A man uses a rag to clean the small crevices around the bolts on a car’s wheel rim

Wax On, Wax Off: Protecting Your Automobile’s Finish

A man uses a rag to clean the small crevices around the bolts on a car’s wheel rim

Wax On, Wax Off: Protecting Your Automobile’s Finish

To keep your car looking like new, you need the right supplies and technique. Car wash soap, wax and elbow grease are just a few things that are on the list

Turns out car wax isn’t just for teaching karate techniques like Mr. Miyagi showed us in “The Karate Kid.” Chances are you paid a lot of money for your car, so it’s important to keep the finish in tip-top condition. When Dad whipped out the hard-paste wax every other weekend, he had the right idea, but modern vehicles require a little extra finesse. Fortunately, with the right supplies and good old-fashioned elbow grease, your car can’t help being the shiniest one on the block.

Stock up on Supplies

Must-have supplies for protecting your car’s finish include a wash mitt – Consumer Reports suggests lamb’s wool – a fine-grade sponge, car-wash soap, auto glass cleaner, wheel cleaner, and a number of cotton applicator pads. Don’t forget several microfiber towels, a silicone water blade, spray lubricant, and a bucket.

Tip: For best results, use a different towel or foam pad for each step of the process.

Wash Like an Expert

A sign for a car wash business that offers 100% hand wash and car waxing services
Source: Shutterstock

Your car comes in constant contact with some pretty nasty stuff, including dirt, bugs, bird droppings, tree sap, and more. That’s why it’s important to wash it regularly. If left for too long, grime can harm your car’s finish.
Before washing, remove loose dirt and debris by rinsing the entire car with water. Beginning at the top and working around, use the mitt and car wash soap to clean one section at a time, and rinse thoroughly to prevent the soap from drying. To avoid swirl marks, work across the length of the hood and other areas instead of moving the mitt in circles. Make sure to rinse your mitt thoroughly if dropped to keep from scratching the paint.

Tip:When rinsing, a nozzle-free hose allows water to flow in sheets down the car and minimizes beading and pooling.

Dry Like a Pro

Drying an automobile can be a pain if not done properly. A cotton towel turns into a wet, soppy mess, and you might end up using the entire supply in your linen closet. Wipe water from the car with a silicone water blade – a squeegee designed for this specific purpose – and then use a few microfiber towels to mop up the remainder.

Tip:Avoid using chamois leather, as it can trap small particles of dirt between it and the surface of the car, creating swirl marks and fine scratches.

Wipe Away Stubborn Dirt and Debris

Certain types of debris like sap and tar are extra stubborn. Although clay bars used to be the go-to product for sticky gunk and goo, the folks at Popular Mechanics recommend a detailing lubricant and fine-grade sponge. After the car is dry, spray on the lubricant in sections. Working in circles, remove debris with the sponge, and dry with a towel.

Tip:For the best-quality towels, choose products with slightly sticky microfibers.

Bring Out the Shine

Everyone likes a shiny car, but how you make it gleam is a matter of preference. Some car owners swear by carnauba wax – the stuff your dad probably used – and others prefer sealant. Although both offer a glistening shine, carnauba wax is made from natural materials and it creates a warmer glow. However, this product requires reapplication every six to eight weeks. Paint sealant is a synthetic product offering a glossier finish that can last up to six months.

Tip:Work in small sections. Apply wax or sealant in thin, even coats with cotton applicator pads. When it appears cloudy, buff in a circular motion with microfiber towels.

A man uses a motorized buffer with a cotton applicator pad to apply wax that will give the car a perfect glossy
Source: Shutterstock

Don’t Forget Glass, Wheels, and Weather Stripping

Subjected to the elements, automobile weather stripping dries and crumbles over time. Keep it in good condition with a rubber sealant protectant. Just spray on and let dry. Because household glass cleaners contain chemicals that damage weather stripping, use a special automotive product to clean your windshield and windows.

Tip:Waffle-style cleaning cloths make quick work of bugs and other filth.

To get wheels gleaming, opt for a cleaner made for your specific product – whether chrome, aluminum, or clear-coated wheels – or choose a cleaner labeled as safe for all wheels. Use a cleaning brush to get between cracks and crevices, cleaning and drying one wheel at a time. When dry, apply wheel wax and buff when cloudy.

Tip:Use a long-handled wheel brush to scrub off brake dust and a smaller brush to clean around lug nuts.

Protecting your car’s finish makes good sense from a practical and an aesthetic point of view. Take advantage of these tips to keep your automobile looking like new, and share photos with us on Instagram.