazo, 182blue and Rich
Poor washing technique and the wrong tools leads to the majority of swirl makes and marring that you see on your cars paint. Swirl marks can be caused by both badly washing by hand and by automatic car washes.
Most good quality car washes are mild on wax, and all of the cars exterior components. The shampoo needs to foam up well and provide good lubrication to stop the dirt scratching the paint, and leave a good gloss finish to the cars appearance. Most car washes are much of the same if you pay for a reasonable one. Like most things everyone has the personal favourite, as long as it foams up well, produces a slick wash liquid that rinses easily and leaves a good finish Iím happy. I tend to avoid the all in one wash and wax type products. I would rather worry about protecting the paint as separate step.
THE TWO BUCKET METHOD
The favoured method for cleaning a car by hand is known as the two-bucket method. Making sure the paintwork is cool and working in the shade if possible, firstly you need to hose the car down to remove as much of the loose dirt. Hosing alone will not remove all of the dirt, nothing short of a good scrubbing will do. This is where people first introduce marks into the paintwork in the wash process by using a sponge.
The best solution to this is to use a good quality deep pile wash mitt or pad. These hold lots of soapy water and are kind on your paintwork. Unlike normal sponges these are either made of sponge covered with microfiber, cotton or sheepskin, or as a mitt to wear on your hand. The nature of the construction means that the deep pile lets the dirt get drawn down into them away from the paint protecting your finish. Traditional use of normal flat-sided sponges canít do this, allowing the dirt to be trapped in a sandwich between the sponge and the paint. The dirt and grit then marks and swirls the paint surface, most noticeable if you have a dark paint. Even with a good foamy shampoo, the sponge will still cause damage that will later need to be polished out.
For this process you need two buckets, one with a good quality car wash and water mixture and one with clean rinse water. After washing a part of the car, instead of going straight back into your soapy bucket of wash and back to the car, use the rinse bucket to wash your pad or mitt before putting it into the soapy water and onto the paint. This means your wash bucket stays free from dirt and grit and stays foamy longer. As mentioned earlier choose a wash that is designed for car paintwork. The formulation will allow abrasive dirt to be safely removed with out scratching.
Start from the top and work down, this means that firstly you are starting with the roof, which tends to be the least dirty and allows the soapy water to run down and loosen the dirty bits lower down. During the cooler times of the year it is possible to wash the whole car and then rinse, in summer it may be advisable to do a side of the car at the time or even a panel at a time. You need to rinse often before the shampoo off before it dries, if it does it will streak and leave a film behind.
As well as washing the panels in an order steer clear of washing in circular motions. This way if by chance you do introduce swirl marks during the wash process, the circular motion will make the marks look much worse. For vertical surfaces such as doors, and wings wash in a top to bottom (up and down) motion, and for horizontal panels like the roof and bonnet wash front to back in straight lines, this way any marring caused wont show up so badly in the light.
After washing give the car a rinse with a constant flow of water. The best way to do this is with the nozzle of the hosepipe, which allows the water to sheet off the panels rather than bead making drying the car a lot quicker. If the surface is well waxed this method will leave hardly any water to dry up.
For drying I prefer to use either or a combination of a synthetic chamois and/or a mirofiber waffle weave drying towel. The latter is probably kinder to you paint. Again start at the top of the car and work you way down. If using a good size towel of chamois place it flat against the paint and pull it along absorbing as much water as you can in one pass. Ring and/or rinse it out often. To prevent steaks fold the towel or chamois into a pad for the final wipe.
Taking one wheel and arch at a time rinse of any lose brake dust and dirt with the hose (make sure to get right in the arch with the hose), mix up your car wash to double the normal strength. It maybe a good idea to have a specific bucket just for your wheels so you know there is not any danger of the break dust getting on your paint next time you wash.
If the wheels are really dirty use a wheel cleaner to loosen up the baked on grime. Beware of most wheel cleaners, as they are acid based. I prefer to use Autoglym engine and machine cleaner as it is non acidic so is kinder on your alloys. If you are using an acid based cleaner consider watering it down to reduce the strength. If you have polished and waxed you wheels in the past soapy water should be all you need to clean them, as the protective coating left behind should stop the brake dust etching.
After letting the cleaners do their work for a few minutes, with the soapy water work your way round the tire, the face of the wheel, inside the spokes and rim. If you have very hard to clean wheels with small spokes, use a soft brush to get inside them best you can. After washing rinse the wheels and arches well with a good supply of water and dry.
CLAYING - USE OF THE CLAY BAR
What is a clay bar, and what can it be used for
Clay isnt a polish or a compound, it is a surface preparation bar that smoothes the paint and removes contaminants, Clay is not a replacement for polishing. Its a tool for quickly and easily removing surface contamination
A clay bar is as its name suggests a bar of clay, and is usually used in conjunction with some form of lubricant (or even normal car shampoo), and basically it is used on your cars paintwork/wheels/ and even glass, to remove surface contaminants such as tree sap, tar specks, brake dust etc.
The clay is used after washing the car and before applying waxes etc.
Clay is also very effective on paint over-spray.
Do you need to use a clay bar?
No matter how much you wash and wax your car this is not enough alone to remove certain contaminants, in fact waxing over such contaminants will only seal them onto your paint.
To check if you need to clay simply was your car and dry now simply run your finger- tips across the paint surfaces, which should feel as smooth as glass, if it doesnt then your paint is being attacked by contaminants, Removing these surface contaminants (tar, acid rain spots, bug residue, paint over-spray, brake dust, hard water spots, etc.) will improve both the look and health of your cars paint.
Using clay is easy but do follow the manufacturers instructions, if you dont you could create a mess or mark your paint.
Firstly ensure that you car is thoroughly washed and dried, as with all car cleaning try to do it in the shade, and apply to a small area at a time. Then roll your clay into ball, this warms it up and makes it more usable, then mould it into a flat surface, you then spray a small amount of the lubricant onto the panel, and then rub the clay in back and forward motion using light/medium pressure, if it becomes hard to rub then you need to use more lubricant (this is because clay is quite sticky). When you have made a few passes rub your hand over the area and it should be smooth, if it isnt then you just follow the same process again until the area becomes glass smooth, when smooth remove all the residue with a micro fibre towel (a soft cotton towel will suffice also).
When you have completed the whole car it is advisable to wash the car down to remove the lubricant, you car is now ready for glazing/sealing/waxing, etc.
Tip, when you can no longer fold the clay into a clean surface you can use it for claying your glass or even your alloys, it surprising how much dirt you can remove from your cars glass, and likewise clay is perfect for removing brake dust from your alloys (Clay is not recommended on wheels that do not have a factory clear coat or powder coat finish).
1. Clay does have a mild cutting action so be careful in its use.
2. If you drop you clay bar dispose of it, as dirt will engrain itself into the clay, and this will of course scratch your paint.
3. Fold your clay regularly and check the clay often, if you find raised bits remove them with you nails
4. Always Read the manufacturers instructions.