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Car care techniques that professionals don’t want you to know

Keeping your car clean and hygienic is important because not only can it actually increase the value of your vehicle, but will also make your vehicle last longer. In making your vehicle look shiny and new, you have the option of enlisting the services of a professional car detailer, or you can also try performing some car care techniques yourself. In terms of the latter, you surely would save a significant sum, but that is if you do it the right way. 

Thus, below are some car care techniques that will leave you detailing your car as a professional would.

Keeping your headlights clean improves safety as well as the aesthetics of your vehicle

Professional Car Care Technique #1: Use two buckets

Professional detailers make use of the two-bucket method. It is simply using two pails of water to wash the exterior of your car. The first bucket is dedicated to the clean suds, while the other bucket holds clean water. 

To wash your car using this method, first dip your cleaning mitt into the bucket of clean water and rinse it dry before dipping it into the bucket of clean suds. Do this over and over as you are washing the car exterior. In this way, you are always dipping a clean mitt into the suds that will directly come in contact with your car. 

If you use a single bucket that holds the soapy water, then you are merely wiping back the dirt that you initially wiped off from your car every time you dip the mitt into the bucket.

Professional Car Care Technique #2: Use microfiber cloths and towels

Forget the sponge. As much as possible, invest on a microfibre mitt and use this rather than a sponge in washing your car. A sponge can hold dirt and grit in their pores, which can cause abrasions in your car when you scrub. On the other hand, a microfibre car wash mitt doesn’t hold the grit, leaving you with a clean and polished car. Dedicate a particular microfibre cloth for washing and another for rinsing. The former will better hold the soap suds necessary to remove dirt while the latter will ensure that your car is free from soap residue. Also, dedicate a separate microfibre cloth for drying. This paves the way for greater efficiency in the overall cleaning of the vehicle. Just remember to remove any microfibre labels before you use them to avoid scratching your car when you scrub.

When you are done cleaning your car, make sure that you wash the microfibre cloths separately from your regular laundry or other rags. There is a great chance that the microfibre will trap the lint from cotton, with which many of your clothes are made from. Thus, this greatly defeats the purpose of washing the microfibre cloth or towel. As much as possible, use only a small amount of detergent and skip on the fabric conditioner too because the latter can reduce the quality of your microfiber cloth or towel. Rinse thoroughly and you will get to keep your microfibres good for a long time.

Professional Car Care Technique #3: Use of buffers and towels

Some car owners use a buffer to remove wax or polish from the painted surfaces of their vehicles. Doing so often leaves an erratic swirl mark because this is not what the buffer is for. Rather, the buffer is intended to be used in applying the wax or polish to your car. Should you wish to remove the wax, you can use a dry towel to do so. In this way, you will avoid damaging the clear coat of your car’s paint and end up with an even coating of wax.

Professional Car Care Technique #4: Remove crumbs and hair from the inside

Even if you have a general rule of not eating inside your vehicle, you may still notice crumbs in some of the most stubborn parts of your car from time to time. There are instances that even with a vacuum, these crumbs don’t seem to budge. The good thing is you can use a brush with strong bristles to easily take these off. If this still doesn’t work, you can also use a flat head screwdriver covered with cloth.

On the other hand, if you often travel with your furry friend, then you will often find pet hair in the interior of your vehicle, particularly in your car’s carpets. In this case, rely on static electricity to help you with the interior clean up. You just need to put on some latex gloves and rub your hand over the carpet. The static electricity generated by the friction between the latex glove and the carpet will bring the pet hair up to the surface, making it easy for you to remove it using your bare hand, or a vacuum.

Professional Car Care Technique #5: Remove bugs from the outside

If you live in an area which is prone to bugs being squashed on your car, then you may be concerned about your car’s paint. It is a recommended practice by expert detailers to remove the bugs hit by your vehicle as soon as you notice them. To do so, wet the area where the bug is with clean water. After which, use a dryer sheet to scrub the area gently until the bug is removed. You don’t even have to apply car wax if it is no longer needed.

Professional Car Care Technique #6: Take off stickers

There are several reasons why a sticker may end up on the exterior of your vehicle. But when you decide to get them off, you can wet the area where the sticker is and use a newspaper to rub it off your car. However, this may not work with vinyl stickers because they are generally water-resistant. In this case, what you can do is to use a dab of WD-40 on a piece of cloth to rub the edges of the sticker. Once the edges become loose, scrape the sticker gently using a credit card. Just keep in mind that WD-40 should not be left on your car paint because it tends to get sticky, thereby, it will attract dust and dirt.

