In the world of car washing, there are countless methods, products, and practices, but how do you know which type of car wash is right for you? Do dish soap, a sponge, and a hose do the trick? What does wax do? Delving into the plethora of resources and forums is daunting to say the least, so we created a list of the basics to help you get started.
Understanding your Base
Before we go into wash methods and products, it is first important to understand what you are even washing in the first place. Knowing if the outer layer of your car is a ceramic coating or simple base, will help determine what type of car wash will be best for you!
If you drive a car that was manufactured in the last 20-25 years, chances are your car has an acrylic urethane or acrylic enamel base coat. The paint itself is what gives your car its color, and is often not the only layer on your car! Hardeners and clear coats are generally applied on top of the base coat to give your paint extra durability and protection.
Over time, as road debris adds natural wear and tear to your car’s body, you may notice very fine marks on your car (often referred to as ‘micro scratches’). These are small scratches in your clear coat that catch light, reducing your cars overall shine. Micro scratches are also a result of poor car washing techniques, which we will fill you in on how to prevent!
Lastly, there is the outer layering. For additional protection, cars can have ceramic coatings, vinyl wrap jobs, clear bras, and protective films. Each has its own benefits, but ultimately are great ways to keep your car’s paint and clear coat looking pristine.
Drive Through Bay’s
Now that you understand what you are cleaning, let’s look at the pros and cons of the most popular car wash method…the drive-through bay. Found at gas stations and your corner brick and mortar car wash, the car wash bays are quick and cheap. Giant scrubbers and brushes make passes over your car as soap and water are sprayed. While economical, drive through bays are not the best for your car’s exterior. Fast spinning bristles leave hundreds of micro scratches across your car’s body, which only will worsen after every wash. To help lessen the damage, most will offer a spray wax option to top off your wash as well.
Hand washes take a bit more effort and time but offer a much safer clean than the drive-through bay. In most methods, the car is lubricated with water and a car friendly soap or polymer. Microfiber rags are used to clear debris and dirt from the body, then wax is applied (if applicable) before buffing dry with a separate microfiber towel. (Tip: If you are washing at home do not use hand soap or dish detergent. These will strip your car’s clear coat. Instead, opt for a commercial product designed for automobile use).
Waxes are always a good choice for protection, and will help add a waterproofing coat and shine to your body. Commonly, car washes will offer a carnauba wax but acrylic waxes are also popular. Acrylic waxes will also help fill in micro scratches when applied properly.