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hominid's avatar

How to care for car's exterior?

Asked by hominid (7337points) August 25th, 2014

What is the bare minimum that is recommended to care for a car’s exterior? I live in Massachusetts, so I have to deal with snow and salt, along with birds, dirt, dust, etc.

I just bought a new car. I’m not looking to impress anyone with my stupid looking little Honda Fit, but I would like to make sure this doesn’t turn into my 2002 Accord. The paint on that car had just fallen away, and I was left with a flat white-ish/speckled finish, along with a healthy amount of rust. What would you recommend as the least amount of cleaning/care that should be done?

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7 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Wash it including under the car once or twice a month. Wax and sealer from a commercial car wash every other month.
I have a unlimited car wash certificate for inside and out the car. I have had it washed three time in one week bird droppings and such. I pay a once a month bill equal to three car washes. I usually get my money’s worth.

hominid's avatar

^ Self-wash or those drive-through machine things? Related to this – is there something that I should avoid? In other words, is there a popular method of washing/waxing that is may look good, but is bad for the car’s finish in the long-term?

janbb's avatar

I take my car through a commercial car wash about once a month and try to get it in soon after there has been snow. (I also try to go at a time when the lines aren’t too long!) Have a 2008 Volvo wagon that looks brand new.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Take a look at the YouTube channel Ammo NYC. Larry has shared years of experience in car detailing there and on the series Drive Clean. He explores the fanatical end of the car care spectrum in many videos, but he also describes a three bucket washing technique that has worked well for me.

Here are the absolute basics, if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to invest too much thought into it:
– Use a lamb’s wool wash mitt, not a sponge. Sponges trap dirt on the surface, which will make micro-scratches on the paintwork as you wipe the surface. A wash mitt will pull the dirt well away from the paint.
– Use a microfibre towel to dry the paintwork, for the same reason. Don’t use a rubber chamois.
– Clean off bird droppings and sap from trees as soon as you notice it. I keep a water bottle in the car at all times for this purpose.
– Use a separate bucket and wash mitt for the wheels if you have alloy wheels.
– Polish the car every six months. Use a clay bar first and a sealing wax afterwards for the best results.

If you follow these basics, and don’t park in the sun too much, your paintwork will still look great for many years to come.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Honda Fit/Jazz stupid looking?? LOL, have you looked at the competition’s designs?

I do not recommend automated car washes. Their first priority is getting the car clean quickly and inexpensively in the short term. They have no concern for the damage they cause with harsh devices or chemicals over time.

Wash the car (this is not to be confused with cleaning the paint, that is another process) gently by hand:

Use a cotton cloth to wash. All-polyester cloths will scratch your delicate clearcoat. Polyester Microfiber cloths are the exception. They are used by professionals all the time with no damage.

For simplicity’s sake use a purpose formulated car wash liquid. These contain oils that keep the clearcoat and plastics supple. Use a kind that leaves a trace of wax on the car. This can keep your wax job lasting a little longer. Dish liquid and the like will free your finish of wax on contact.

Even with gentle soaps specific to washing basecoat-clearcoat finishes, you can still burn the wax off by using too much. Use just enough soap to keep some lather.

Put a small amount of soap in a clean empty bucket. Then spray the water in to create suds.

Always wash in a circular motion, do not press down. The weight of the cloth should be enough.

Start at the top and work down in sections. Wash in the shade whenever possible. Periodically spray the top to keep it wet as you work down.

Use a different rag for the wheels. Brake dust is by design abrasive. If your Fit has alloy wheels wash them gently as well. There is a clearcoat on them like the paint. Harsh brushes and soaps can chap the clearcoat. Moisture will reach the exposed aluminum and cause corrosion.

Rinse the car all at once starting at the top. Use a nozzle with high volume and slowly spray across the finish. The wall of water will slide off the car in one motion. This leaves a minimum of residual water on a panel for you to dry.

Flap an old cotton towel over the horizontal panels like you’re spreading a picnic blanket, then pull the towel across the panel. Almost all water will come off. Then hold the towel at the corners and pull it along the sides.

Dry door sills and around the hatch. These will get funky over time if you don’t.

Honda recommends that you spray around the wheel wells and behind the wheels. This loosens any accumulated debris. Besides, the fenderliners and suspension components are visible. Don’t be dirty wheel well guy.

In winter try to spray as much of the car’s underside as possible with water to dilute road salts. Salt not only will rust out your car’s body but will in time cause the car’s fasteners to seize. This can make the car harder and more time consuming to work on, something you should be concerned with even if you never turn a bolt on it yourself.

Wax every month to two. Follow directions on product. Keep in mind that wax is just that, wax. Not much summer heat is required for it to melt off.

—————> To keep things really simple I strongly recommend wet dusting of your car’s finish. Simply spray on to the finish then rub with a cloth til dry. A wax supplementing residue is left behind. This product will NOT scratch. If you use it and the cloth drags it’s time for a traditional wash followed by a fresh coat of paste or liquid wax. Here is such a product that I swear by: Meguiar’s Quick Detailer

IMPORTANT: Do not spray cold water on a brake disk that could still be hot from driving. The rotor could warp and cause vibration under braking.

DO NOT use softener when washing cloths you use to wash your car. It will leave residue.

Paint cleaning and polishing are different processes. Your car is too new to need them yet. I will be happy to describe those processes and products when needed.

Or feel free to call the friendly and knowledgeable people at Meguiar’s 800.347.5700 I’ve been using their products professionally for years with very satisfactory results.

kritiper's avatar

Rinse it off before washing. DO NOT USE A PRESSURE WASHER!!! Wash when the weather is cool and the car is out of the sun. Wash with lots of water and a soft old towel. Use a liquid soap, like laundry detergent. Don’t let the soap dry before rinsing; if you do, wash that area again with the rag and rinse immediately. Park the car in a garage or shady spot, like a carport. The inside of the windows being clean affects how the car looks when washed. Also pay attention to the wheels and tires. Clean them well. ( Hint: You can wash a car very well and not clean the wheels and the car will still look dirty. You can just wash the wheels and nothing but the wheels and the car will look clean.)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I must disagree with you on a minor detail. You should always wash using straight strokes of your wash mitt, never circular. If you have accidentally picked up some dirt in the fibres and lightly scratch the paint with it, a straight scratch is far easier to polish out than a circular one.

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