The Paint Shop Guide to Cleaning & Aftercare

A car will only keep its beautiful appearance if it is maintained properly. If you simply run an old wet sponge over your car once every month, it will soon take its revenge on your freshly restored car. We have compiled some helpful information about cleaning and detailing your car to help assist you in maintaining that fresh showroom look.

Step One: Washing & Drying

Washing with a microfibre mitt

When washing your car you need to ensure you don't rub the grit into the paintwork that collects on sponges. We suggest you ditch the old style sponge and go for a wash mitt instead. Wash mitts are normally machine washable so you can use it time and time again. Also it's best to use a good quality car shampoo such as Meguiars, AutoGlym or Dodo Juice.

We also suggest using two buckets, one for the soap and one to rinse the wash mitt in. The way you do this is to first rinse the excess dirt from your car, rinse the wash mitt in the fresh bucket, then dip it in the soap bucket and apply to the car. This method allows the fresh bucket to collect the grit and dirt particles so they don't micro scratch the car. Another cool device is the Meguiars Grit Guard that sits in the bottom of a bucket and retains the grit and dirt, they cost around £11 but are worth the investment.

The third part of the washing process is drying the car. Now for years the Chamois Leather was the weapon of choice, however, micro particles of grit and dirt get stuck in the chamois and then get rubbed into the paint which can leave unattractive 'swirls'. We suggest using a waffle weave microfibre drying towl as they are machine washable and thus fresh everytime you use it.

Step Two: Clay (aka Paint Putty)

If you run you hand over paintwork and you can feel a 'gritty' texture on the paintwork then you will need to use a clay bar to remove it. Mould the clay bar into a patty, spray a panel with plain water or a quick detailer spray and then gently stroke the clay patty across the panel for about 3 minutes. When you inspect the clay you should see a bronze colour mess and lots of grit dots. The dots is the dirt you cannot remove by washing alone.

Step Three: Polishing

Machine Polisher

Now polish and wax are two different things. A polish is essentially a mild abrasive compound. Polish removes traces of old wax and shampoo residue. You should apply polish sparingly using an applicator pad or micro fibre cloth. This should be done one panel at a time and never in direct sunlight as that would 'bake it on', which is not nice. Polish should leave your car with a 'like glass' effect on the paint, very nice.

The alternative for vehicles suffering heavier 'swirls' in the paintwork is to use a machine polisher, however if used incorrectly they can lead to poor results and at worst paint burns.

Step Four: Waxing

Wax is the top protection layer of your vehicle which makes it vital in the protection of your car. To wax your car you should apply the wax sparingly with an applicator pad. Apply a small amount of wax to the applicator sponge then work the wax onto the paintwork in small circles and then allow it to dry/cure for between 5 and 10 minutes. Once it has cured it will appear as a light haze, simply buff this haze off with a clean and dry micro fibre cloth.

As for which wax to use, where should we start? There are two main types of wax available, polymer waxes and carnauba based. The choice is yours for which way to go, some people prefer the natural over the tech wax's. As for brand there are loads of manufacturers including Zymol, Meguiars, AutoGlym, PoorBoys and Dodo Juice. One thing we would advise however is not to skimp on the price, after all, the wax will protect all your efforts.

External Links

  • Detailing World - An online forum for advice and questions about cleaning detailing vehicles including product advice.
  • Meguiars - The official website for Meguiars cleaning products.
  • AutoGlym - The official website for AutoGlym products.
  • Dodo Juice - The official website for Dodo Juice and their Carnauba based products.
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