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Cleaning and Caring for Your Car's Paint

1/13/2023
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Don't Forget The Exterior When it Comes to Car Care
Washing and proper care is essential for preserving your car's paint finish

Maintaining your classic mechanically is one of your goals in life. But while you are focused on getting her running smooth, what is happening to that paint? Knowing how to maintain your paint's gloss and shine is also extremely important. Not only is it time consuming to replace, it’s also expensive. So why not protect it?

Hand Washing - The Best Way to Clean Your Car's Paint
A bucket with a grit guard helps prevent dirt from getting back up into your wash mitt

Whether it's your classic ride, your performance sports car or just the daily driver, caring for your car's paint preserves the finish, keeping it looking great for years. While car washes seem to be popping up on every corner, nothing beats the level of care a hand car wash brings. The level of attention is unmatched by any machine, and nothing gets into all the crevices and corners like a good hand wash. On top of that, a basic wash set up you can use many times is often cheaper than a single trip to the car wash. And it doesn't have to be hard or time consuming, not to mention it's a great way to bring the family in so they can all take a little pride in their part of taking care of the car.

Let's get started!

  1. Find a spot in the shade if at all possible. Washing in the sun can lead to early drying of detergents or minerals in the water, leading to spots on your finish.
  2. Start at the top and work your way down. That way you don’t blow dirt and debris back up on a clean surface. Spray as much of the loose dirt off the car before you start washing or else you risk dragging grime and grit across your car's finish.
  3. Wash with the tried and true cotton wash mitt, a 5 gallon bucket of water, and a good automotive safe cleaner like 1320 Video Street Shine Sudz Car Wash Soap. Measure per the instructions on the bottle. Excess detergent is just a waste and can lead to residue. NEVER use liquid dish soap to wash your car. Yes, you get a lot of suds, and it cleans really well, but what you are actually doing is stripping all of the wax from your car...which is fine if you intend to buff the paint and start building a quality finish all over again. But for regular maintenance, use a specifically formulated car wash detergent.
  4. Make sure to rinse the mitt often, otherwise you’ll end up with scratches from the trapped debris. Ideally, a second "rinse bucket" with a grit guard that fits inside your bucket will keep your mitt clean and prevent the mitt from getting in the dirt settled at the bottom of the bucket. Repeat until you've covered the entire car. Don't forget the wheels and fenderwells!
  5. Rinse thoroughly, again from top to bottom.
Drying - An Important Step to Prevent Mineral Deposits
Drying off excess water will prevent mineral deposits from spotting your paint

We said DRY. This is a very important step that a lot of people ignore! Ignore it, and you will have little mineral deposits all over your car. Then you’ll have to wash it again. Use good clean cotton towels or a sheepskin or synthetic chamois. Microfiber drying towels like our 1320 Video Street Shine Extra Large Drying Towel have become popular and new microfiber materials are designed for car paint care - look for edgeless microfiber towels and towels specifically designed for car care. If you still have some stubborn stuff after the wash, your next step is to break out the clay bar. Used in conjunction with a lubricating spray, a clay bar actually pulls the crud off of the paint without damage.

Waxing - The Final Step for Shine & Protection of Your Car's Finish
Products like Lucas Slick Mist Wax make easy work out of waxing your car or providing a quick touchup

Now it’s time to wax. Our recommendation is a reputable carnauba-based wax, either in paste or liquid form. This will usually last between 6-10 weeks. After you have waxed your beauty, you can maintain that gloss at car shows with quick detailer sprays like the Lucas Oil Slick Mist Speed Wax, a product that you can use as a traditional wax, detail spray, or spray on the vehicle between rinsing a drying for a fast and easy polish job. Just make sure that before you hit the finish with the detailer spray, you dust off the car with our Nebraska Duster. This will get all of the surface dirt off the car, instead of grinding it into the finish.

Can Oxidized Paint be Fixed?
Oxidized and dull paint can be restored with polishing and rubbing compounds, a machine buffer and some care

Now if your paint is still oxidized and dull, you have a couple options available to try. First, keep in mind these options will all remove some paint, just in varying degrees. Your standard polish is the least abrasive, then a cleaner and finally rubbing compound. Compounds are better left to professionals, being best utilized by a machine buffer, but polish is something that anyone can use. One trick with old oxidized paint is to use a clay bar and lubricant spray to take off the top layer of powder, before polishing it up by hand or having a shop do it. The best part about having a shop do it, if they burn through the paint they can fix it. If you burn through the paint, you get to pay to fix it.

Helpful Car Washing Tips

Here are a few extra tips to make the most of your car wash

  1. Before you start washing your car, gather all your materials (buckets, towels, etc.) in one place for easy location.
  2. Be efficient. When washing your car, avoid leaving soap on the surface or water spots on a location for a long period of time.
  3. Keep things clean! Any rag or towel that drops on the ground needs to be set aside. Even if you shake out the large particles, dust from the ground can scratch your car's finish. Bring extra towels.
  4. Avoid the fabric softener when washing your towels. Fabric softeners contain chemicals that make your fabrics hydrophobic - meaning they repel water, and make your towels less absorbent no matter how fluffy they are!

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