Professional Car Care Technique #7: Removing tar

Dark and sticky stains, also known as tar stains, can often be seen on the lower part of your vehicle because these stains usually originate from the road. There are several ways to remove tar from cars and one of them is by using commercial products. When you do, let the product sit for at least half an hour to allow it to work its wonders on the stain. Rinse your vehicle after and you will notice that the tar is no longer visible just like that. 

You can also use a clay bar solution or a household tar remover. If you are using a clay bar solution, you need to wet the area first using a clay lubricant. Soak the clay bar in warm water and rub the stains until they disappear. Otherwise, kerosene or any white spirit can also do the trick.

Professional Car Care Technique #8: More on the clay bar system

Aside from tar, you can remove most of the surface contaminants on your car using a clay bar system, even those that are not immediately visible. A complete clay bar system consists of a spray lubricant, a detailing spray, a clay bar, and a towel at the very least. After you have washed and dried your car, you just need to rub the clay bar on the paint to remove any foreign material stuck on your car paint, without causing any damage to the paint of your car. This will make your car ready for waxing and polishing because the paint surface is smoother after being rubbed by the clay bar.

Professional Car Care Technique #9: Check your car paint

Once you are done with cleaning the exterior of your vehicle and removing any surface contaminants you see, it is a good practice to check your car’s paint once more. This is before you apply wax to seal the newly cleaned surface of your car. To do so, you can use a thin plastic bag. Simply put your hand inside it and run it over the surface of the paint of your car. Through the plastic bag, any bumps and imperfections on the surface will be obvious. Thereby, you can easily go back and detail your car as necessary. Keep doing this until you are sure that the surface is already a hundred per cent smooth.

Professional Car Care Technique #10: Shine your headlights

A clouded headlight can make it hard for other vehicles to see your car on the road. To brighten up your lights, look for a pantyhose/tights and a non-gel toothpaste around your house first. A simple way to clear out your headlights is by applying a toothpaste packed with fluoride on it and letting the toothpaste sit for a while. The oxidation that occurs in your headlights is similar to what happens in your teeth. Hence, the fluoride in the toothpaste that cleans your teeth can also yield a similar cleaning result for your headlights. After about 15 minutes, wipe it out using the pantyhose and you have instantly renewed the shine of your headlights.

Professional Car Care Technique #11: Glass cleaning

If you have used newspapers to clean the windows of your home before, then you can definitely use it to clean the windows of your car too. Spray some window cleaner on the windows of your car then use a balled-up newspaper to wipe it clean. You will be amazed at how clean and shiny your car windows look afterwards.

Alternatively, dry your windshield in two directions. For instance, wipe your interior glass in a horizontal direction and do the final wipe on the exterior of your glass in a vertical direction. In this way, when there is a visible streak on the glass, you will immediately know whether it is from the inside or the outside. This will save you from having to jump in and out of your vehicle, trying to figure out which part of the glass you need to wipe again.

Professional Car Care Technique #12: Restore your floor mats

Every time you use your car or have passengers on board, your floor mats get to work. Over time, these can get filthy and unhygienic, which is why it is important that you clean them. Although the wear and tear of your floor mats may be so much visible, it may help to try applying a stain detergent on a fabric floor mat first before loading them up in the washer. The stain remover may loosen any tough stains and bring up your floor mats like brand new.

If this doesn’t work on the stubborn stains in your floor mat, try mixing a cup of vinegar to a cup of baking soda, together with half a cup of dishwashing liquid. Spray your floor mats with this solution and let it sit for a couple of minutes. After this, start scrubbing the stains away. When it dries, you will find that your floor mats look brand new. The good news is that you can also use this solution to clean the upholstered seats of your vehicle.

Professional Car Care Technique #13: Take care of your trim

After you wash and dry your vehicle, the next step is usually to apply wax. However, polish or wax can sometimes stain your trim. For this reason, expert car detailers use a trim protectant which could repel the polish or wax that can cause the stain. Others use masking tape before waxing to protect your trim, which can greatly save time.

Keeping the dashboard clean and protected helps prevent plastics and vinyl from decaying prematurely

Detailing your vehicle can sometimes prove to be challenging but think of it as a means of protecting your car, not only for its longevity but to increase its value too. While this entails the need for you to invest in a few tools and paraphernalia to make sure that your car shines like new, explore simple household items that you can use too.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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